One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and that’s certainly true of pallet ideas for gardens. Leftover at the end of building projects, piled up in construction yards, or stacked in garden centers, they’re a great source of sturdy, useful planks of wood, which can be used to make myriad practical and decorative things for your garden, whatever its size.
With a little bit of ingenuity, anything from outdoor furniture to vegetable planters and storage solutions can be crafted from humble pallets, with the bare materials costing you next to nothing. As far as cheap garden ideas go, they're one of the best options. You can add color and personality with a lick of paint, and as well as making something totally unique, you will have had fun in the process.
Not only this, but the beauty of making things with wooden pallets is that they don’t have to be perfect – in fact, they look better left a little ‘rustic’. You also don’t have to be a DIY expert. All you need are a few basic tools – such as a saw and screwdriver – plus some sandpaper, screws, wood glue and garden paint.
Pallet projects are enjoyable and easy-to-make and will instantly spruce up your outdoor space.
14 pallet ideas for gardens to brighten up any outdoor space
Whether you're searching for pallet furniture ideas as a way to save money on new outdoor seating or you simply want to add a few decorative touches to your backyard, you'll find plenty to inspire in these creative pallet ideas for gardens. What's more, only basic tools are needed to produce them too.
1. Build homes for birds
A great project for kids to get involved with, pallet wood is the ideal material for creating some simple bird house design ideas, which can be attached to trees or walls.
'I deliberately use very rough pallet planks for mine as I want lots of wonky areas to add character to these little builds,' explains expert crafter Hester van Overbeek, whose book, Pallet Wood Projects for Outdoor Spaces (Cico), available at Amazon, contains instructions for four different style birdhouses.
One pallet should be enough to make several houses – experiment with different shapes and sizes, which will attract different kinds of birds. Essentially little boxes with lids and an entry hole, you can get your paintbrushes out and decorate the outsides using exterior wood paint to create bright colors, stripes or spots, keeping the insides bird friendly and paint-free.
2. Entertain in style with a garden bar
You don’t need acres of space to enjoy drinks in the garden – this clever outdoor bar idea hangs on the wall and folds up when not in use.
To make it, glue and screw four pieces of pallet wood together to form a box shape, then add a shelf along the middle, and a plank along the bottom edge, to keep your bottles and glasses secure. For the door, lay four pieces of wood the same length as the box side by side, then fix them with two smaller pieces laid horizontally, to hold everything together. Add two hinges to the base of the box and the door, making sure they line up nicely.
Paint the whole thing in your chosen color and fix it to the wall. Finally, to make sure the bar door stays open at a level 90-degree angle when in use, screw hooks and eyes onto the exterior of the bar and add lengths of chain - from DIY stores - between them.
Now it’s the fun part – filling it with glasses, cocktail shakers and bottles of your favourite tipples. Cheers!
3. Make extra seating for free
Wooden garden furniture can be expensive but building a chair from pallets is free – and you can customize it to your space and garden décor, says upcycler and DIY expert Charis Williams, aka the Salvage Sister, who runs workshops teaching pallet ideas for gardens and homes. 'You can change the length and height, add glass holders, footrests and even include a planter behind the headrest. And of course, you can get creative with paint.'
Charis explains that pallets are made up of ‘bearers’ (the thick framework of the pallet) and ‘slats’ (the thinner material that sits across them).
Start by cutting a pallet in two, down the middle, and removing one slat from the end of each half, so that the bearers are exposed. Cut a 20-degree angle on the bearers of one of the halves, so that it sits at this angle when you attach it to the other half with screws and wood glue, making the reclining seat back.
Use more bearers to make the four legs, then finish by adding armrests and extra slats to the seat and back before painting your chosen color.
4. Make a pretty vase display
'This rack of vases will look great in the middle of your outdoor table,' says Hester van Overbeek. 'Created from just one plank and three glass bottles from the recycling bin, it is a very quick project to make.'
