A friend called us recently to ask our thoughts on containers for planting her 10’x5’balcony in New York City. She wanted to have her plantings along one side of the terrace only, to leave the rest of the space clear to see the view and do tai chi. Attuned we started spotting some nice looking rectangular and square containers in catalogues. AND we stumbled on Fern Richardson’s charming blog Life on the Balcony, which addresses the many balcony garden related issues, from how to reduce noise, to how to make a screen between you and ugly sightlines. We love her great how-to on turning a shipping pallet into a vertical container. It’s one of the few vertical gardens that’s appealed to us visually; we instantly wondered about painting or staining the wood really dark to chic-it-up a bit*. Anyway, the gist seems easy and doable…

Basically, you just staple landscape fabric to the bottom, back, and sides of the pallet, leaving the spaces between the slats and the top uncovered…

…then you lie the pallet down flat, fill it with dirt, and pack it with plants…

The detailed instructions are here.

Richardson is still perfecting the plantings in her pallet garden:

For folks with a land garden, we could imagine placing a bunch of vertical pallets side by side to make a living fence.

(The pallet itself provides a blue print for building a vertical container to custom dimensions.)

*Just to be sure, we looked up “indoor/outdoor decor do’s and don’ts” our friend Kate Payne’s book The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking. Kate says “DON’T use painted cinder blocks or wood planks to make garden boxes for food plants. Painted things might leach toxins you don’t want to consume into the soil.”

We hadn’t thought of that and we’d definitely want to plant some herbs. H-mmmm. Wonder if we could use concentrated versions of natural food-based dyes, like the one’s we used for our Easter Eggs…as paint…

Be sure to check out our post on possible toxicity of some pallets and how to out good ones.

Related posts: cool finds + good value, for home
d-i-y plant watering globes (made beautiful with wine and other bottles)
ikea hack: modernist flower pot
The Scoop on Safe Shipping Pallets (Shipping Pallets 101)
PS: Some Possible Dangers of Wood Shipping Pallets
led-illuminated shipping pallet bed
Brilliant D-I-Y Pallet Desks, Tables, Stairs
D-I-Y: Pallet Chair (and Stool and Lamp)

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13 replies on “d-i-y shipping pallet vertical garden

  1. Hey-a Sally, I love this project idea!
    I’ve emailed the Milk paint folks [http://www.milkpaint.com/index.html], who make a completely non-toxic, zero VOC paint and sealant. I’ll let you know what they say about painting something that will house food plants. Since air quality matters here, but so does sustained exposure to moisture and possible leaching, this is a great question!

  2. Kate, What a great idea. THANK YOU SO MUCH for taking the time to research this. Another consideration: Will milk paint hold up to the elements, being outdoors?

  3. This is brilliant! I may need to “reinforce” my rear fence with something like this. Hmmmm…

  4. What about using some kind of decorative all-weather fabric and stapling it on the same way you did with the stuff on the back? Something that would typically be used to make outdoor cushions or maybe even waterproof umbrella-type fabric?

  5. how about kool-aid as a dye? I’ve used it on wool as a permanent dye, and it certainly stains/dyes things inadvertently!

  6. Kool-aid would work probably to a neon-ish effect. (Can you still buy Kool-aid?…I haven’t seen it in years)So would paste food dyes which are really intense pastes that you mix with water. I’ve dyed wood with really concentrated coffee, as well as thick soy sauce.

  7. Nice idea…that would definitely take experimenting with to see if both the fabric and wood could hold up to the moisture enclosed by the fabric.

  8. Kate Payne of Hip Girls Home mentioned our vertical garden on her facebook page and got some great comments and ideas, which she emailed us:

    Dona Inman Careful though….MANY of the wood pallets are treated with toxic chemicals. Know your source.
    Janet Bess I like the idea for flowers to brighten up the spot.

    Kate Boucher I’m thinking about doing strawberries in mine.

    Wil Heredia Great idea.

    Nicole Kramer Awesome. A black tea wash would be cool on it.

    Devon Mussmon Hernandez ‎^ yes! or even espresso!

    Fletcher Chmara-Huff
    Mythic paint claims to offer such a product, but I would be more worried about wood treatment on the pallets than the paint (which should form a fairly non-permable coating). Because of the the invasive Emerald Ash Borer, pallets are now tr…See More

    Donna Clauson Hendry Just thinking ‘out loud’…but on her post, she mentioned food dyes…well, dyes used in cake frosting are REALLY concentrated…perhaps these would work? another that i know dyes really well (and wish it didn’t) is the unsweetened, flavored koolaid.

    Fletcher Chmara-Huff ‎*toxicity

  9. That does seems to be the best, most durable solution.

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