If you love DIY projects but detest the costs associated with buying brand new lumber, then it’s time you consider another building material—shipping pallets.
Wood pallets are used throughout the transportation industry to keep retail products secured during shipping. Unfortunately, most are only used a few times before getting tossed into the trash.
But for the scrappy scavenger, they offer a free source of untreated lumber that can be put to hundreds of uses. Many people use them for farmhouse-inspired home décor, but pallets have even more potential when used in the garden.
How to Find Free Pallets
Before you can build pallet projects for the garden, you need to find some. This is when dumpster diving skills come in handy.
Most big box stores go through hundreds of pallets a week and will stack them up in loose piles behind their store before throwing them away or arranging to send them to recycling centers.
These pallets are often free for the taking.
Though, it’s strongly recommended that you get permission from management before loading them up.
Generally, you’ll have better luck securing pallets from smaller businesses, as they’re less likely to have a removal strategy for them.
We’ve found it easy to load up pallets in our minivan whenever we see them on the side of the road or near dumpsters.
Note: While most pallets are constructed from untreated wood, some might have chemical contamination that makes them unsuitable for growing plants. You can learn how to tell if an individual pallet is safe for reuse in the garden here.
Once you’ve secured a sizable pile, it’s time to put them to use.
21 Best Garden Pallet Projects
1. Tool Wall
Create a simple storage solution for your garden tools by hanging up a pallet on the side of your garden shed. Pound in some nails and you have a low-cost way to display them for easy access.
You can also create a free-standing tool storage system with instructions from Heartwood Art.
2. Reclining Chair
Relax at home with a lounge chair constructed from pallets. You can enjoy this chair from 101 Pallets as is or add to the comfort factor with some outdoor furniture pillows.
Note that this chair is heavy, so it’s best to plan on leaving it in one place after you construct it.
3. Transplanting/Watering Station
Give yourself a designated gardening station for messier tasks. Lay one or more pallets on the ground, and they create an elevated platform for transplanting tasks or watering plant flats. The spaces between the pallet slats let dirt and water soak through for easy cleanup and a functional workspace.
4. Garden Paths
If your property tends to be swampy, pallets may provide a dry solution. You can lay them down as-is for a DIY boardwalk through wet spaces or disassemble them to use the wood for a narrower route.
You can ensure your path withstands the elements for more than a season by refraining from laying them directly on the dirt.
Instead, dig out the ground where the boards will go and backfill the space with gravel. This both stabilizes the boards and lets water drain away from them, reducing the chance of rot.
Even if a wooden pallet path isn’t necessary from a functionality standpoint in your garden, it can be an attractive way to add a personalized design element to your growing space.
5. Pallet Deck
If you’re looking for a low-cost backyard renovation, pallets lend themselves well to garden decks. Lay them flat for a relaxation space of any size, and you can paint them or stain them to improve their weatherproofing, so the deck lasts for multiple years.
Follow the instructions at 1001 Pallets to learn how to pull pallets apart to create a flat deck from 25 pallets.
6. Pallet Bird Feeder
Pallet wood can be reclaimed for smaller projects, too. Consider making birdhouses to hang near your garden so that you can attract one of nature’s greatest garden pest removal services.
Another option? Make a pallet birdhouse for extra habitat space for your favorite flyers.
7. Vertical Planter Wall
Get the most out of a small garden space by growing vertically. You can create a pallet garden wall with built-in planters or deconstruct pallets for DIY trellising for vining plants. Some also like to use the pallet as an anchor to attach pot-holding clips and flowerpots for a multi-dimensional design.
Not only do these planters add visual appeal to otherwise drab walls, but they help you maximize your production capacity if you commit to growing vegetables.
There are dozens of instruction guides online to inspire you, but Design Sponge offers one of the simplest designs for getting started if you only want to use one pallet. Looking for something bigger? Follow the instructions from Elizabeth Waddington here at Rural Sprout.
Water Tips for Vertical Gardens: As gorgeous as vertical gardens are, you need to keep in mind that they may require more maintenance to keep your plants alive.
These pots tend to dry out quickly due to more air exposure, so consider installing a drip irrigation system before planting. Another option is committing to a species that can survive with inconsistent watering, such as succulents.
You should also use a potting mix with a high moisture-holding capacity.
8. Pallet Bench
Give yourself space to recover from an afternoon of garden work by crafting a pallet bench. You need just one pallet per project, and you can spruce up the final result with paint or wood stain if desired.
Learn how to get started with this guide from Instructables.
