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On Ryan’s Plate: Refined Pallet

June 7, 2013

Many of you have asked for a specific post about our pallet garden…so here’s my better goofier half, here to explain!

I’ve never had much of  green thumb. In fact, I have more of what you might call a black thumb. I can kill plants just by walking into a room. Flowers leap from their vases in an act of suicide. Bonsai trees commit hari kiri. Fake fruit withers. When I went to Redwood National Forest, 1000-year-old growth trees crashed around me. Whenever I go to Rainforest Café for a Volcanic Cobb Salad and some Mojo Bones, the animatronic trees malfunction.

Suffice it to say, I’ve never been much of a gardener. But when Anna and I moved to our new home, complete with a spacious, sunny backyard, we decided we want to go all Barbara Kingsolver and start growing some food and flowers. We started off with a tomato plant and a few decorative plants around the yard.

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About the same time, a Facebook friend posted about pallet gardens, which looked both 1) super trendy, like something hipsters would gather around to twirl their moustaches and drink moonshine while listening to the new Blind Pilot album, and 2) fairly easy to construct. “Super trendy and easy” was my nickname in high school, so I promised Anna I would build one, and set to work researching the requirements.

My suspicion was correct, and pallet gardens are not that difficult to construct. Several websites carry instructions, but I ended up following the ones offered by BrightNest. So when my father, whose handiness I did not inherit, was in town last month, I managed to pull him away from Lila long enough to start construction.

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When building a pallet garden, the first thing you need is a pallet (see, I told you this was easy to figure out). We went to Lowe’s to get ours. All of the pallet garden sites make a big deal out of choosing the absolute best pallet. You must find the Megan Fox of pallets, they say, gorgeous and well-built without any flaws or blemishes (unlike Megan Fox, however, you do not want your pallet to be chemically treated – the State of Wisconsin will tell you why). So I envisioned spending hours deliberating between pallets to choose just the right one, but the workers at Lowe’s simply disappeared behind a curtain and brought one out to us. It was more the Tara Reid of pallets, weathered and cracking at the seems, but like the producers of Senior Skip Day, I resolved to work with what I had.

The next step in building a pallet garden is stapling landscape fabric to the back and sides of the pallet so that it can hold dirt. Many websites say that you cannot overfabric or overstaple this project, so we thoroughly stapled a few layers, hammering in the staples for good measure.

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Next, you have to load your pallet garden up with soil. After building a pallet garden, I am still not entirely sure how to fill a vertical garden with soil. You have two choices – load the soil in while the pallet is horizontal and turn it vertical, or turn the pallet vertical and then load it with soil. Both present obvious problems, so being the centrist that I am, I chose a middle approach, putting some soil in during the horizontal phase and finishing after turning the pallet. This resulted in a lot of soil ending up on the ground, but to be honest, I’m not sure how I would fix the problem next time.

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Once the dirt was in, it was all over but the planting (we decided on plants instead of seeds). Our pallet garden has cilantro, mint, basil, lettuce, lemon balm, sage, and peppers growing out of the top. All in all, it turned out pretty well, and we have already eaten some of vegetables of our labor.

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While I’m proud of my handiwork, especially since only a few plants have died, I must include a two caveats about our garden. First, the garden is not organic. We used Jungle Growth Flower and Vegetable mix. I can’t find the ingredient list online, but it most likely contains chemicals, including, most likely, some of that mutagen that created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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Secondly, if I had it to do over again, I’m not sure I would make the pallet garden vertical. It has trouble holding soil and water, and one of my colleagues suggested this would become an even bigger problem as the hot Alabama summer wears on. Time will tell.

Still, our little pallet garden is a great first step in growing plants instead of killing them. I’ve managed to be diligent about watering and to grow enough lettuce to support my shoe fetish. The other day, we made caprese paninis with basil and tomatoes from our garden. And on my latest weekly pilgrimage to Rainforest Café, the only trees that died were the ones that were clear cut to produce the beef for my Bamba’s Barbeque Wrap.

So who knows? Maybe my black thumb will turn green, and we’ll someday have a full garden. Maybe we’ll even get that goat (named Kid n’Bray) that I’ve always wanted.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. ginger635 permalink
    June 7, 2013 1:33 pm

    I’m very impressed! I would like to try one of these, but I’m afraid we don’t have enough sun in our yard. Thank goodness for the Farmers’ Market!

  2. June 10, 2013 11:43 pm

    That is awesome!!! I want to do this!

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