Use a wooden pallet to make a Strawberry Pallet Planter, a garden container that you can use to grow a dozen or more strawberry plants
Over the past year, I’ve come across scores of DIY pallet projects, some of them intriguing and others not quite there. One that I see time and again is the idea of using a single wooden pallet as a strawberry planter. Filled with soil and with plants inserted in the gaps they’re usually leaned up against a wall but sometimes bolted on to keep from tumbling over. I decided that I’d like to have a strawberry pallet planter too, but that I’d come up with a better design.
This piece includes full written and video instructions on how to make a strawberry pallet planter using a single wood pallet. Once made, you can paint it and use it for years to grow berries in your garden or on the patio. It’s a great handmade planter that not only looks great but is functional and inexpensive to make. For this project, you’ll need a heat-treated wood pallet, a handful of tools, and an afternoon to put it together. Plant it with strawberries in spring and by summer you’ll be picking fresh berries from your patio.
This project also features in my new book, A Woman’s Garden Grow Beautiful Plants and Make Useful Things. I’m delighted to include it as the garden project in the chapter edible garden chapter. It also includes chapters on growing skincare plants, dye plants, beginner medicinal herbs, and much more.
Strawberry Pallet Planter
Back to that original strawberry pallet idea though. A single pallet filled with potting mix and plants is a clever idea and not much work to create. However, I suspect that a container like that would need constant watering and erosion control. Both of which mean more hassle than it might be worth.
Still, I was interested in the idea and with the gift of eight pristine wooden pallets, so started thinking about alternative designs. Ones that offered increased stability, more soil capacity, and better aesthetics. The strawberry pallet planter I’m about to show you how to build is the final design. I’ve also shared it in my new book, A Woman’s Garden, Grow Beautiful Plants and Make Useful Things.
It’s important to use safe pallets
First of all, choosing pallets for DIY projects involves a bit of know-how. You need pallets that are in good condition, without rot, and which have not been treated with chemical insecticides. Most people are probably not aware of this but pallets that cross international borders must be either heat-treated or sprayed to stop the spread of foreign pests.
Whether you think this is a good idea or not, you certainly do not want pesticide-soaked furniture or objects in your garden let alone your home. Not only can it kill off insects that eat your crops but it can indiscriminately kill all the beneficial insects too. There’s also the possibility of your plants absorbing these chemicals into their tissues and into your tasty strawberries!
To help you find the right type of pallet for your project I’ve put together a diagram of what to look for when you spot one. By international law, a pallet must be stamped twice with certain information which includes whether it’s been sprayed. Keep clear of any pallets that have been printed with the letters MB.
For this project, you will also need to look for a pallet that has six or nine planks making up its main surface. The reason for this is that the first major step will be in slicing the pallet up into three equal-sized pieces (both six and nine are divisible by three). If there’s such a thing as a pallet with twelve planks then all the better because that means you can build an even larger planter.
To make a strawberry pallet planter, you’ll need a pallet that has spaces between the slats. It’s in these spaces that you’ll eventually plant your strawberries. If you find a great pallet that doesn’t have these spaces, you can still make an excellent deep planter with these instructions.
How to Make a Better Strawberry Planter
The dimensions of my pallet planters are: 47″ wide, 16″ across, and 19″ in height
You will need the following materials:
- A suitable pallet as described above
- A Hand Saw or Jigsaw
- Electric Drill
- 4 cm (1-5/8″) Screws and 8cm (3″) Screws
Step 1: Cut the pallet into three equal pieces
The easiest way to do this is to cut lay the pallet so that the long planks are in parallel with your own position. If your pallet has nine planks, as mine did, then count over three planks and then saw the wood between the third and fourth planks. Saw right in the middle, to keep things easy and to ensure that all of your proportions remain correct. Continue another three planks and cut again. Remember that you’ll have to saw in the exact places on both the front and back of the pallet.
Step 2: Trim and remove excess wood pieces
You’ll have three pieces of pallet now, all of the same height and width. Two of the pallets will be formed from the top and bottom and will have chunky blocks securely fixed to them between one of three planks on the front side and the single one left on the other. You’ll want to trim off the excess wood jutting up from each one of these wooden blocks. Please refer to the images for steps one and two. Though I chose not to do it in this project, you could also remove that single plank on the backside. If you do this then you could have a deeper planter – it’s up to you.
