Friday, May 8, 2015

DIY Vertical Pallet Garden

I recently did a presentation on vertical gardens as part of a series of gardening classes offered by my local Master Gardener chapter. While preparing for this class, I researched the history of vertical gardening from grapevines and espalier trees to modern day hydroponic and bio walls... In current day gardening - sustainability, self sufficiency and growing your own food are the top trends. However, there has also been a decreasing size of yards and garden plots. Growing up instead of out - just seems to make sense...

Advantages to vertical gardening:
  • Saves space - A traditional horizontal garden has boundaries and limitations. In a vertical garden - the sky's the limit to potential gardening space! 
  • Easier harvest - Usually at eye level instead of kneeling, bending, etc...
  • Healthier plants / Bigger harvest - Many plants are susceptible to soil borne diseases. Bringing the vines or plants up off the ground, decreases the risk of disease and improves the air circulation which contributes to a healthier plant and a larger bounty.
There are a lot of new vertical systems on the market - walls, stackable containers, hydroponic planters, etc... but I am more interested in the DIY versions. If your search this topic on the internet, you're bound to come across a wooden pallet upcycled into a vertical planter. Prior to the class, I constructed a couple of these "pallet gardens" and thought I'd share the steps and my thoughts on this DIY project...

Choosing a Pallet:

If you're using the pallet for edibles, make sure the letters "HT" are included on the pallet's stamp. This stands for "heat treated" instead of using chemicals to preserve the wood. Also pallets come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Make sure the slats are positioned evenly with enough space between to allow for a planting area. The pallets are usually pine or oak. - The oak pallets are extremely heavy after the soil and plants are added. I would opt for a pine pallet for a edible garden, maybe oak for an decorative garden...

Craigslist:  Wooden pallets pine, oak and plywood
Graded prices: $2 - $3 - $($7 to $10 for larger ones) 
Supply List:
  • Landscape cloth - I used Preen Landscape Fabric
  • Staple gun and a lot of staples!
  • High quality potting soil
In the larger pallet, I stapled a double thickness of landscape cloth to the inside of the pallet. I saw this demonstrated on Growing a Greener World. - This step makes it easier to add the soil to the pallet.

Next staple a double thickness of the landscape cloth to the outside back and bottom of the pallet - leaving the top open. 

Stand the pallet upright and position it where you want it to be as a finished garden. - It'll be very difficult to relocate it once the soil and plants are added.

Add moistened potting through the top opening of the pallet. I used a broom to help pack the soil down into all the areas of the pallet.

Lay the pallet down horizontal and cut rectangular slits in the openings between the slats. I planted a variety of cool crop seeds: lettuce, spinach, kale. My intention was to leave the pallet horizontal until I wanted to plant summer crops: tomatoes, peppers, etc... Then I could still harvest salad greens, but free up garden space for additional plants.

Leave the pallet horizontal for 2-4 weeks to allow the roots to become established.

After 3 weeks my seeds had formed plants and roots capable of keeping the soil in place when I brought the pallet into the upright position.

I also made a vertical pallet garden to display the variety of sedums and succulents that I use in the living roofs and vertical planters I sell at our local farmers' market. For this garden I used an oak pallet, but cut in down in size - because of the weight...  I prepared it in the same fashion as my edible pallet, but instead of adding landscape cloth to the inside of the pallet, I screwed a scrape piece of wood to the front of the pallet. - This allowed me to fill the pallet with soil from the top while it was in a vertical position. I also added a board to the bottom of the pallet to make it more of a solid structure. A temporary board screwed to the top of the pallet helped to keep the soil in place until the planter was upright.

After I planted the sedums, I kept the pallet horizontal for 2 weeks to allow the roots to become established. Once the pallet was vertical, I removed the temporary board from the top and added more sedums to this open portion.

I was surprisingly pleased at how well this project turned out. - It's a fast, easy and inexpensive way to make a unique and functional wall garden. I have found that it's somewhat difficult to water. The planter is too heavy and awkward in handling to lay it horizontal and a lot of the water runs off the pallet when watering it in the vertical position. Even with it's downfalls, I'm still in favor of this vertical garden and I'll probably be making more in the future...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Rebecca's Bird Gardens in Country Gardens!

Last spring (May 2014) on a cold rainy day - Country Gardens Magazine came to our property and shot a series of photos on the construction of our living roof birdhouse and a DIY project of our glass bottle bird feeder.

So much fun!

Art Director Nick Crow and Rebecca
Photographer Karla Conrad - Art Director Nick Crow
Olive the grandkitty - wouldn't know how to harm a bird...
Writer Marty Ross

Check out the article in the spring issue 2015 and on line at these links:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Community Chickens Post: Cool Coops! - the garden-roof coop

Click on the image below to see the post at


Rebecca's Bird Gardens - DIY living Roof Birdhouse

Click on the image below to view the post at Rebecca's Bird Gardens...

