More palletable

rusty nails for recycling

Remember when we took that pact to avoid buying new stuff? Well, there are some issues from time to time.

I’m not talking about you, Mr. Playstation 4, or other impulse purchases at Ye Olde Best Buy. I’m talking about gifts for friends.

I mean, I don’t mind toting something dusty home from the local rescue mission resale shop for myself. But friends might not be as impressed at a birthday dinner at Chez Snooty’s if they were to unwrap a ceramic gnome with only a few nicks. (Really, that’s their failing. It’s a GNOME.)

We have two grace periods a year where we can buy new stuff. So with enough planning, we could buy these sorts of gifts in advance. But this would require a) said planning, and b) us stockpiling stuff in the wee house that we’ve worked hard to rid of clutter. So, no.

Often we’ll give a home-canned good to someone. Peanut butter and pickled okra seems to be big hits, and anytime we’ve brought a small jar of cucumber gin to someone as a hostess gift, it’s been opened, shared, enjoyed and talked about.

We recently tried a different tack for our friend Kate for a gift congratulating her on a milestone.

We knew she wanted to do a little gardening but was throttled by her condo’s, um, lack of lawn.

And me, I’d been staring at a pallet that I rescued from beside a Dumpster down the street. After my success with upcycling a pallet into a workbench, I had hopes of building a bar from the wood from this one. But I’d since found an old dry sink that I loved for a bar, so this pallet had no purpose yet.

I won’t brag about the eureka moment, because it shouldn’t have come as a revelation, considering what I was gonna do was one of the oldest tricks in the book on reusing pallets*:

I was going to make her a vertical garden. (Cue dramatic hamster music.)

Pallet planter with stapled landscape fabric
Seriously with the stapling. This is probably not actually enough.

The googlez can send you to lots of places to see how to do this yourself, and they’re all pretty much the same. To summarize:

  • Get you an old pallet.
  • If there are any boards on the top — which will be the planter’s front — in odd places, pry them off and re-position them. Pre drill holes for this, as its typically hardwood and will split if you don’t. I also salvage nails from jobs like this (see photo at top) and throw them in a bucket to take to the metal salvage place a couple times a year.
  • Shore up any split boards with more nails.
  • Staple 2-3 layers of landscape fabric, wrapped around the bottom, sides and back. Use exactly 7.6 times the number of staples you feel is sufficient.
Upcycled pallet planter
Kate’s pallet planter, in place and ready for the spring.

That’s it. Oh, except for this:

Set the empty planter in place where you want it before loading it with soil. Kate discovered this the hard way. Not only is its weight problematic for the people who have to move it, but the fabric and staples are only strong enough to prevent the soil from spilling out the back, not holding it outright.

It’s perfect for Kate’s little brick courtyard and it’s enough space to plant a healthy selection of herbs and pretty things. Our friends Eric and Meg did this on their balcony in San Francisco and it worked well in that space too. Just make sure it’s in a place that gets sun and you should be golden.

And if, for some reason, you need a little more reassurance on how to do this, here’s a video that’s as good as any I’ve found on the topic.

* While I was, of course, speaking figuratively, there really is a well-reviewed book on using wooden pallets in projects. I haven’t read it and don’t know if it covers vertical gardens. But it had better.

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