One of the finished planters standing alongside the Playground

My examples of using pallets and other old timber for garden projects seem to have been very popular (see links below). I’m experimenting myself with some ideas, including vertical pallet planters, made with a group of children (aged 7-10)at my local Primary school as part of a Gardening Club there. This has been great fun and a good learning experience for me as well as the children! We used pallets I was given by a builder at the Museum where I volunteer – they were relatively small pallets used for stacking bricks, so were a manageable size for the children.

I followed the guide produced by Garden Designer Mike Rendell (you can access a pdf of this here). It was fairly straightforward and with some help, the children managed to do most of the tasks needed to achieve some pretty flowering planters which now adorn the edge of their playground.

What we did:

1. Sawed off the ends of the slats so that there were solid timber sides to the planter – the children coped with this with a bit of help now and again (it didn’t help that my saws weren’t that sharp!).

2. Removed every other slat to provide space for planting – this proved to be difficult, especially for the children, as it involved a lot of strength and using claw hammers and the like.

3. Nailing two of the spare slats, one to the top, the other to the bottom of the planter – the children enjoyed using hammers and nails (it was helpful being able to use the nails and pre set holes already in the removed slats).

4. Painting the planters – we chose a rich blue paint suitable for outdoor furniture and the children enjoyed painting, though some of the younger ones had to be encouraged to ensure every bit of wood was properly covered!

5. Stapling some spare landscaping fabric to the back of the planter. I’d pre cut the size needed (allowing for a double layer joined in the middle and overlapping it around the sides and top of the planter). The children found it very difficult using the staple gun, which was designed for bigger hands, so I had to do this for them, whilst they held the fabric in place.

6. After this the children nailed the remaining spare slats to the back of the planter to provide reinforcement. Again, with a bit of basic ‘hammer tuiton’ the children managed this pretty well, though we did use some spare nails where some of the old ones got bent in the process.

7. The children then filled and compacted the compost into the planters, starting at the bottom and planting up as they went. We used about 40 litres of peat free compost per planter, a little loose, but with compaction and wetting seemed to hold together reasonably well. The children tired a bit towards the end, so I made sure the compost was properly compacted and roots covered. Once tidied up, the planters were thoroughly watere. Incidentally the plants were kindly donated by a local nursery woman who had held a plant sale at the school a few weeks before. We have a mix of Petunias, Antirrhinums, Dahlias, Geraniums and Impatiens- quite a mix and it will be interesting to see how some of the larger varieties fare in this vertical world!

8. I had fixed some cup hooks to the top and rear of each planter so that they can eventually be hooked into the fence to avoid them falling over, though for now the planters are at an angle to allow the compost and plants to become firmer.

Having  just seen a TV programme about the ‘Pallet Garden’ competition at the ‘Gardening Scotland’ show, I might try to introduce some sort of competition next year within the school (or maybe even between local schools?) …watch this space!

Other articles on pallets and other recycled wood in the garden:

Pallets Plus –  more examples of recycled wood in the garden

Pallet Power

Pallet Power- the sequel

Raised beds on the cheap

Old School Gardener

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