Thursday, October 8, 2015

Using pallets to heat cool and feed your home better!

With a Vertical Pallet Garden!

Pallets are the grocery bags of commercial industry. They can be reused if they are taken care of, but many find their lives tragically cut short. Cast by the dumpster or on the side of the road these pallets are abundant and modular. The most popular pallet is 40 by 48 inches and is heat treated. ALWAYS check the stringers (the long 2x4 boards on the side) for a stamp that says “HT” this is a stamp by a regulating commission that says the pallet was Heat Treated, not treated with chemicals. If you are going to be eating something from it, make sure it says  HT on the side.

Did I mention that we are building a garden?
The whole idea is that the sun will hit a vertical pallet garden and not the house. Being filled with three and a half inches of soil the garden will add significant thermal mass while also reflecting the energy from the sun onto edible plants and away from my house.

The sun hitting my house has to be removed by my ac. Sun hitting the pallet garden gets absorbed by the plants or reflected and does not hit my house. So I save on my energy bill. In the winter they block the wind from stripping the heat away there. You can also put pvc or hog wire hoop houses up turning the gardens into solar heaters, and I really save on my energy bill.

On a scale of: Canceling your 30 day free amazon prime trial to doing your taxes. The build level of this project would fall in the “Babysitting a seven year old” category:

By the time a seven year old is heavy enough to operate an Arrow T50 stapler, they can build this project...with you, while you are babysitting them. But I am a kid at heart, so I get along really well with kids, you may have to adjust your scale appropriately.

And you can build it with only a few parts needed!

A pallet 
( I was given this one at a parts supply house and it is 8 feet tall!) ALWAYS: Make sure it says HT on it somewhere showing it was Heat Treated for pests instead of being chemically sprayed or fumigated, which may be marked with a CT or not be marked at all. So make sure yours says HT.

Some landscaping fabric/tyvek/used tyvek mail envelopes/deckboards from another pallet
I used a light grey instead of black because it will reflect more of the light back onto the plants as opposed to absorbing it and warming the soil up in the sun. Spinach doesn't like that, and I like spinach, so I went with the light gray. The landscaping fabric helps the roots breathe and repels weeds. But this will mean it dries out quicker so keep it watered!

( I use an old arrow T50 that I bought at a garage sale as a kid for a quarter, turns out they still make em!)

(I used an all organic soil and organic seeds so I can grow organic vegetables. The organic seeds cost maybe a dollar extra, and will yield a months worth of food. You have to be a corporate psychopath to not see the benefit in that. )

Stuff to grow
You can order all manner of seeds online, if you want to grow a little bit of everything, I would recommend the Zziggysgal 100%CERTIFIED ORGANIC NON-GMO Culinary Herb Set since it has 12 different vegetables including edible flowers to get you off to a healthy start.

Experiment with growing plants from cuttings and buds. I want to try a garden just for sweet potatoes to I can eat the greens, and see if I can harvest any potatoes at the end! (white potato greens are poisonous, sweet potato greens are delicious and nutritious!)

Also: Think about letting some of your plants go to seed so you can help the bees and get the seeds!

All right, lets build this thing:
Step 1. Wrap the side of the pallet with the most deck boards in two layers of landscaping fabric. This will be holding a lot of weight in soil, so wrap it with two layers for strength. The more deck boards there are, the more easily the dirt is supported by the landscaping fabric.

Step 2. Distribute the weight with staples! One staple can conservatively support about a pound of weight in dirt, so apply abundantly many staples distributed evenly across the surface of the fabric where there is wood underneath to support the many many pounds of dirt that will be inside the garden.

Step 3. After you have stapled your heart out and you feel like the fabric will support the dirt flip it over and fill it up! When you pick it up and water it, the soil will settle, so make sure you fill all of the spaces under the deckboards with soil.

Step 4. Cover the face with landscaping fabric and staple it down like you did on the bottom side, but not nearly as thoroughly since it won't be supporting much weight.

We made it look nicer before the plants started growing by screwing a lattice to the front. This also conveniently separates the pallet into evenly spaced planting areas in a 4x3 repeating pattern. 4+3=7 days in a week so each opening can be harvested as a days worth of vegetables or herbs!

(Once the plants get off to a healthy start the lattice can be removed and put on a new pallet garden!)

To plant your seeds while blocking weeds, use a knife to make a horizontal slice in the landscaping fabric just large enough for the plant to grow through. You can pull the bottom half out like a pocket and scoop a little bit of dirt into the space to make a shelf/pocket for the seed to grow from. I am growing 30-45 day plants so they don't need too much support by the time they get harvested.

Give it a good watering and you are off! Don't let it dry out and enjoy the benefits of a fresh, living, organic garden that blocks the sun and wind from hitting your house, saving you on your energy bill!

Wouldn't you love to live in a house surrounded by a garden? It would be quieter, more private, more beautiful, more carbon friendly, less toxic and more green!

Hakuna Matata!