Learn how to build your own pallet garden

Have you ever wondered what the opposite of a green thumb is? I have. A quick google search delivers the insight of the urban dictionary with the following: Black Thumb - A wannabe gardener who kills plants. Opposite of green thumb. Example: “I have killed all the plants in my house. I must have a black thumb.” I feel this adequately describes me. What also describes me though is someone who adores homegrown veggies and produce, tries to be environmentally responsible and does not have large quantities of disposable income. Anything here you can identify with?

Photo courtesy of Renee Tellez

Over the coming months, in the spirit of “if I can do it, you can do it”, I will be taking on a project to convert recycled materials into self-watering raised gardening beds that will provide a bountiful harvest for me and my family.

The reasons for growing your own produce are many:

  • You can grow items tailored to your needs, including “exotic” ingredients such as Mexican sour gherkins that may not be readily available (or very expensive) at local grocers or you can grow rows and rows of tomatoes if that’s your thing.
  • The taste can’t be beat and fresh means extra nutrients.
  • You can impress friends and family. Homemade canning and preserves make great hostess gifts and with a good harvest, the main input is time not cost.
  • The environmental cost of large scale farming, coupled with transportation for all but the most local crops is reduced when you simply walk out your back door to get what you need. It also saves you a trip to the grocery store.
  • The investment of seeds and starter plants is minimal compared to the results. And with careful planning, there are a number of plants that will supply you with food well into the winter.

You probably already know a lot of the benefits already though, right? And you’re probably also pretty familiar with the reasons why you’re not already gardening:

  • I don’t have the space.
  • My soil isn’t good and it will take too much effort to get started.
  • I have a dog that will just dig everything up.
  • I go away on vacation for a week or two and there’s nobody to water the plants then.
  • I don’t like / can’t kneel on the ground for long periods at a time and dealing with all those weeds isn’t my thing.
  • I don’t know what I’m doing / I don’t have a green thumb.

Once again, internet to the rescue. After looking at my options, one seemed to stand out – raised bed pallet gardens. Made almost completely out of recycled materials, this seemed to address all the reasons why I wasn’t already a vegetable farmer. You can scale them to the size you’d like and make as many or as few as you like; you’ll be adding soil and gravel to the raised beds so even if your outdoor space is paved over, not a problem; raised beds mean pets (and hungry rabbits) can’t get to your precious crops; a self-watering irrigation system means you only need to water once every 1-2 weeks; because the beds are raised you don’t need to kneel and weeds are considerably reduced. Finally, if you don’t know what you’re doing and, like me have a “black thumb”, I will be your guinea pig over the coming months so you can see what works and what doesn’t. If you’d like to see the general design I’ll be using, you can check out treehugger - how to build a self-watering raised garden bed from scavenged materials although you may want to ignore the musical accompaniment.

Next month, I’ll let you know how the construction went and maybe there’ll even be a few early crops making an appearance. Wish me luck as I dig in and maybe this will be just what you need to get started yourself!

This is first in a series of articles this summer on the A-Z of pallet gardens.

By Donna Doyle