Wednesday, September 24, 2014

More Pallet Boxes -- or Utilizing Truckloads of Weeds

I'm helping to clean up a local garden area down the road and have been hauling truckloads of weeds away. Rather than dumping the debris at the local trash station, I've been using the windfall to expand my gardening efforts. While I already produce enough food for ourselves (hubby and I), I'm working with the community garden group to produce food for them and our community. So lots of extra grow boxes surely would come in handy. Especially for slug prone crops like various greens. 

The limiting factor for these boxes is the fill. I have access to plenty of pallets. Enough material for lining the boxes. Enough area to erect them. But each takes a cubic yard or more of fill. Believe me, that's a lot! 

A truckload of weeds and trimmings looks like a cubic yard, but don't be fooled. It's mostly air. Once the material is transferred to a pallet box and stomped down, it's a lot less than you'd guess. Then give the material a few weeks to start decomposing, and the volume goes way down again. 
The box pictured above is half filled. I stomped it down but the material is a bit springy, so the box looks fuller than it actually is. To fill the box halfway has taken 9 trashcanfuls so far, plus several buckets of dirt and manure. 

This is how I'm using these old weeds. The stuff is rather woody, which means that it will be slow to decompose, is low in nitrogen, and will need fungi to break it down. Plus it is loaded with weed seed. With all this in mind, I'm loading a foot deep layer of the material into a pallet box. Then I add a 5 gallon bucket of dirt that I spread around over the layer. Next I sprinkle a couple shovelfuls of compost that I had previously inoculated with mushroom spore (I collect mushrooms from the county parks around here), then a 5 gallon bucket of manure (rabbit, chicken, or horse), then wet it with about 5 gallons of water or more. Repeat. Repeat. Climb in and tromp it down real good, then start all over again. 

Using these old weeds means more work in filling the pallet box, but it will make a nice growing media. I've done it before so I know that it will work. This material will heat up. No surprise since its just a boxed compost pile. But that means that I can't plant into it immediately like I can the other "cold" pallet boxes. It will take 3-4 weeks for it to cool down then be topped with 3 inches of good garden soil. 

So how much old weeds is needed to fill one box? I'm going to guess 18 standard full trashcans. Maybe 20. And that's just the first filling. I don't know how much volume it will lose as it goes through it's initial decomposing. The stuff is rather woody, so I'm not sure. Surprised to hear 20? Well so was I the first time I tried filling my first pallet grow box. It surely takes a lot of weeds to make a cubic yard of packed organic compost. And what also surprised me was that within two months the soil level will drop a full foot, and after 6 months the pallet box will only be half full. But the beauty of the system is that I get to utilize weeds, purchase zero fertilizer, get a lush crop, and end up with a half cubic yard of gorgeous "soil" that I can use to make more boxes or apply to garden rows that are rather sparse on soil. 

I plan to grow chard, kale, and lettuce is these new boxes since I've had requests for those crops. 

One more thing.......
I've already related how I line the boxes with something to help keep  moisture in -- old tarp, cut open feed bags, old plastic sheeting. Up until now I use to use a staple gun to attach the liner to the pallets. But the plastic tends to pull through the staple during the filling/stomping process. So I'm trying something different. I'm taking old milk gallon jug tops, making a hole for a nail in the center of the top (with a drill or a soldering iron), then using a roofing nail to hammer the liner to the pallet. 
The bottle cap grabs the plastic liner quite nicely. This way the liner shouldn't pull through. We shall see how well this works. 


  1. Try turning the caps over. will give move contact area between the nail and the materials. I utilize it, when mounting a tarp. Also, I typically do not need to predrill, depending on how "hard" the cap material is.....

  2. Thanks for the tip! I've never tried using milk caps before, so I'll heed the advice from a veteran bottle cap banger. ;)

    The first cap I nailed actually did split, thus I falsely assumed that they all would do it. Thus the reason for making the hole. Glad the hear that I can skip that step.

  3. Email reply from Fineartgourds----
    My organic gardening guide from the antique 1970's states that it takes 10 ft. of forest leaf litter to create one inch of soil. I'm sure your tecnique is more efficient. With all this moisture I'm finally producing enuff weeds to fill a pallet box but, just in case, I dumped in several feet of coconut husk before I began.... in two weeks of absence the level dropped more than one foot, with 4 inches recorded rain...

  4. Hello Frndz....
    Nice post!..good information,it is really really impressed me alot and i just loved it.Thanks for posting such an informative content..

    Pallet boxes