Skip to main content

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.

The frame for our chicken coop

The frame for our chicken coop

Beginning construction on a 4'x8' toolshed

Beginning construction on a 4'x8' toolshed

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.

Scroll to Continue

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!

Slats of a pallet used on a chicken coop

Slats of a pallet used on a chicken coop

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.

Greenhouse using pallets and plastic

Greenhouse using pallets and plastic

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)

Comments

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on November 25, 2014:

Hi, Glimmer. You've been busy here I see. Thank you! We have a project going on right now using pallets. I'm a believer!

Claudia Mitchell on November 25, 2014:

I'm seeing more and more uses of pallets on the internet and in magazines. It's amazing what they can be used for in a garden too. And you are right, most businesses like getting rid of them. We use them where I work now, so we like to keep them. I like the idea of fencing.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 20, 2014:

freecampingaussie, great to know. It's amazing the number of uses for those buggers. Thanks for sharing.

freecampingaussie from Southern Spain on September 20, 2014:

They are handy up the top of Western Australia in the rainy season to keep things dry when it floods as well !

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 19, 2014:

Blond, I don't know the answer to your question. I don't feel particularly creative.....but there are times when my mind just sees things....I hope you find this useful, and thank you for the visit.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on September 19, 2014:

This is almost spooky, your articles pop up in my feed just when I need them.

How is it possible one person can look at a pallet and see all those uses? You should have your own show. I love these ideas.

I have seen pallets for sale here but as you say, free is better. I need to do some networking around the area.

I am bookmarking this for future reference.

Voted up, and useful.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 19, 2014:

Thank you, Dolores, and I agree with you that some of these things are quite beautiful, as re-purposed wood always seems to be.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on September 19, 2014:

I love how people are using old pallets to make so many things! I've seen indoor furniture made with them too, there is a picture of a headboard going around - it's beautiful. Your ideas are fantastic!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 10, 2014:

Phoenix, it is hard wood to be sure. That's one of the reasons why they are so great to use....then toss in the fact that they are free, and you've got a real winner. Thanks for reading and commenting.

PhoenixV from USA on September 10, 2014:

Great ideas on how to use those wooden pallets. I liked your video find of: hundreds of DIY Wooden Pallet. Wooden pallets seem harder than heck to break down or tear apart and the wood seems like indestructible oak or something. This is a great hub that I am going to bookmark for future ideas on how to put a wooden pallet to good use.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 09, 2014:

LOL..Deb, I'll let you know when it's going to air. Too funny! Thanks my friend.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on September 09, 2014:

I might consider getting a TV to watch "Woodworking for Cheapskates."

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 06, 2014:

I agree Peg....cutting down forests just to use an item once makes no sense to me at all. Thanks for the visit this weekend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 06, 2014:

I love that idea, Dianna. I'll have to give that one some thought. Thank you!

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on September 06, 2014:

Innovative and creative, Billybuc. These are useful ways to reuse pallets. It really seems a shame to waste wood products when there are so many things that can be made from these things. Great ideas.

Dianna Mendez on September 05, 2014:

Great ideas for using pallets around the farm and home. My son is using them as a walkway in his backyard and they look pretty nice. I am pinning this one for keeps.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 05, 2014:

Brian, I love hearing things like that. Maybe we can turn on more people to this simple gardening and farming method. Thanks for sharing.

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on September 05, 2014:

Back in May Kayle had me help her make a compost bin from pallets, and she used a pallet for a planter for acorn squash and pie pumpkins. I'm bookmarking this hub. Maybe we'll try the vertical garden idea next growing season.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 04, 2014:

I'm glad, vkwok. Thanks my friend.

Victor W. Kwok from Hawaii on September 04, 2014:

It was interesting reading this hub. Voted up, Bill!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 04, 2014:

I agree ElleBee...wicked cool indeed.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 04, 2014:

Yes they could, Faith, and done quite easily for someone with carpentry skills. Your grandchild would be thrilled.

Thank you dear friend. Happy Thursday to you.

ElleBee on September 04, 2014:

Faith - a tree house would be wicked cool!

Faith Reaper from southern USA on September 03, 2014:

I am now on the hunt for pallets! I just love repurposing and why would anyone not love it. I love all the ideas presented here.

In thinking about my grands ... pallets could actually be made into a cool treehouse!

Blessings always

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 03, 2014:

They are indeed, Alicia. Thank you!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 03, 2014:

It sounds like pallets are very, very useful! Thanks for all the suggestions, Bill.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 03, 2014:

Hey, Irish, I always wonder where you are and how you are doing. Glad you are well. Good luck with the wicked move...I hate moving by the way. LOL All is well with our little Holland brood....the chicks and quail are all alive after some early losses. As for pallets being easy, Suzie, if I can work with them then anyone can. I barely know the working end of a screwdriver. :)

love to you and the Mick. Hope his back improves soon.

bill

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on September 03, 2014:

Hi Bill,

I commented here yesterday and don't think it registered. Just in case you were wondering where the heck is Suzie!! Ha! Anyway, LOVED this addition to your Urban theme and it really deserves being in a book! Cannot get over how simple and useful pallets are and yet they are not utilized by the majority. Would definitely give them a go and particularly the vertical garden (due to space restriction, i.e a balcony on an apartment) sounds intriguing.

You have a gift for making all the possibilities sound easy with little experience and even better, free for most of us.

Hope your week is going well, all well this end getting ready for moving back to Dublin. Mickster is good, some creeks and pain in his back seem regular now but he just grits his teeth and gets on with things!

Love to you and Bev and the brood at Hollands!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 03, 2014:

Thank you DDE and have a great day.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 03, 2014:

ElleBee, I have no carpentry skills at all, so you just know it is simple. Thanks for the visit.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 03, 2014:

Thanks Vellur. I just love making things like this and knowing they cost nothing.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 03, 2014:

There you god, Beth. You be the idea person and he can be the implementer. Perfect work assignments if you ask me. :) Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 03, 2014:

Maj, happy travelling, although right now it doesn't sound like you are too happy. I hope things improve soon. Thank you for stopping by.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 03, 2014:

Thank you Mona. We are two years away from having a small farm in the country. Until then, we'll make do with what we have here in the city.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 03, 2014:

Most definitely, Ann. They could be used for flower pots...big flower pots. :) I hope you find some and then write a hub about it when you plant.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 03, 2014:

Useful tips for wooden pallets. Sounds a very good thought indeed.

ElleBee on September 03, 2014:

Very cool! Saving this for future reference. (Like when I live on my own haha). Pallets are definitely very accessible, and I love all the creative things I see done with them lately. You make it all look so simple too.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on September 03, 2014:

Great ideas for using wooden pallets in construction. Your projects with wooden pallets are great!