How To Build a Potato Box From Pallets
2 to 4 Pallets: look for pallets that have many intact boards that are held on by no more than about 6 nails each. This will make it easier to pry the boards loose. The more boards on the pallet the better, in case of splitting while prying, and because we need a lot of boards… and thus the 3rd and perhaps 4th pallet. Also, make sure your pallet is free from any kind of liquid or other contaminant that you do not want in your garden. These pallets are safe to use from the manufacturer use unless something has spilled on them in use, etc.
Hammer: You will use both the hammer end and the prying end, so a regular hammer is needed.
Hatchet: This does not need to be sharp as it will only be used to wedge.
Typically, pallets will have 2 sets of cutouts in their 3 crossbeams, that are there so a pallet jack may be used to lift and carry the pallet and its heavy contents.
This project relies on that one side of 2 pallets be completely filled in with boards so we can build a potato box frame that will hold dirt, so you if are using a standard pallet, keep this in mind. With standard pallets we will be filling in the side without the pallet jack cutouts (circled in red in photo above).
This project might be easiest if the pallets you use do not have the cutouts. I have found these types of pallets in my area, but they are uncommon. They are a little smaller than normal sized pallets, and I will use 1 of them in this project in conjunction with 1 normal sized pallet with the pallet jack cutouts.
The idea is to remove all the boards from 1 side of 2 pallets so they can be used to fill in the other side, so we need to remove all the boards from both sides of the pallets except for the 2 end pieces on the side without the pallet jack cutouts (if the pallet you are using has them of course). You also want to remove the center crossbeam… to the effect it looks something like this:Image 4
Step 1 will be about removing the boards, and have been detailed the same as here in a previous article (https://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2015/03/make-a-raised-garden-bed-out-of-pallets/). If you are familiar with this method of prying with a hammer and hatchet, or have another method that works for you, skip ahead to the next step.
Set your pallet up against a wall or something that will support your prying at the boards with your hatchet and hammer.
Being careful not to split the wood too much, hit your hatchet in between the end of a board and the cross beam it is nailed into. Pry back and/or forth. Move the hatchet around, trying different angles until you are able to pry. I press with my foot at the base of the pallet to help keep it from moving around while I wedge and pry.
Each pallet is different. Some have thicker boards than others, but this one I am using in this example has very thin boards, so I am wedging with the hatchet at each corner. It helps to hit the side of the hatchet near its butt end with the hammer if it isn’t moving back and forth easily.
Once you have wedged enough room with the hatchet around the nails so as to be able to wedge the hammer in, replace the hatchet with the pry end of the hammer and use the back of the hatchet to hammer the hammer into the wedge. This will widen the wedge and give your prying more leverage. Do this around a nail. Then gently pry the board and nail together away from the cross beam. If it begins to crack, stop and move to the other nail. Work gently when prying… this technique requires strength but also finesse.Once you have one end of the board free repeat Steps 2 and 3 at the other end of the board.
Gently use the pry end of the hammer to free the center of the board. Now you have removed 1 board.
Repeat until you have all the boards removed from the side of the pallet with the pallet jack cutouts. This step assumes that there are 2 end boards on the other side holding the frame together.
Now, repeat on all remaining boards, except for the 2 end boards, on the side of the pallet where you will be reattaching the boards flush against each other to keep the dirt in.
On the 2 remaining end boards, repeat the same technique on the center of the boards until you have removed the center crossbeam.
The nails at the ends of the removed boards may be usable as is, the ones in the middle of the board can be hammered out or hammered flush with the board. Hammer the nails out of the ends of the boards if they have dull points or are too bent to be used as is.
Start at one end and begin nailing the boards into the frame flush against each other.Since you should have several boards to choose from, lay them out as you would be nailing them to get the best fit… and if there is no best fit, you should remove the end board and make room. My example here shows a fit that is close enough, it doesn’t have to be perfect just so long as the dirt will not fall out… and even so, since it will be near the top, which you don’t have to fill up with dirt to anyway. Nail in the boards.
Repeat the necessary steps until you have 2 filled in frame walls.
Set the 2 wall frames squarely together where you want your potato box. Because we are reusing the nails from the pallets which aren’t long enough to go through 2 crossbeams, the wall frames must be placed so the nails can go through a board into a crosspiece.
Nail 2 boards into the end of a crossbeam (you removed one of these from the center of a pallet) to create a corner for the box, and attach it to the exposed ends of the wall frames, so it looks like as shown in the photo above.
Place cardboard or other paper down under the potato box to help prevent weeds from growing through from the dirt underneath. The thicker the better. It also helps to overlap the areas with cardboard out of the box area, so the cardboard helps prevent weeds from coming up at the edges.
Put down a layer of soil into the potato box. A 5 gallon bucket full is the amount I used here.
Get the variety of potato you want to grow and if you don’t already know this… notice the “eyes” (circled in green in below photo)… these are where the potato will send out its foliage from.
You can plant the potatoes intact, but I chose to cut mine in half so I wouldn’t have to buy as many.
Cover your potatoes with soil. They only need to be covered, so a 5 gallon bucket full may be just enough. Spread the soil around level or only cover the potatoes.
When your potatoes grow enough that they are a few inches above the width of another board, attach another board to each of the 2 exposed sides.
Keep adding boards and soil (Step 8)whenever the plants get high enough that they are a few inches above a board width in height.
At the end of the growing season, remove the boards on one side of the box, one by one from top to bottom revealing many potatoes… and ENJOY!
About Troy Boylan
Ecoculture Village Founder & President; Anthropology BA, Interdisciplinary Studies: Ethnobotany BS. Two things I think are worth anything at all… all things wilderness and ecoculture.