All you need is four pieces of sanded pallet wood glued or screwed together, with holes drilled with a paddle drill bit for the bottle openings. 'You can use old milk bottles, used soda bottles or three little vases. If you have a long table, why not use more bottles and stretch it out over the entire length!' Then simply fill with flowers for a pretty, rustic centerpiece for your garden table ideas.
5. Give your pooch a place to sit
'A pallet cut in half makes the perfect base for a dog bed,' explains Hester, and this outdoor one can live permanently on the patio during the summer.
Take an existing dog bed or mattress to use as a size guide, then saw your pallet in half, using one half for the base and the other to form the back panel, screwing in metal corner brackets for support. You can then paint your bed a bright, cheerful color, adding patterns or even your dog’s name.
'My little dog Kermit loves his new throne, which I painted a striking bright blue,' says Hester.
6. Create a sofa without a saw
Learning how to build a pallet bench needn't be as difficult as you might think. As this quick project shows, sometimes the best pallet ideas for gardens are often the simplest. In just a couple of hours, you can transform three unassuming pallets into a bench for two – no sawing required!
Start by sanding down any rough areas, then use a mini roller to paint your pallets on both sides with outdoor paint.
When they’re dry, create the base of your bench by stacking one or more pallets to the right height, securing them with screws and an electric drill. Add another pallet propped in a vertical position to create the back of the bench, again securing with a drill and screws.
Finish by adding comfortable seat cushions to your new outdoor seating – DIY stores sell cushions specifically made for using with pallets – then add color with scatter cushions, pot plants and fairy lights.
7. Relax with an easy coffee table project
One of the easiest things to make with a single pallet, this low coffee table would work equally well indoors as well as out. Simply smooth your pallet with sandpaper, brushing off any dust, before painting it in your chosen colour.
Then flip the pallet upside down and screw in four wheeled casters, available from Amazon or DIY stores, to each of the corners. Turn it the right way up, dress it with a vase of flowers and some coasters, and you’re all set for entertaining alfresco.
8. Add a vertical planter
This is one of the easiest pallet ideas for gardens, making it a great option for DIY beginners.
Simply flip a pallet round and add planks from another pallet to the undersides of the legs, creating little pockets which you can line with polythene or bin bags. Fill these with compost, and add a selection of small plants.
It's ideal for introducing some herb garden ideas to a small space, as you can either lean your finished design against a fence or fill it with trailing plants and mount it on a wall.
Once you’ve got the hang of this basic design, you can then experiment with some bigger pallet garden wall ideas by taking a pallet apart and using the planks to create more complicated, wider containers for larger plants or even vegetables.
9. Upgrade your lighting
Upgrade the best solar lights by giving spike lights a stylish wooden surround. Start by building the lamp frame. Create a box with two shorter planks and two longer planks (those used here are 16 and 20in), gluing and screwing them together so that the boards all line up at the bottom.
Remove the spike from a solar spike light so that you’re left with just the bulb holder with its solar panel on top. Use this as a template to drill a hole in a square piece of plank, into which you can stick your bulb holder using glue or outdoor silicone sealant. Finally, attach this top section to the frame with screws or more glue, and finish with a coat of outdoor or yacht varnish.
Once you’ve made a few lamps, dot them along a garden path, around a seating area, or use them to illuminate special features such as flowerbeds or trees.
10. Personalize your garden decs for a wedding or party
Fun for hanging on a garden wall or fence, giving as gifts, or as garden decor idea for outdoor parties, wooden pallet board letters can be made in almost any size and style.
Start by making a template from plywood or MDF, to act as a backboard. Then cut pallet planks to fit before using wood glue and panel pins to attach them to the backboard, clamping them in place while they dry. You can then add edging if you wish.
'How much wood you use depends on the size you want your letters. For example, a 16in letter can easily be made with the slats from one pallet,' says upcycler Charis Williams. 'Some letters are harder than others, for example S and M can be difficult as they have so many curves. Something like an L or P is much easier for a first timer.'
