A wooden pallet creates the basic framework for a vertical herb garden.

How to Build a Hanging Vertical Herb Box

by Jessica Westover

Growing herbs at home not only provides you with a ready supply of fresh seasoning for your culinary creations, but it creates an opportunity for your children to learn about cultivating plants and responsibility. If your landscape proves too small for an traditional in-the-ground herb garden or your yard contains poor soil, consider growing herbs in a homemade vertical herb box. Repurposing a pallet into a hanging vertical herb box allows you to conserve space and recycle at the same time.

1 Pull out any protruding or loose nails with the claw end of a hammer. Drive a 1-inch nail into each corner of the ends of any loose boards with a hammer to secure them in place.

2 Lay the pallet on the ground. Pour three to four drops of dish soap into a mop bucket. Fill the bucket one-half full of water. Dip a stiff-bristled brush into the soapy water. Scrub the pallet with the brush, removing any clinging grime, dirt or other debris. Rinse the pallet thoroughly with water from a garden hose. Leave the pallet to dry completely.

3 Slip on gloves, a dust mask and safety glasses. Rub a piece of 80-grit sandpaper over the edges, corners and ends of the individual boards of the pallet. Move the sandpaper in the same direction of the wood's grain. Stop sanding the wood once it becomes smooth to the touch and contains no splintering wood.

4 Lay the pallet flat on the ground with the side containing the wider slits facing upwards. Measure the width and length of the pallet's back surface using a tape measure. Measure the width of one of its lengthwise ends and the width of one of its shorter ends.

5 Multiply the lengthwise end's width measurement by two. Add the result to the width measurement of the pallet's back to determine the total width for the backing fabric. Add the short end's width with the length measurement of the pallet's back to determine the total length needed for the backing fabric.

6 Spread a piece of landscape fabric out flat on a work surface. Measure and draw the length and width measurements on the fabric using the tape measure and a fabric pencil or chalk, creating a rectangle. Cut out the rectangle along the marks with a pair of scissors or a utility knife.

7 Lay the fabric over top the pallet, positioning it to cover the pallet's back, two lengthwise ends and one of the short ends. Ensure that one of the short ends remains open to act as the box's top. Staple along all four edges of the fabric with a staple gun containing 3/8-inch staples to secure the fabric to pallet's back and around three of its sides. Be sure the staple gun is inaccessible to children. Space the individual staples 2 inches apart.

8 Lay a piece of 1/4-inch thick plywood on the work surface. Draw a rectangle on the surface of the plywood using the tape measure and a pencil or chalk, making it equal in width and length to the pallet's back. Donning gloves, a dust mask and safety glasses, cut along the markings with an electric saw. If you are not comfortable using an electric saw, have the plywood cut when you purchase at the lumber yard or home improvement store.

9 Place the plywood rectangle on top of the fabric covering the pallet's back. Line up the edges of the plywood with the pallet's edges. Drive a 1-inch nail every 2 inches around the edges of the plywood into the pallet using a hammer. Alternate the positions of the nails and staples.

10 Place one 24-inch-long metal French cleat flat on the pallet's plywood backing so that it runs parallel to and sits 1-inch below the pallet's top end, or end without any fabric. Position the cleat so that it's angled edge points down toward the pallet's bottom but rises off the plywood backing. Center the cleat between the pallet's two lengthwise edges. Check the pallet with a level to ensure that it lies straight across the pallet's back. Drill a 2 1/2-inch screw through each of the cleat's holes and into the plywood and pallet's wood with an electric drill. Repeat this process to attach one cleat along the pallet's center point and one cleat 1 inch above the pallet's bottom edge.

11 Select a wall that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Recruit one or two assistants to help you hang the planter. One or two persons can hold the pallet with its back against the wall, positioning it in the general area where you wish it to hang. It won't be super heavy at this point, but the size makes it awkward. Another person can place the level on the top edge of the pallet and adjust the pallets position as needed until the level reads that the pallet sits straight. Draw a line on the wall around the outer edge of the pallet using a pencil or chalk.

12 Use a stud finder to locate the studs inside the marked area. Draw a line on either side of each stud with a pencil to mark its location.

13 Measure the spacing of the cleats on the back of the pallet with the tape measure. Measure and mark the position of the cleats on the wall inside the marked perimeter.

14 Place one cleat against the wall at the topmost cleat mark. Position the cleat to run horizontally across the wall with its angle edge pointing upward and rising off the wall's surface. Shift the cleat to one side or the other if needed, to position it over at least two studs. Check the cleat with the level to ensure that it sits straight along the wall. Drill one 2 1/2-inch screw into each of the cleat's holes that rest over a stud using the electric drill. Repeat this process to install one cleat horizontally at each of the other two cleat markings, making sure the ends of the three cleats line up vertically.

15 Lay the pallet box on a flat work surface with its open slits facing upward. Pour potting soil on top of the box, pushing it through the slits into the box's interior. Lift the open end of the box upward, angling it at a 45-degree angle. Tamp the box's bottom up and down against the ground to settle the soil. Lay the box down once more and add additional soil, if needed, to fill the box.

16 Position the box flat on the ground with its back facing down. Dig two to three evenly spaced holes along each slit using your fingers. Make each hole equal in depth to the corresponding herb start's root ball. Place one plant in each hole. Fill each hole with the displaced soil, tamping it down around the root ball.

17 Water the box thoroughly with water from a garden hose. Apply at least 1/2 inch of water to moisten the soil completely.

18 Leave the box on its back for the first 7 to 14 days to allow time for the herbs to establish a roots system and become anchored. Water the box whenever the top 1 inch of soil becomes dry.

19 Lift the box, with its top facing upward, with the help of an assistant. Position the box in front of the wall containing the cleats. Lift the box upward until the cleats on its backside sit above the cleats on the wall. Push the box against the wall while bringing it downward to hook its cleats onto the wall cleats. Gently tug to ensure it's secure.

Items you will need

  • Pallet, certified heat treated if recycled.
  • Hammer
  • 1-inch nails
  • Dish soap
  • Mop bucket
  • Stiff-bristled brush
  • Garden hose
  • 80-grit sandpaper
  • Tape measure
  • Landscape fabric
  • Fabric pencil or chalk
  • Scissors or utility knife
  • Staple gun
  • 3/8-inch staples
  • Plywood, 1/4-inch thick
  • Electric saw
  • 24-inch metal French cleats, 3 pairs
  • Level
  • 2 1/2-inch screws
  • Electric Drill
  • Stud finder
  • Potting soil
  • Herb starts

Warnings

  • Always wear gloves, a dust mask and safety glasses when sanding wood to protect your hands, lungs and eye from the airborne sawdust.
  • Only use a pallet with a certified stamp containing the letters HT, a signal that the wood was heat treated instead of fumigated with chemicals. Heat treated pallets contain no chemicals that could leach into the potting soil and then into your edible plants.
  • Ask for permission before taking a pallet off of property that doesn't belong to you.
  • Never lift the herb box by yourself once it contains soil and plants as its weight may cause injury to your back.
  • Keep potentially dangerous tools, such as the staple gun, out of reach of children.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images