Vertical Pallet garden a space-saver

Master Gardner Joan McDonald introduced Jessica Grossman to pallet gardening. Provided

Jessica Grossman planned to learn more about the container vegetable garden in her neighbor’s front yard, but has learned so much more.

She was walking with Joan McDonald, a Master Gardener, to get a closer look at her neighbor’s yard when McDonald spotted a pallet in the street.

McDonald suggested that the pallet could become a great planter for Grossman’s vegetables. It would be a new adventure for Grossman, who was seeking ways to raise vegetables in her small, sunny front yard on the peninsula.

“I had started studying up on the whole concept of front-yard gardening,” says Grossman. “I wanted to grow just the basic vegetable garden for the uninitiated, some simple vegetables. I thought Joan was slightly off her rocker when she suggested the pallet would be a great place for growing lettuces and herbs.”

McDonald says since pallets often are found on the side of the road, pallet gardening is an environmentally friendly way to repurpose them.

“You staple-gun landscape fabric on the back side of the pallet and fill it with soil to plant your herbs and lettuce,” says McDonald, who set up Grossman’s pallet garden. “You tuck them in the front of the pallet and stand it up. You can use the really big ones and hinge them together and make them like a screen.”

Leaning the pallet against a wall with vegetables and herbs growing in it saves space, McDonald says.

“Lucky for me that Joan is my mentor and gardening expert, but you don’t have to be an expert,” says Grossman who has begun adding more heat-tolerant plants such as basil, thyme, cilantro and edible flowers to the garden.

“I don’t consider myself a gardener, but my friends think I have an incredible green thumb,” she says. “I don’t even know what kinds of leaf lettuces they are. I have chosen things that are easy to grow, and they have rewarded me.”

Grossman says the pallet garden is a challenge to water because it is tightly packed and has several levels. She collects the water she uses in a rain barrel and waters the plants every other day with the help of a watering can. It might become necessary to water daily as the weather gets warmer, she says.

One particularly rewarding aspect of pallet gardening is that she has made and taken her “porch salads” for lunch. She shares them with the women she works with at Justine’s Sweet Shop on Wentworth Street, where she is head baker.

The salads have been appreciated.

“Oh, my gosh, they are amazing,” says Kelly Averett, assistant baker. “It’s such a great thing that she can sit on the front porch and pick her dinner. Instead of pruning flowers, she plucks her dinner. Sometimes, there is extra salad, and she’ll just tell me to take it home. My two roommates will go ‘awesome.’ I just think it’s such a neat idea.”

Averett say she’s amazed that so many people in the Charleston area take the time to grow their own food.

Those people include Sarah Mae Ilderton, who is preparing to grow a pallet garden on Sullivan’s Island.

Ilderton got the idea when her neighbors were sodding their lawn and she noticed a bunch of pallets in great condition were left over.

She took them home and was using them as a resting place for her potted plants when she read on a blog that someone was using the pallets as planters.

She says gardening in the pallets should not require any weeding and provide more space for the roots to spread than pots.

The three herb and arugula pallet gardens she’s preparing to plant should do well on the back side of her mother’s house, where they will not be so battered by the wind on the beach, she says.

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.