The piece that made up the center part of the pallet also has thick wooden blocks sandwiched between its front side and stubby planks on the other. Pull these blocks and stubby planks off but keep them in reserve – you’ll need them to complete the project. If there are nails sticking up after removing these pieces then either hammer them flat or remove them completely.
Step 3: Creating the box
The goal of this step is to create the three main sides of the container. The two end pieces will be the sides of your planter and the middle piece is the bottom.
Attach the two end pieces to the middle part of the pallet by screwing it in from the bottom of the middle piece. This is probably the most awkward step and might be easier with two people. Though the image shows the structure the right way up, it’s actually easier to flip it over in order to fix the bottom piece to the sides. You’ll want to screw or nail the bottom piece into the wooden blocks still attached to the side pieces.
Step 4: Preparing wood to create the feet and final two sides
You should have three to four of these pieces of plank that were removed from the back of the pallet. Remove the spacer blocks from them, if you’d like to use the spacers to create the feet. This is an optional step since it’s just as easy to set the pallet planter on bricks. If you don’t want to remove them, leave them as-is on the plank since they’ll be disguised once attached. I’ve found that you can usually knock them off with a hammer, but if you don’t want marks on the spacers, use a splitting wedge to help.
Once the spacers are off, you’ll be left with several square blocks and short wooden planks. The blocks can be used as feet, and the short planks can be screwed on to form the two short sides of the planter. Often times there isn’t enough wood of the right length, so make do with what you have.
Step 5: create the sides and feet
If you’ve followed the directions in step 1 and sawed in the middle between the long planks, then the little planks leftover from step four should all be approximately the same length. They will also be the same width you need to create the shorter sides of your planter. If your original pallet was the same size as mine then you’ll have four of these planks to make up two pieces for each side. The bottom planks for each of the shorter sides can be created by re-using the bits of wood you cut off the side pieces in step two. For a more pleasing and symmetrical effect, line the small side planks up with the planks that form the front and back pieces.
Attaching the wooden blocks as feet can be a bit tricky and in the end, I drove very long screws in sideways to attach them to the bottom of the planter. Putting feet on the piece will help with drainage and slow down the process of the bottom rotting. I think they also make the planter look nicer.
I can foresee some people finding pallets of slightly different sizes to mine and being left with fewer small planks and blocks in this step. In fact, it’s more likely that you’ll end up with three of each rather than four, especially if you’re using a smaller pallet. In this case, you’ll be cobbling together more scraps to make an additional side piece and having to find a fourth block to use as the last foot. In this case, I’d look at removing one of the inner blocks from the side pieces to use.
Step 6: Project Completed
Well almost. Turn your planter right way up and have a look at it. Does it feel sturdy? Are the feet wobbly? Are there extra bits of wood sticking up that you could trim back? Once you feel the planter is complete then either plant it up as is or use a non-toxic outdoor wood paint to paint the exterior. Painting may help extend the planter’s life, but being wood, it will eventually break down. In my experience, the planter will last three years. The perfect amount of time to start fresh with new strawberry plants.
The potting mix used for the strawberry pallet planter will erode through any unprotected openings. Putting down your choice of barrier materials will help keep that soil where it’s supposed to be. I’ve made several strawberry planters now and have lined each a little differently.
The first one I lined with scraps of wire along the bottom, then I used straw to keep the growing medium inside. For other planters, I used landscaping fabric or plastic instead of straw. Use whatever you have to hand and wish you use. The point is to try to stop compost and potting mix from eroding out of the holes between the slats. Here are full planting instructions including how to plant the strawberry plants through the straw or material.
Update on 14/07/2013
Here’s a before and after shot of how my planter looked on the day of construction and how it looks today. In two months the plants have grown enormously and I’m picking ripe berries every day. I’ve planted my container with two types of strawberry and the most prolific are the ever-bearing variety that should produce fruit for most of the summer.