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5 Ways to Use Shipping Pallets in the Yard and Garden

5 Ways to Use Shipping Pallets in the Yard and Garden

Shipping pallets are one of the best sources of lumber for little — or no — money. Also, they can be sourced from nearly any shopping center or grocery store. For these two reasons, I’ve made it a mental habit to turn to shipping pallets first when I get the urge to tackle a do-it-yourself building project, especially for my garden. Before we get started, though, here are some basic guidelines for being an effective pallet scavenger.

First, follow the golden rule of scavenging pallets: Always get permission. Many businesses may use their pallets repeatedly, or the supplier will return later to pick them up. You want pallets that are otherwise destined for the trash heap. You are going to be taking the pallets apart for most projects anyway, so broken pallets are great for you but useless to the business. (Avoid rotting pallets, however.) Many businesses will be happy to get these pieces off their hands.

And be safe! If you are to be growing food plants around these pallet wonders, you don’t want harmful chemicals leaching into your soil. Choose pallets that have not been treated with chemicals. How can you tell? Pallets will not have that “natural” feel or finish if they’ve been treated — they may be glossier or have a color. They may also be heavier. Look out for stains, chemical smells and a greasy sheen. When in doubt, toss it out!

Firewood Shed

Mark Jacobson of Washington state had a crafty idea when he built his woodshed from old pallets and plywood discarded at a nearby industrial park. For the roof, he simply positioned two pallets side by side on top, sloping toward the back of the shed, and topped them off with corrugated metal roofing to keep the stacked wood dry. Caulk the nail holes to make the roofing waterproof. This project can be completed in late summer afternoon, so you are ready to start stacking for winter.

Pallet-Made Poultry Coops

If pallets can make a woodshed, they can make a chicken coop. Because the lumber is already cut to the same dimensions, it will be very easy for a pallet coup to feature a drop-down ramp or windows. Again, after building your coop walls, you can use corrugated metal for the roof and caulk in between boards if you live in a cold climate so that your birds don’t shiver to death in winter. See a photo of one in Pallet-Perfect Poultry Houses.

Wood Pallet Potting Table

Garden tables are indispensable come seed-starting and potting seasons. Building one from shipping pallets could not be easier. You will only need three pallets, and can get by with two in a pinch (by making do with a narrower table). This design is two-tiered, using one pallet for the bottom shelf and another for the top. Simply nail legs along the four corners, connecting the bottom pallet to the top, leaving about 6 inches of overhang to raise the bottom shelf that far from the ground. Paint your DIY project a lively color to inspire you in the garden.

DIY Rabbit Hutch

Store-bought rabbit shelters are pricey, and needlessly so. Build a rabbit hutch from shipping pallets and your bunnies will be just as happy. Rabbits like to gnaw, so it is particularly important that you build with untreated pallets for this project. Line the bottom of the hutch with mesh wire screens to allow poop to fall through (but save this excellent manure for your plants). A second screen makes for a nice door when you frame it with pallet slats. Try out this plan that provides a complete list of materials that only cost about $20.

Multi-Bin Composting

It only requires five pallets to create a highly functional compost setup. You essentially create two open-air, side-by-side boxes that share a single pallet as an adjoining wall. Stand all pallets up on end and either nail the corners together to create your bins or use bailing wire, supporting the pallets upright by binding their corners to metal poles or stakes. This method allows one compost pile to be “cooking” and aging while you fill the second bin. Turning the pile is a breeze with this method and it also makes it easy to rake or dump fall leaves directly into the pile.

Photo from Fotolia

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Shelley Stonebrook

Shelley Stonebrook is an Associate Editor at Mother Earth News—North America’s most popular magazine about sustainable, self-reliant living—where she works on exciting projects such as Organic Gardening content and the Vegetable Garden Planner. Shelley is particularly interested in organic gardening, small-scale, local food production, waste reduction, food preservation and cooking. In her spare time, she posts in her personal blog, The Rowdy Radish.

87 comments

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7:50AM PDT on Aug 29, 2014

thanks for sharing :)

6:39PM PDT on Jul 2, 2014

Some very good ideas here. Thanks.

7:40PM PDT on Jun 10, 2014

Have built pasture fence of rammed earth w/wild roses & grasses growing out of the pallets. Turn them on their narrow side down, wide side straight up like a double fence. Drains well. Dries well. Aesthetically pleasing.

6:52AM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

interesting

5:44AM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

Thank you :)

5:36AM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

Pellets put across saw horses and/ or planks make great storage areas up off the ground.

5:33AM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

Pellets are great for raising your pot plants too.

5:32AM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

I actually have my polysthrene broccoli boxes resting on packing pellets that have been cut in half. I have snow peas, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, beetroot, and herbs growing in my raised garden boxes....which today have had rain...yay!!!

5:28AM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

Noted thanks

9:17AM PDT on Apr 24, 2014

Love working with Pallets+use them often. Thanks

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