I have been growing strawberries in pots the last couple of years, and they just don’t flourish the way I feel they should. I started looking for ways to grow strawberries that would suit my home. I looked at hangind planters, which I really liked, but just wasn’t a good fit for my house, I looked at different types of boxes and hanging planter. But then I found a site called LovelyGreens.com that shows how to make a planter box out of a pallet, and I knew that was right up my alley! They also give a great tip on how to make sure the pallet you are using is safe. Pallets that cross international borders must be treated. Some use heat treating, and some use chemical treating. Check out the picture at the bottom of this post from LovelyGreens.com that shows how to tell the difference.
So, here are the instructions on making the planter, but if you want to see more pics, then follow this link to LovelyGreens.com for more.
How to Make a Better Strawberry Planter out of a Wooden Pallet
You will need the following materials:
- A suitable pallet as described above
- A hand-saw or jigsaw
- Electric drill or hammer
- Two sizes of screws and nails – approx. lengths 4 cm (1-1/2″) and 8cm (3″)
- Heavy duty chisel/wedge and iron mallet
- Non-toxic paint and paintbrush
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, like 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 on the other. You’ll want to trim off the excess wood jutting up from each one of these wooden blocks. Please refer to images for step one and two. Though I chose not to do it in this project, you could also remove that single plank on the back side. If you do this then you could have a deeper planter – it’s up to you.
The piece that made up the centre 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: Fix the two end pieces to the middle part of the pallet. Screw in from the other side of the middle (bottom) piece.
The two end pieces will be the sides of your planter and the middle piece is the bottom. Though the image shows the structure 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: You should have three to four of these pieces that were removed from the centre piece of the pallet. Separate them into individual blocks and planks.
This is easier said than done if you don’t have the right tools. Since pallet wood that has been heat treated can be brittle if you try to pull the plank off with the tongs of a hammer. If you have a heavy duty chisel then I recommend that you use it to separate the block and the plank and sever the nails in two. If you’re planning on doing any more pallet projects you could really save yourself a lot of tears and invest in one along with an iron mallet down at your local hardware store. If any of your pieces have bits of nails sticking out then try to hammer them flat.
Step 5: Use planks to create the sides and the blocks for 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 along 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 less 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 and 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!
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. Being wood, this piece will eventually rot down but some tlc now can help extend its life.
Step 7: Plant it up
Soil and compost will erode through any unprotected opening in the sides or bottom of the planter. Putting down your choice of barrier materials will help keep that soil where it’s supposed to be. I chose to line the bottom of my planter with scraps of wire then a layer of gardening fabric that will let water out but keep matter in. Since I placed my planter against a hedge I also chose to roll the black material up the back since I won’t be planting any strawberries on that side. On top of the fabric and running up the sides I used straw as an organic erosion barrier.
The easiest way to plant your strawberries is to work your way up from the bottom. A layer of compost, mixed with well rotted horse manure and slow-release organic fertiliser went in first. Then I placed the plants in the bottom slots along with straw. Another layer of my compost mixture and then I repeated the process for the next set of slots. You’ll also notice that I’ve spaced my plants out far more than you’ll see in most other pallet planter tutorials. If you want strawberries to produce well, it’s recommended that you place the plants at least 35cm (14″) apart. I’ve also made sure that each plant will be able to grow and spread out without smothering any plants underneath.
Choosing your pallet