The lockdown, earlier in the year, meant that a lot of people had a lot more time on their hands, and that coupled with the uncertainly around food supplies, resulted in a lot of people taking their hands to gardening and vegetable/fruit growing, to pass the time and also help keep themselves topped up with food. It's also pretty good for mental health as well!
I am one of those people, and have certainly submerged myself in to the whole self sustainability way of thinking, in regards to food.
My main disadvantage, when looking into growing my own food, was my garden. I live in an old, converted, Victorian, military hat factory, that has been converted into houses. The garden is basically concrete that has had stones placed over the top to make it look less like an old factory rear yard, and something a little more homely.
Stones and concrete are not the ideal vegetable growing combination, and so my plan was to make use of vegetable boxes/planters for growing the plants. Now I don't have the best DIY skills, far from, and so the thought of making my own planters wasn't in the front of my mind, and so via facebook Marketplace, I found someone selling them, and we bought a few.
I was pretty disappointed with myself when I saw that, what we paid a decent amount of money for, was simply old pallet wood that had been tacked together, and I soon realised that I was more than capable to make these myself! I had access to old pallets, had plenty of screws and tools, and so should and could have made them myself!
Now as we enter the Autumn, I want to grow even more, seasonal vegetables, and needed another vegetable planter or two, for my home growing project, and so got to making my own... I'm not going to be buying them again!
Making the planters is actually pretty simple. Grab yourself an old pallet, (Not a blue one, they are owned by a company called Cheps, and are well known to not take kindly to people using their pallets, and you are likely to get a large bill!), pallets can often be found at local businesses and they will likely let you have them, if you ask nicely, failing that, pop onto Facebook and find a local community group, and ask if anyone has any old pallets they would let you have, normally there will be someone with one to spare.
Once you have one, de-construct the pallet, by taking all the wooden planks off, one at a time, or cut them off if easier.
If you are looking to use several pallets, then head to Screwfix , or similar, and buy a Pallet Buster, this makes taking off the planks much easier and faster, if not a decent hammer will help. Make sure you pull out all the screws/nails, as you don't want those, and nails sticking out of wooden beams on the floor, is asking for an accident to happen!
I'm not going to show you step by step, how to make a pallet planter, as there are so many different designs and styles you could choose to make, (Have a look on Pinterest for ideas), but for the planter I made, I went with a simple box design, with 4 wooden support posts, 1 for each corner, that you use for tacking the planks to, in order to make a box. It's very simple and the photo will give you a rough idea of how it goes together. You don't have to nail planks on the bottom to make a base, if you don't need one, (For example if you are just going to put the planter onto the ground/garden/soil, but if like me, you need the box to be off the ground, then just nail more planks on the bottom to make a base, leaving a slight gap between planks, in order to make sure that the water has somewhere to drain from.
If you have added a base, use a few off cuts of wood, to make a some legs, or supports, to keep the planter off the floor. It will then drain better, make it harder for pests such as snail and slugs, to get into the planter, and also help the bottom of the planter from getting too wet, therefore reducing the chance of the box getting water damaged... you don't want the wood to rot, as it makes one hell of a mess!
Once you have made the planter, move it as close to the area you want to use it in, (Depending how big you make the planter, it can be heavy!), and then look at a way to preserve the wood if you want to. I would always advise preserving the wood, either by varnishing the wood, if you want the natural look, or by painting it, as this keeps the weather elements from affecting the wood.
I opted to paint the planter, and used a paint that was suitable for outside usage. It's going to be subjected to wind, rain, hail, snow and who knows what else, and so a decent paint will help.
When painting the planter, check the weather forecast... The wood wants to be as dry as possible when you paint it, and you want to make sure it doesn't get wet too soon after painting... Needless to say, I got a bit ahead of myself and painted it straight away, and didn't notice the black cloud until it was too late...
I had just painted the planter, gone inside, and the heavens opened, and we were hit by rain, hail, thunder and lightening...
This was the result! Paint being washed off the planter and down the drive way, making a horrible mess and making the planter look awful!
I allowed the planter to dry out for a couple of days, and then, after checking the weather forecast, I got to painting it again, which was more successful!
Once dry, I put the planter in to it's final position and loaded it up with soil. This planter was pretty deep and so I used a lot of excess soil I had left over from plants that had now finished, and this took up the majority of the space. I then added a couple of bags of compost to the top, as that's where the plants will be situated, and this way I knew they would be planted in the better soil. I could have bought extra bags of compost, but at around £5 per 40 litre bag, and this planter needing around 10 bags, the cost implications would have been excessive, and would have taken the frugal aspect away from the project!
Once filled with soil, you are off and running! 4 wood plank high planters, are deep enough for pretty much everything that you might like to grow, including potatoes, parsnip, carrot, pretty much all root vegetables. If you wanted to grow plants that have only a short root system, then you could easily get away with just 2 wood planks of height, and this would be fine for plants such as herbs, lettuce, beans, peas, strawberries and similar.
The less wood you use, the less soil you need, so if you want to keep costs lower, then go with as lower height planter as possible, for your growing needs.
As a guide, this project used around a pallet and a half of wood, but did still leave me with some off cuts and smaller pieces, that were too short for this planter, so you could probably get away with one pallet if you went less long and high.
I used one box of screws, which cost me £1.25, and the paint I had already, but you would just need a very small tin, and so would cost less than £5 to buy. I spent £10 on compost, again the smaller the planter you make, the less soil it needs, and if you have access to soil, then this cost could be zero. It's always worth asking on Facebook to see if anyone has any spare top soil you could have, as many people have excess soil, and keep hold of it now that most recycling centres charge you to dispose of soil, and so people are often very happy for you to take some away for them!
So total cost for this project was
Wood - £0.00
Screws - £1.25
Paint - £0.00
Compost - £10.00
Total cost £11.25
This planter should allow me to grow vegetables for many years to come, both during the Summer and Winter, and so over the years, this should save me, most likely, hundreds of pounds, by reducing the amount of vegetables and fruit that I will need to buy, plus I will of course benefit from healthier vegetables, as the veg can go from plant to cooking, to plate in just a few minutes, it doesn't get much healthier and delicious, than that!