So, this pallet gardening trend…..
I see the allure of it. It’s cheap. It’s recycling (kind of … more on that later). It’s a way to garden vertically. It’s new and different (or it was before Pinterest got a hold of the idea). Not my thing, but that’s fine.
The first thing I thought when I saw a garden blogger growing herbs and salad greens in their pallet garden was: “Oh, I hope she has all of her shots. And an iron stomach.”
While I can kind of see wanting to grow flowers or succulents in a pallet, I would never, ever, ever grow food in one. Here’s why.
The “Oh, Ew” Factor:
Maybe it’s because I worked in retail through high school and college. I see a pallet, and here’s what I think of:
– Dirty shipping trucks (have you seen the insides of these?
– Storerooms. Some are cleaner than others, but all have their fair share of messes, spills, and other mishaps.
– Alleys. Most stores put their empty pallets in the alley. Usually next to the dumpsters. Dumpsters usually attract rats, which usually pee and poop when they’re hanging around looking for something to eat. Birds hang around stores, and poop on pallets. Think cockroaches, which stores (especially grocery stores) seem to be constantly battling to keep under control. Unfortunately, I know this from experience — my high school job was working in a grocery store. Just this point alone gives me the heebie-jeebies.
–Chemicals. Many pallets are treated with pesticides. Older pallets were treated with arsenic. More recent pallets, prior to 2010 (many of which are still around) were treated with methyl bromide (which has been shown to cause respiratory and nervous system problems ). Kiln-dried pallets are the safest option here, if you must, because they weren’t treated with any chemicals. They are usually stamped “KD” somewhere on the pallet.
According to a study done by the National Consumer League, ten percent of pallets tested had E. Coli present, and Listeria was found on almost 3 percent of pallets. Care for a side of Listeria with your mesclun?
So, there’s that.
The “Green” Factor:
As for the “green-ness” of reusing pallets to “avoid sending them to the landfill!” which is what I often see touted as one of the great things about using them — not really. Very often, when you see pallets in an alley behind a store, they are not there to be thrown away. They are there for the shipping company to pick up to use again. Stores pay a deposit on these. If you take them without clearing it with someone in the store first, you’re stealing.
As for those pallets that are no longer strong enough to use for shipping, they often get shredded and turned into something else. Very few of them actually end up in the landfill.
The Pain in the Ass Factor:
I guess my final point here is really a personal issue rather than anything else. Pallets really don’t hold a lot of soil. You have to put some kind of liner or something in them to allow them to hold any soil at all. There’s not a whole lot of space there. In the amount of space it takes on your patio to stand up a pallet and grow a few pallet rows of mesclun or herbs, you can put a long windowbox or trough and end up with roughly the same amount of food. It just doesn’t seem worth it to me.
So, there you have it. I’m not the only one who thinks this is kind of a dumb idea (I feel the need to say that in my own defense against those who just think I’m being mean or whatever..). Here are other posts from around the web:
- TreeHugger: Be Careful Where You Get Your Pallets
Cupboard’s: When Trends Attack! Shipping Pallet Edition