We've had this old pallet in the garden for a couple months and I have been trying to think of a great way to re-purpose it. I also had gone a little crazy at the garden center and ended up with a bunch of different tomatoes that didn't have homes. Here is how I turned this unloved pallet into a home for, hopefully, tons of tomatoes.

What you'll need:

  • a pallet
  • a 1"x1" piece of wood at least 17" in length
  • a claw hammer
  • a saw to cut wood to length
  • a drill and screws
  • hardware cloth (metal mesh)
  • shears to cut the hardware mesh
  • staple gun (optional) 
  • stones, potting soil and tomatoes  

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Step One: Disassemble the pallet. Very carefully separate all the wood and remove the old nails. I used a claw hammer for this and it was the most labour intensive part of the build.

Step Two: Evaluate & measure your wood.  

My pallet was made up of 14 pieces of wood 40" long and two pieces 72 1/2" long. All the wood was 1 1/2" by 3 1/2" .

This pallet had been sitting in the garden for a couple of months and the ends of the 40" crossbars where the nails had been were pretty weak. I knew I had to cut an inch and a half off each. 

If your wood is in better condition or you can't be bothered to do all that sawing don't worry about it.  

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Step Three: Make a Plan.  

I drew out different variations of how the planter could look. I wanted to do as little sawing as possible and so I used the 37" pieces as the base, front and back of the planter. Spaces between the slats on the bottom allow for good drainage. I would use 4 pieces for the bottom and 5 up the front and back.

For the sides of the planter I divided the 72 1/2" pieces into 4 18" pieces with 1/2" extra. The sides also feature spaces for good airflow.

I also cut 4 lengths of 1"x1" to 17" each for supports. 

NOTE: If your pallet has more/less wood in different lengths don't worry, just adjust your plan as needed. The side spaces are optional so if you have a couple pieces less you can omit them for a slightly shorter box.

Step Four: Measure and cut your wood

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 Step Five: Set up the base of the planter.

Use four horizontal slats as the base and two vertical pieces as front and back. Position the 18" sides sandwiched between the front and back. 

Make sure you're happy with the placement of the wood and the distances between slats.

Step Six: Flip it over and start assembling

Flip the base over and screw the four bottom slats into your two 18" sides. I used four screws per piece which was probably overkill.

Then screw your front and back pieces into to side pieces. All four sides are at the same level.

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Step Seven: Attach your supports

To help support your box you'll need something to screw the slats into. I used 1"X1" that we had lying around.

Screw these pieces into all four corners of your planter. 

Step Eight: Turn the box on its side and space out 3 18" side pieces. Once you're a happy with it screw them to the supports. Again I used 4 screws per piece, excessive.  

Flip the box over and repeat on the opposite side. 

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Step Nine: Arrange and attach front and back pieces.  

Step Ten: Move your box to wherever you want to have your tomatoes.  

This can be done before or after you add the hardware cloth.

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Step Eleven: Cut your hardware cloth.

VERY CAREFULLY cut a piece of hardware cloth to fit into your box. You want to make sure it is long enough to cover the sides once installed. Cut the corners of the mesh out so that it easily pushes into the bottom of your box. This stuff is SHARP be extremely carefully while handling it.

Step Twelve: Attach the mesh to the inside of the box.

I used a staple gun because we had it but short screws would work just as well. Again be very careful with the mesh it can cut you very easily.

There are alternatives to using this hardware cloth - any type of mesh with small holes would work. The idea is to keep the stones and dirt from falling through your drainage slots.  

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Step Thirteen:  Put a layer of rocks on the bottom of the planter

These rocks will help to retain the soil while still allowing the planter to drain. I didn't have nearly as many rocks as I would have liked. The planter is very deep and you will have more than enough room for soil. Err on the side of too many rocks.  

Make sure you've already moved your planter to where it will remain. The planter alone is very heavy and once you add the rocks and dirt it's pretty immovable.  

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Step Fourteen: Add your potting soil. 

You can use whatever soil you have available. Potting soil is easy as it's usually pre-mixed and bagged but regular garden soil would work too.

I used Cedar Grove potting soil because it is two of my favorite things, local and organic. It's a bit pricey at just over $6 a bag. We used 2 and a half bags to fill the planter. We also added compost, perlite and bio-live because we had them. Use whatever you have. If you're just using potting soil I would recommend at least 3 bags if not 4.

Make sure to mix the soil well.  

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Step Fifteen: Plant your tomatoes and water very well.