Now it’s time to paint and decorate your letter. 'If you want to leave it bare, try Briwax from Amazon over sanded wood to bring out the gorgeous grains,' suggests Charis. 'You could even scorch your wooden letter with a plumber’s torch – just be careful not to burn them!'
11. Make a handy garden trug
'A traditional wooden trug is the perfect vessel to carry around the garden when you pick your home-grown flowers, fruits and vegetables,' says Hester van Overbeek.
You'll need just three pallet wood planks in total; first cutting one side to shape, then using this as a template to cut the other, so that both are equal. Then, using strong wood glue and some nails, add planks along the base and sides, making a handle from two more planks and a piece of wooden dowel.
You can then paint your trug or stain it for a more natural look. It would even work as a mini garden planter, for shallow-rooted plants such as succulents.
12. Stack 'em up for a comfy picnic table
To recreate this alfresco dining spot à terre, all you have to do is take two pallets, sand them down and degrease the wood. When the pallets are clean and dry, paint on woodstain in the direction of the natural grain for a smooth finish.
Let the paint dry and simply stack the pallets, scatter some outdoor cushions and your new outdoor dining idea is good to go. Japanese tea ceremony meets grown-up picnic! And without a screw or hammer in sight, it’s the perfect pallet idea for even the most novice of DIYers.
13. Build a dreamy swing seat
This idea from Mano Mano may look like a real challenge, but it's surprisingly easy to create! Depending on the size chair you want, line up two or three pallets in a row, and insert lengths of timber on each side of the pallets and through the middle. Fix the timber to the pallets with screws and saw off the overhang.
Now your pallets are attached to each other, drill a hole in all four corners of the chair and thread sturdy rope through the hole and beneath the chair too. Attach your garden swing seat to a tree or solid structure, position a mattress and cushion on top, and prepare to relax. Protect the mattress with vinyl covers when not in use, and bring inside where possible.
14. Keep tidy with a handy tool station
This makes a fantastic garden tool storage idea. As always, begin by sanding down your pallet. Stand on its end and attach an extra plank to each of the top of the legs, to create shelves for extra hidden storage. Then add extra planks to fill in all the gaps in the surface.
Screw all the extra planks onto the pallet and saw off the overhang. Paint your pallet and then drill in a variety of hooks to suit the tools you wish you hang. This design, created by Mano Manouses U-shaped hooks, S-shaped hooks and coat hooks. Attach to your wall, hang your tools and enjoy gardening in a neat and orderly fashion.
Where can I get pallets from?
Timber and builders' yards, garden centers and construction sites will all have regular deliveries of pallets – ask nicely and they may put some aside for you.
Gumtree is also a good place to look; or put a call-out on a local Facebook group.
Alternatively, if some of your neighbors are currently doing work on their home or garden they may have some leftover pallets, so it's worth asking around your local neighborhood. You might be lucky to find some discarded in skips, but always ask the homeowner's permission before removing anything from a skip on their property.
How do I prepare the pallet wood?
When choosing materials for your pallet ideas for gardens, avoid pallets with woodworm (look for tiny holes in the wood) or any that have gone rotten or moldy. If they’re covered in mud, brush or hose them down, and leave them to dry thoroughly before using.
You can take a pallet apart with a crowbar, claw hammer and pliers or pincers; or saw off the pieces that you need. Always wear gloves and watch out for any rusty nails or staples!
What can I paint pallet wood with?
Wooden pallets aren’t treated for outdoor use. Typically made of fir planks, they’ll often warp when exposed to moisture and warm sunshine outdoors over time.
To protect your pallet ideas for gardens, use the same exterior paint you’d use on garden fences or garden furniture. Alternatively, brush on any interior water-based or chalk paint and finish with a coat of outdoor varnish on top to keep it weather-tight. For a more natural look, try linseed oil varnish on its own.
Growing up with a botanist father, Jenny had a love of all things green from an early age. Now the proud owner of her own plot, she tries to follow her dad’s advice and grow at least one new, interesting plant each season. She writes about gardens for national newspapers and magazines such as the Daily Mail and Good Homes.
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