DIY projects for your allotment

Nick Moyle and Rich Hood

Buying fresh timber for allotment projects is both expensive and wasteful, so it’s always best to build things from recycled wood. Old pallets are the perfect source and available for free (if you ask nicely) from builders merchants, garden centres and hardware shops. To give you some inspiration for the pallet’s potential, here are five practical uses for putting them to good use

Composter

For a fast, cheap allotment composter, grab hold of four wooden pallets and arrange them end-up –with their bases facing inwards—in a square. Knock a few nails in for support, add some wooden battens or lash them together and you’ve got yourself the perfect structure for corralling rotting detritus. It’s worth bearing in mind that composters need to have the capacity of 1-2 cubic meters or more to work efficiently—anything smaller and the microorganisms in your heap will struggle to generate the temperatures needed to break down your green waste into lovely compost. Position your pallet composter in a shady part of your patch.

 

Border edging

You’ll need to get your hands on a fair few pallets if you want to construct a raised bed, but a couple of pallets should afford you enough material for edging flower beds and borders. If you have an allotment that consists of individual beds cut into grassy areas (like ours), installing wooden edging on your borders will help protect the integrity of the soil walls and will save you frequent, annoying re-cutting. Pallet wood will usually have been pre-treated so will be slow to rot, and even when sections eventually begin to yield and start to crumble, you can simply replace the rotten panels with fresh pallet wood. Join the corners of your edging with staves—a wedge-shaped cut at the business end that will bite into the soil easier and help with stability. 

 

Potting Table

A brief search on the internet will reveal all kinds of grand furniture designs, elaborately fashioned from pallet parts. These complicated constructions are all well and good, but for an allotment creating a low level table for potting up can be as easy as plonking one pallet on top of another (or a pair of upturned buckets if you’ve only got one pallet) The slatted construction of your pallet will help with drainage when it comes to watering duties and makes the clean-up job easy after a particularly messy potting session. For folks with bad backs who struggle to stoop, break down a second pallet and fashion a set of table legs to raise the height.

 

Bird box

For a project a bit more demanding on your carpentry skills, pallet planks are perfect for fashioning into an avian des-res. Measure out your dismantled pallet planks and glue or screw together to form a box approx. 250mm x 150mm x 150mm. Make sure the roof slopes downwards (from back to front) and is made watertight by tacking some felt on the top. Bore an access hole in the front—a 32mm hole cutter attached to your drill is the perfect size. It’s also wise to drill some small drainage holes in the base, just in case your box springs a leak. Ideally you want to get your bird box up by the end of January to give birds time to investigate for nesting potential. Fix your box at least 2 meters from the ground and in a shady position, ideally facing between north and east to help protect against sun wind and rain.

 

Firestarter

Admittedly this is quite a crude use for your precious pallets, but pallet wood tends to be made from pine, which is great for getting allotment bonfires started on damp days. Prize off the planks, chop them into finger-sized slivers, then create a hollow jenga like construction around a firelighter. Build an outer, pyramid-shaped structure around this using larger pieces of wood and you’ve got the perfect foundations for a bonfire, primed and ready for ignition.

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