Practical Permaculture – Pallet Garden Cautions

BleedingHearts

“White Hearts Bleeding” – © chriscondello 2013 – Wilkinsburg, PA – Natural Composition – Red dye in a puddle with white bleeding heart floaters – Like I said… I hate pallets… So I have no photographs of them… Get over it…

I know you have all seen them on Pinterest, commercial pallets designed into 30′ tall vertical garden wonderland. Pallets layed out on the ground full of row after row of healthy greens. Even pallets on saw-horses turned into gardening tables for the handi-capable person. Some really incredible and creative ideas are out there for the gardener to explore, I recommend trying anything that interests you in the gardening world.

But… As far as pallets are concerned… I hate them with a passion… I have worked my fair share of retail jobs, and I promise you I have dragged more than enough pallets across a retail floor for the both of us. But I also understand why people like to use them. Having worked around them, I have a bit of an inside view into the travels pallets often take part in…

Commercial pallets come in treated, and untreated varieties. Although the untreated types are relatively safe, the chemically treated varieties are often treated with nastier chemicals than the treated lumber available at home depot. Chemical treatment is easily recognizable by how much heavier it will be than the other pallets. Chemically treated pallets tend to be darker in color as well, it will stick out in the pile. Treated lumber often looks wet in appearance, this rule applies to pallets as well…

I actually don’t consider chemical treatment to be the real danger associated with pallets… Next time you are looking at a pallet, ask yourself what was on that pallet. Organic food is not the only thing shipped on pallets… Chemicals like draino, Clorox, ammonia and even pool chemicals are all shipped to grocery stores on pallets… These shipments regularly break inside the truck… That pallet is not thrown away… It is sent back to the supply house and repacked… And shipped… With God knows what…

A pallet can travel all around the country, hell, it could even travel all around the world. Pallets are re-used, it is really only when one has broken beyond usefulness that it is taken out of circulation. So technically, using pallets in your garden is not really all that green as every good pallet taken out of the mix has to be replaced with a new one. I believe it is better to recycle them through the retail mix, than to have them cutting down pine trees to make new ones… Just my perspective…

I also would like to mention that while many pallets tend to stay in the retail stream, many of them end up in some pretty nasty places. Pallets are regularly used to ship hospital supplies, no big deal right… After the pallet has been unloaded there is a chance it could be reloaded by the hospital with say… Soiled linens… Or worse… Medical waste… Then that pallet is sent somewhere… They unload it… And maybe load it with something nastier…

It’s the circle… The circle of life… Or… The circle of waste…

Eventually… There is a pretty good chance this pallet could end up back at a grocery store… Pallets are meant to be used more than once… Most distributors would rather reuse pallets than purchase new ones… They do not do chemical tests on each pallet… Don’t be stupid… If you are the type of person that is worried about chemicals in any shape or form… Stay away from pallets… That would be my professional opinion at least…

I hope I am not breaking any pallet gardeners heart with this post… But I feel this is an issue of safety… An issue that not many people consider… Having worked retail… I have seen some of the nasty shit that soaks into those pallets you are growing your lettuce in… It’s just not for me…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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3 thoughts on “Practical Permaculture – Pallet Garden Cautions

  1. […] Source: chriscondello; wikipedia, holland […]

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  2. petrujviljoen says:

    Now you tell me! When I used to live in the city, I’d go around picking them up and recycling them into frames. Luckily where I am now I can work with wood straight from the sawmills around here. I live on a pine plantation. I can buy wood prior to it being treated. Just been to the doctor, got a clean bill of health. I consider myself lucky.

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  3. wessexgirl says:

    Good point. I like to recycle, but it pays to be cautious.

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