Book Review: A Kid's Guide to Keeping Chickens ~ and a Giveaway!

I'm so exciting to share this book!

I have followed the blog, Tilly's Nest, for years. It's a great resource for anyone wanting to enter the world of backyard chickens -  DIY projects, chicken keeping tips and advice, stories and photos of an endearing flock...  The chicken keeper behind the blog is Melissa Caughey. I feel that we're kindred spirits - nurses, gardeners, mothers - and we love our chickens.

In addition to her blog, Melissa contributes to  HGTV Gardens, Community Chickens, Grit Magazine and Country Living Magazine - and now she has written a wonderful book, A Kid's Guide to Keeping Chickens (Storey Publishing).

When my family undertook our first flock of day old chicks, I had no idea what an impact it would make on our daughters. Raising and growing your own food is such a good example to children (actually anyone) on not only where your food comes from, but also how important it is to humanely treat and respect the animals that provide our nourishment.

Here are some of my favorite features of this book:

  • It includes the basics of chicken keeping: the set-up, choosing a breed, how to care for chicks and the flock.
  • It's written for families considering adding backyard chickens to the mix. - Specifically how kids can contribute to the care of the hens, chores around the coop, etc...
  • There are several DIY projects, crafts, recipes.
  • The layout, photos, illustrations and articles are eye catching, creative and easy to read. - Kids of any age will love this book.
  • The book includes interviews from kids on their perspective of chicken keeping - favorite breed, advice they'd give, their favorite part of having backyard chickens, etc...

The interviews with children got me pondering on how my own daughters, Lydia and Grace, would respond to the list of questions. - Here's a few highlights of my own interview with them.
  • What do you love about keeping chickens?
Lydia: I like how they encourage self sufficiency. - Grow your own food!
Grace: Fresh eggs for breakfast and I love seeing them run around the yard!
  • Do you have a favorite breed and why?
Lydia: Buff Orpingtons - because they are so friendly, but I also love Easter Eggers and Silkies.
Grace: Easter Eggers - I love the green eggs (egg shells / not the eggs)!
  • What is your favorite thing about chickens?
Lydia: I think that it is so fun that each hen has its own unique personality.
Grace: They are not just birds or farm animals, they are family pets...
  • Do you have any advice for other kids just getting started?
Lydia: Let them free range and forage if possible. - They are so much happier and healthier if they are free to roam and explore.
Grace: Play with them from the beginning as day old chicks. - They'll be much tamer when they're large hens.

As for the DIY projects that she includes, the "Chicken Fort" is my favorite! As a gardener and mom, I can only imagine the hours of entertainment this project would provide the kids and the flock!

 Storey Publishing - A Kid's Guide to Keeping Chickens
When I give my presentations on "Gardening with Chickens" - through my local Master Gardener chapter - I always have families in the class that have so many questions on the basics of chicken keeping  - and how to involve their children in the adventure. This book will definitely be recommended and added to my list of resources.

Now here's the good part! Storey Publishing is conducting a blog tour promoting the release of this book. Not only did they send me a copy, they are going to send a copy to one of my readers. To enter this contest simply leave a comment below - including your email address - and in 2 weeks (March 24) I'll randomly choose a winner (US residents only). You can increase your chances of winning a book by visiting the blogs listed below. Good luck!

Tuesday, March 10th:
the garden-roof coop - that's me!

Wednesday, March 11th:

Thursday, March 12th:
Iron Oak Farm

Monday, March 16th:
Dandelion House

Tuesday, March 17th:
Louise's Country Closet

Wednesday, March 18th:
Chicken Art

Thursday, March 19th:
The Chicken Chick

Monday, March 23rd
Laughing Crow & Company

My kids - Grace & Lydia ~ Our chicks - day old Buff Orpingtons ♥
Follow Melissa's blog and flock by visiting these links: 

I invite you to follow my Facebook page to see the products available in our Etsy shop, my DIY projects and more photos of my backyard birds (including chickens!). 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Facebook Giveaway!

Over 4000 "likes" on Facebook! - Time for a Giveaway!
Leave a comment on my Facebook page (this link) and in 1 week (March 8) I'll randomly choose a winner. They will then get to choose a glass bottle bird feeder, "The Bistro" from our Etsy shop! - Share our page and this giveaway with all your bird-loving friends!!…

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Snowbirds ♥

The snow (6.5 inches) has return this winter along with the Dark-eyed Juncos or Snowbirds. ♥

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” 
― John Steinbeck


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