Pallets: A Cheap & Easy Solution for Vertical Gardening
Summer time means climbing vegetables: cucumbers, zucchini, squash, melons, gourds, etc. I love them all, sometimes so much so that I over-plant the zucchini and squash and end up with way too many and can’t give them away! When I installed the raised bed garden this season, I vowed to plan accordingly. “Michelle, don’t get nuts with the curcurbits...there are only so many pickles and zoodles one can have!” I occasionally need to have these gardening "pep talks" with myself and so far, they're working! LOL.
So...I scaled back, starting fewer seeds, but didn’t want to waste all that precious space with expansive, vining veggies taking over my newly-designed, organized garden! In years past, the major issues I’ve encountered were various pests (slugs, squash bugs, rabbits, mice and rogue chickens nibbling) and rot from being on wet soil. How do I keep the goods from growing out of control while safekeeping their veggie babies?!
Yes, pallets! Since I get my livestock feed delivered in bulk, I always have a few wooden pallets hanging around the farm. Pallets have a multitude of uses (and reuses) and are great for soooo many DIY farm/backyard/homestead projects! Many stores will have extra pallets from deliveries (groceries, construction supplies, agricultural products, garden stores, appliance stores). I have no shame in my game when it comes to asking for free stuff, especially my local "scratch-and-dent" appliance shop that generously donates extra-large cardboard boxes to me to use as chick brooders in the spring. I've scored some pallets from them too. Pro-tip: know what you're looking for before you haul heavy wooden pallets into your trunk!
What's the diff? Pressure-treated vs. heat-treated pallets are vastly different. If you're like me and practice organic gardening (and/or are concerned about unnecessary toxins/chemicals in your products), be sure to use HEAT-TREATED PALLETS ONLY. Pressure-treated pallets may last longer, but have chemicals applied to deter rot. Not something I want my precious cucumber cuties growing up around! See my pictures below of the "heat-treated" (HT) symbol to look for on your pallets!
I chose to install eight (8) heat-treated pallets along my garden, which is enclosed with netting. In case the climbers decided NOT to follow the rules and grow up the pallets, they could reach for the stars using the netting along the fence line.
Each pallet was set up at an angle (I'm not specific, maybe 45-60 degrees depending on your space needs) and anchored with scrap pieces of wood nailed into each side. Again, no cost to me...just whatever I had lying around. Even so, a few pieces of cut up 2" x 4's won't break the bank! Some folks use twine to attach the "legs" to the pallet trellis as well. Removing a nail from each side isn't hard to do and the pallet withstood a lot more weight on it with wooden braces.
Before installing the pallet trellis row, I tilled the soil and laid down fabric weed barrier to prevent extra weeding for myself. The barrier also prevents any veggies from sitting directly on the ground (in case that's where they chose to grow). The bonus of these "pallet stands" is that they offer some shade for other plants to grow beneath, so go crazy adding shade-lovers like salad greens or even marigolds to keep away the pests! Even Sookie, the resident farm dog, inspected and approved the design!
I cut out where I wanted to plant my seedlings, watered, and mulched around the pallets and voila! Healthy, rot-free, critter-free veggies for days!!! So far, we've started pickling the Boston Pickling Cucumbers, a favorite variety from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and I'm trying to keep up with the onslaught of green zucchini and yellow summer squash. My butternut squash is making an appearance and what I thought were melons, turned out to be Jack-Be-Little pumpkins growing up the netting! Surprise! Besides some powdery-mildew to deal with (it's always something), I absolutely love using these pallet trellises for my climbing veggies and definitely plan to rotate them around my garden in future seasons!
A big thank you to Kellogg Garden for working with us on various garden projects around the farm this season and for sponsoring this post! If you'd like any more info on this project or other DIY and upcycled projects around the farm, feel free to reach out to me and be sure to follow me on Instagram @newburyfarms and Facebook: Newbury Farms LLC for more updates! Stay tuned for more posts and videos coming soon!