Monday, June 27, 2011

Vertical Gardening 2: Hands On

Vertical Gardening 2: Hands On

By Denis M. Sweeney | 6/27/2011

Project: Vertical Garden From A Shipping Pallet*
*variation of an original design from Life On The Balcony
Today I'm describing a DIY project that turns a shipping pallet into a vertical garden (as seen above.)
First off, let me explain how my project differs from the fine design at Life on the Balcony. My design alters the pallet a bit, but still uses the pallet as a solid base structure. As you can see in the photo above, the design uses additional lumber to enhance the look, and provide some more places for plants. This design assumes that the lattice structure will be seen, and will allow the plants to expand outward and upward.
The biggest benefit of pallet-gardens, for me, is that they can be moved. I am a renter, and while I love gardening, I don't like the idea of moving away from my garden, once I get it the way I want it.
Diagram of basic structure: pallet with garden stakes attached

DIY Project time: about 1 weekend
Project outline:
  1. attach side poles
  2. strip down pallet
  3. add plastic grid netting to back and bottom
  4. add cardboard to back side
  5. add plastic grid netting to front
  6. attach redwood strips to front horizontally, and then vertically to create a grid pattern
  7. put temporary cardboard pieces inside on front
  8. fill in dirt, water a bit, pack it down
  9. remove cardboard
  10. cut slits into plastic grid netting on front
  11. begin planting!

What You'll Need: 
  • 1 shipping pallet, given up for trash. --free!
  • redwood strips --bundle of 20ea  1"x1" x 8'  $1.77   (note: put this bundle in my cart and then shopped in the garden section of the mega-hardware-store, and found out later, that they charged me for one strip, rather than 20 x $1.77! -Inadvertently got quite a deal.)
  • 2ea 8' treated garden poles, pointy
  • nails--8d   2 3/8" (6.033cm)
  • screws
  • staple gun & staples
  • several old cardboard boxes --free!
  • PVC net -15' roll $16.44
  • 3 bags of soil --$5 ea = $15
  • plants, and more plants! I bought most of the plants used here. I purchased a flat of 6 'Alpenglow' / 'Vera Higgins' (Graptoseoum) $5.28 x 6ea =$31.68. --I was also able to get some free plants: a couple of the beautiful thick top plants which came from a kind neighbor through Freecycle, and the more vine-y plant was doomed to be cut off and discarded for the crime of growing out over a fire lane of a nearby hospital (before I liberated it.) Look for untended/overgrown/abandoned areas with volunteer plants that you can pick up for free. There are more orphaned plants out there than you might imagine.

  • pencil
  • utility knife
  • screwdriver or screw gun
  • hand saw, or circular saw
  • utility scissors or tin snips
  • hammer
  • drill bits
  • cardboard

Pallet shown on side with first garden spike attached (top side shown)
I started with an old, used-up pallet I found leaning up against a dumpster at a paint store. There were 2 to choose from, and I vied for the one that fit in the trunk of the car (only just.)
First I drilled 4 holes into the garden spikes (at the level of the pallet), and used 3" drywall screws to attach it to the pallet. Attach the side pieces in the center of the pallet. These two side pieces carry the entire weight of the unit, so make sure they are solidly connected.
Determine which side of the pallet you want showing. My pallet had a definite top side, and a bottom side, which was really dirty and had scratches and wear. I kept the top side as the part that will show.

Remove the extra boards, which will be replaced with 1"x1" redwood strips.
The boards may put up a fight, but keep at it, you will prevail! Remove all the nails you can, and carefully dispose of them. Whatever you cannot pull out, be sure to pound them all the way in.
Many nails may stay on the boards you're prying off. Knock them over  so they don't poke anyone.

extra boards gone, and nails removed/ driven in.
Measure the backing plastic netting.

Use snips or scissors to easily cut the material to size.
Cut slightly large to leave room for stapling.

in place, ready for stapling

Use staples to secure the netting material to the wood.
Cut cardboard to fit. Staple it over the plastic grid material,
so that it forms a barrier between the dirt and the grid.
Lay out the redwood strips so that they leave the most
room for plantings while still looking aesthetically pleasing.
Screw the redwood to the pallet using the coated 8d nails.
add the perpendicular redwood strips and screw them
to the first set of strips using 1" drywall screws, and
the coated nails where you can connect to the pallet boards.
It is ready to stand up!

use temporary cardboard pieces inside the front.
Pack down the dirt and add a little moisture,
before removing cardboard.

View from front,
once cardboard has been removed.

Looking into the center, from above. Dirt is being added.

Planting begins!

Cut horizontal or vertical slits into the plastic grid.
Poke plants into the dirt

Alternately, you can thread in "U" shaped plastic strips
which will act as a shelf on which plants can rest

enjoy your garden! (optional: prepare and enjoy a gin and tonic and relax near your new creation!
A day later, I added a second horizontal strip on top to help support the bright green plants.
And I added a strip at the very top, in the back to give some added support to the
larger plants on top.

Addendum 7/12/2011: Several weeks later (see above), the plants have really filled in, and the plants are taking hold. I'm happy to report a very low rate of casualty! The top cactus is just about to flower, so I'm excited to see what that looks like! Comparing the flower in this bottom photo to the one at the beginning of the post, it looks like the flower shoot grew a good 8 or 10 inches. 
Also note that I added even more horizontal strips of wood for the plants to rest on. I may even add another row of horizontal strips, for still more depth, and support for the plants to grow out onto.
from the side, it would look like this:   [shipping pallet] - | - 
and when i add another layer of vertical strips, 
 it will appear like this from the side:   [shipping pallet] - | - |


valcoguy said...

These look great, Denis! Thanks for breaking it down for us!

Denis408 said...

Comment from the author:
--If you got another notification about this post, it's because I posted a new note explaining that my pricing was incorrect. --Home Depot had seriously under-charged me for some of the wood I used, so I wanted to point that out. When I went to buy more of the same wood, I had eye-popping sticker shock. Blogger doesn't seem to allow you to post without notifying every follower, even if you're just fixing spelling of adding a short note.

Our back patio is really small. I have been working on filling it with plants and adding things like a hanging, translucent curtain at one end, a small fountain in the middle, and since we have wooden fences on three sides, I've added shelves and wall-hanging pots to fill in places with green.
I brought an upright lamp outside to provide some mellow lighting, until I can rig up some solar lights back there.

My next project is to waterproof the cement surface that takes up most of the floorspace back there, and then paint it a terra-cotta or brownish color. Our place isn't that big so it acts as a kind of extra room to go to when things are going on inside or when you just want a mellow space to hang out in.

Most of my plants are in pots, since we live in an apartment and I don't want to forfeit my plants when we eventually move. But I have planted some things into the ground here: some Birds of Paradise, cactus, and several succulents that look like they establish crazy-big root systems.