What I Learned With My First Vertical Planter

I always appreciate the advice and counsel of others.  One of my goals in creating a blog was to try to offer in every post some little nugget that might be helpful to someone.  I watched a couple of instructional videos on YouTube during the winter about making vertical planters out of a shipping pallets.  I also saw plenty of pictures on Pinterest and I thought they looked clever and cool so I thought I’d give it a try this Spring.  I repaired and “up-cycled” a discarded pallet from County Market, wrapped the bottom and back side of the pallet in weed cloth, filled it with soil (Mel’s square foot gardening mix), following the directions from the videos.  I planted small strawberry plants (I bought them in zip lock bags not in flats) and planted them in the bottom two rows.  Then I decided to try to grow herbs from seed in the rows above so I planted Cilantro, Basil, and Parsley.

pallets-as-vegetable-garden
Complements of Pinterest

Here’s what I learned from my experience – some things that worked, some things I would do differently, and my overall opinion of each so far.

1. Things that worked.

The weed fabric works to keep soil contained along the bottom and back of the pallet and it’s easy to staple to the pallet with a staple gun.  The pallets themselves are super sturdy and I can only imagine will last a long time since they’re built for high abuse and high mileage.  I really like using re-purposed material.

2. Things I would do differently.

Soil Composition – I tried to use the ratio that Mel Bartholomew (founder of the Square Foot Gardening method) recommends – 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 compost.  The soil mix is wonderful, nice and fluffy.  It’s great for horizontal beds and pockets, but not for vertical planters.  The soil just fell right out of the slats!  I changed my original ratio to six parts compost, one part peat moss, and one part vermiculite to make the soil more packable.

Weed Barrier “Pockets” – All of the instructions I read and watched said that you’re supposed to wrap the pallet with weed fabric.  But there was no mention of the need for pockets to help contain the soil. If you do try to create pockets it will take some ingenuity because it’s difficult to get your staple gun into tight spaces.  I’m gonna keep working on this to see how to simplify the process.

Planting Seedlings Only – All of the examples show planting seedlings from flats.  I assume the root ball and plant help hold in the soil so that it won’t fall out.  I tried planting seeds directly but you dare not tip the pallet up or you’ll lose all the soil.  That means that, by all practical purposes, you’ve just created another horizontal bed (which isn’t going to help you save space which I’m assuming is why you would create a vertical planter to begin with).  Small seedlings in four-pack flats, cost about $3 a piece on average.  Each slat space on the pallet holds about twelve plants (depending on their size).  On my pallet I have seven slats total (including the open top).  So that’s 84 plants.  At $3 each that’s $252!  Definitely not a cheap project.

Pallet Planter
My personal pallet planter in the early stages

 3. My Overall Conclusion

The pallet doesn’t end up being very cost-effective if you’re trying to be fast and frugal.  In this case, the two don’t coexist.  The compromise, if you have the time, is to raise the seedlings yourself from seed, transplant them and harden them off in a raised bed or container, then when they’re big and established enough, transplant them again to your pallet planter.  Or, if you have the time and the space to let your planter sit on the patio or deck, you can plant you seed directly and just let it grow and fill out.  The pallet planter looks cute on Pinterest but it’s not very practical.  Especially if you’re trying to be frugal.  I’ll keep experimenting, but right now I think there are better options out there.  Have you tried a pallet planter?  What was your experience?  I’d love to hear from you.

DIY-pallet-vertical-garden
Complements of Pinterest

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