From Pallets to Vegetable Planters —Big dreams from a small gardener

I gave up on having a real vegetable plot at this house years ago. The lot is short, has a northern exposure, and is surrounded by trees and cedar hedges. It is not a winning combination for edible growth. Somewhat reluctantly I traded in dreams of espaliered fruit trees and rows of vegetables for a trampoline and boarders filled with any vegetation that will thrive in shade and under conditions of general neglect.


Early this spring our seven-year-old asked me if he could plant a garden of his own. Absolutely! I said. It took him a moment to reconcile the fact that his mother had indeed said yes to his request. Typically, he must go through the maybe or let me think about it stages before final approval is given. I’ll admit it’s not every day I am able to grant the wishes of my child’s heart. (Even the tooth fairy takes her sweet time around these parts) But this I knew I could make happen.


I had already been formulating in my mind how to incorporate the basic concept of Square Foot Gardening into our solar challenged yard. My son’s request was simply the catalyst to get me going on it.


Recently, I acquired some discarded pallets. I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and repurpose them into something useful. So, I searched out a planter design that would suit our needs and got to work.


I recruited the entire family to help. As you can see I had to break a few legs first -wink (how the two of the them broke their legs in separate incidents is a blog post for another day!) This was a time sensitive project. I wanted to be sure the details didn’t take so long that we would the prime growing season. With six of us home we got the planters built, the soil mixed and a garden installed within a few short hours. Good work team!


The pallets were broken down and the salvaged wood was cut to size. I was glad to subcontract much of the construction work to my older sons.


When I got home from the Garden Centre with the younger boys, all the components were laid out and ready for assembly.


This little one worked hard all evening carting the supplies from the car and getting the wheelbarrow ready to mix our special blend of soil.


Equal parts of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite are combined. The intention is to produce fertile soil with maximum water retention capabilities in our shallow planters. Our planters and soil mixtrue are based on a loose interpretation of a Square Foot Garden.



Once mixed, we moisten the soil. The peat and vermiculite drink up lots of water.


Meanwhile construction on the boxes continued.


Design wise, the batons (small support pieces) could be placed either inside or outside the planter. The kids decided they preferred the look of the exterior batons.


Now that the soil is in we determine which seeds and plants will go in our first two planters.


Here they are the next day in the morning sun. Ultimately, we chose a cantaloupe plant for the middle, cause: “you cantaloupe without a girl”  It’s a tired old dad joke. But the joke will be on us if a melon actually grows in this climate.

Everyday after school the youngest goes out and gives the plants a little drink. With our combined efforts we should have a lovely and productive little garden. This coming weekend I will add another couple of planters to the mix and devise a system to train the vines vertically.


I had enough pallets to make four additional planters. We are looking forward to the first of the harvest.



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