9. Decorative Garden Cart
Not all garden pallet projects need to be practical. This decorative garden cart adds a touch of whimsy to your garden décor and can be dressed up with as many vintage touches as desired. You can fill it with potted plants or homegrown pumpkins for an extra harvest theme. Gain inspiration from Serendipity Refined.
10. Raised Bed Planter
If your garden soil isn’t great, the best way to grow produce might be with raised beds. As these can be expensive to purchase outright, consider creating your own with pallet wood. Not only do they provide you with untreated materials that won’t leach toxic compounds to your plants, but you can modify this basic plan on Instructables for any size growing space.
11. Floating Fence Planter
If you don’t want to commit to a huge pallet project, consider building a small floating fence planter instead. Fill it with flowers, and you’ll add a pretty pop of color to your backyard for little more than the cost of your time. It’s another way to maximize your garden space in a small yard.
To get started, you can modify the instructions from Styled to Sparkle for use with pallets. If you’re feeling extra creative, you can attach a rope to each planting box for a hanging planter instead.
12. Garden Fence
Perhaps the best use for pallets from a functionality standpoint is to use them for a garden fence. Nothing could be simpler than placing them vertically in the ground—no deconstruction required.
While their relatively low height won’t keep our hungry deer, pallets make it possible to construct a sturdy fence that defines your space and prevents smaller animals from making it inside. Just make sure you have several dozen pallets available.
You can also use the same principles to make fencing for animals. Pallets are exceptionally well suited for pigs, as they can’t jump or climb over them.
Gain inspiration from Suttons Daze’s YouTube instructional.
13. Pallet Privacy Screen
Are you looking to increase your perception of privacy while spending time in a tiny yard? Use pallets to make a DIY privacy screen. The slatted wood lets in a lovely amount of sunlight while still giving you a sense of being cocooned from the rest of the world.
Watch this compilation video of different strategies for inspiration.
14. Seed Signs
Add some charm to your planting space with homemade plant signs. Nail pallet wood planks together and cut them out to create any shape you want (pumpkins seem popular) to indicate what is planted where.
You can also keep things square and paint on the pallet wood in the style of vintage shipping crates.
15. Fold Out Potting Platform
If you lack workspace in your yard for potting and transplanting, then two pallets are all you need to solve it. You’ll simply mount one pallet to the wall and hinge the other one out from the bottom so that it swings open. Chains can keep it at a 90-degree angle and better secure the table when folded upright.
Learn more from The Owner Builder Network, and consider adapting the design for use as an indoor desk, too.
16. Vine Trellis
Looking for a simple way to give your vining plants more growing space? You can build a basic garden trellis from pallets. Simply prop one pallet up against scrap wood around a 45-degree angle, and plant your squash, cucumbers, beans, and other plants that need extra support around it.
17. Square Foot Pallet Gardening
Keep your garden within a well-defined space by planting within pallets. Place one or more on the ground and fill the gaps with quality potting soil. This creates the perfect space for growing leafy greens and other easy-harvest vegetables—though it’s not ideal for carrots or other root vegetables.
18. Garden Gate
No matter what you construct your garden fence with, pallets can prove the perfect material for making a secure gate. Simply attach two pallets to posts and let them hinge towards each other.
For extra security, consider attaching chicken wire to the bottom few feet so rabbits and other rodents can’t squeeze in.
19. Cold Frame
Expand your growing season with a DIY cold frame constructed from an old window and two salvaged pallets. You’ll pull them apart to build a simple box and attach a chain to the glass lid so that you can keep it at various levels of open to modulate the interior temperature based on the weather.
Keep things even lower budget by following these instructions for using plastic instead of glass! It’s an ideal way to get a head start on gardening season in a cold climate.
20. Garden Swing
Relax and enjoy your gardening efforts this year with a garden swing made from pallets. This comfy design includes a standard waterproof twin mattress, but you can use a collection of outdoor lounge pillows instead. Two pallets and a supportive rope are all it takes for this elegant outdoor napping solution.
21. Compost Bin
Few things are more valuable to serious gardeners than homemade compost, but commercial compost bins can be expensive. The good news is that you can construct an effective three-bin composter from pallets at home.
This time-tested composting strategy lets you break down material fast—simply fill the left-most bin with compostable material and flip it into the middle bin once it starts to break down fills. By the time the last compartment is full, you should have quality compost available for a convenient supply of garden nutrients.
Good Cheer Garden lays out simple instructions for getting started.