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The Many Uses of Wooden Pallets on an Urban Farm
The Beauty of Wooden Pallets
Let’s start this off with the number one reason why you should use wooden pallets on your urban farm: they are free!
If you are into frugal like this writer is, and if you have more projects than a centipede has legs, then wooden pallets are like manna from heaven. It begs the obvious question: why in the world aren’t more of you using them?
I worked in a warehouse for about ten years, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that wooden pallets can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. I have seen a single pallet hold thousands of pounds of merchandise. I have seen them survive earthquakes. I have seen them survive my own abuse and stupidity. If they can survive all that, they surely can be counted on to handle any project you toss their way on an urban farm.
Did I mention that they are free?
Surely someone will comment that pallets aren’t free in their community, but by and large, most business owners are ecstatic when someone approaches them willing to haul away those shipping pallets. I have a pickup truck and I am more than willing. To me, they are the poor man’s alternative to the Home Depot lumber department.
So let’s take a walk around my urban farm of 1/8 acre and see what pallets are doing for this urban farmer.
Do You Want to Build a Structure?
I’m going to let the pictures do most of the talking here.
Wooden pallets are wonderful when used for framing a small structure in your yard. The pictures you see here are of a chicken coop we built last year. Note that the frame for the coop was made of three full-sized pallets screwed together. Nothing could be simpler. From there it was a simple matter of cutting plywood for the walls, floor, and ceiling. Anybody who works with wood will tell you the toughest part of a structure project is the framing. With wooden pallets, the framing is already done for you.
I’ve shown you in pictures how to build a chicken coop. Same theory and process would go into building a small shed to hold your tools, which is my latest project as you can see from the pictures on the right. Honestly, folks, this is very, very easy to do.
Do You Want to Build a Compost Bin
Nothing could be simpler than building a compost bin using wooden pallets. Can you screw screws? Do you have four pallets? That’s the extent of expertise and supplies you need.
One pallet for the back of the bin, one for each of the side walls, and one for the front…screw them together and call it a compost bin. I prefer to not use a pallet for the front because I like to mix my compost periodically, so instead I put up slats across the front that can be removed easily. .
Do You Want to Build a Fence?
You have two choices when building a fence using wooden pallets: with or without fence posts.
If you want to use fence posts, then alternate fence post and pallet, fence post and pallet, until you have the right length for your fence. If you want to skip the expense of fence posts, then do one pallet horizontally, then one perpendicular, and keep doing that until you have the right length.
Pallets make very strong and durable fences. I have made pig enclosures just using pallets, and pigs are notoriously hard to enclose.
Do You Want to Build a Vertical Garden?
This is so simple, and it is perfect for anyone with space issues, including those of you who live in apartments and only have your deck to work with.
Lay a pallet down on the ground and staple landscape fabric to one side. Now turn the pallet over and fill it with good potting soil. Leave it on the ground for a day or two so the soil will settle into place. Then plant your cuttings in the pallet empty spaces and stand the pallet up vertically. This is a great solution to small spaces, and plants like strawberries do very well with this arrangement.
Do You Want to Build a Workbench?
If you have four pallets you can make a work bench. Two sides, one back, screw together, then screw a pallet on top. Work bench complete. If you don’t want the holes on top, then screw a piece of plywood on top of the top pallet for a smooth surface.
Do You Want Outdoor Shelving?
If you have a support wall, and you want some shelving, then start screwing.
A little too suggestive for you?
Pallets come in various sizes. Some are perfect for shelving. Simply screw them to the wall with one pallet on top and you have storage shelves. Can you picture it? If you can picture it you can do it.
Do You Want a Tool-hanging Support?
Have you ever watched those television shows where this master craftsman shows you how to organize your garage, and all the tools are hung up neatly on the walls with these special attachments that only cost $450?
I say to hell with that nonsense. Hang up a couple pallets on the wall, and hang your tools on the pallets.
Total cost using my method…..$0.
I should have my own television show. Woodwork for Cheapskates!
Do You Want Some Spare Wooden Slats for Other Projects?
Most wooden pallets are constructed of good hard wood. Pull the nails out of them and the slats are as good as any lumber you can buy at Home Depot. I’ve used the slats for many projects, including building a quail hutch and enclosing a chicken coop.
Do You Want a Mini Greenhouse?
Take two pallets and stand them up on end. Now lean them together so they look like a two-sided teepee, and screw them together. Next, staple heavy-duty plastic on the outsides of the two pallets. You now have a mini-greenhouse that can easily be moved or taken down when the planting season has ended.
We make these each spring and they are wonderful. We leave the ends open for air-circulation, and I swear, the inside temperature increases a good thirty degrees.
Do You Want a Dog House, Rabbit Hutch, or Goat Enclosure
Yes, it is that easy. Use the pallets for the walls. Use slats from pallets to fill in the gaps. If you need a dry enclosure, use metal sheeting for the roof. I can build a dog house or goat house in one hour using pallets, and if I can do it you can do it. I have no carpentry skills at all, but I know how to use a screwdriver and that’s all I need to know.
Have I Convinced You Yet?
Seriously my friends, wooden pallets are a dream for any urban farmer. We are lucky enough to have an urban farm center in our area, and they know us quite well and let us have their shipping pallets when they are done with them. We have a never-ending supply of them when projects come up, and did I mention that they are free? LOL
Notice that almost all the ideas I have presented here today only require pallets and screws. Some will benefit from some plywood, but most can be built without the expense of plywood and that’s just fine by me. I’m not into expense; I am into frugal, recycling, and reuse.
Give it a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)