Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Pallet Garden Composter

WORK IN PROGRESS - now with pictures.

Inspiration: 3-bin systems, pallet vertical gardens, holistic systems/permaculture,

Concept: Create a compost system that utilizes the benefits of decomposition to grow plants instead of being wasted garden space.
Inspirational pallet gardens on victoria dr.

I've currently built pallet gardens at Science World, home, and I've built numerous compost bins. Now to combine the two concepts. As per usual, I am using as many waste products as possible. Thus far my total cost for this has been about 10 dollars. Might use my sheet mulch garden soil to fill it, we'll see.

What I know:

  • Plants need nutrients, both macro and micro to grow nutritious food for us.
  • During decomposition, liquid is produced. This liquid is full of micro and macro nutrients, and if not captured will leach away, not utilized.
  • Plants need sun, and so will have a hard time growing on the north facing vertical side of any system.
  • In a forest ecosystem, or any other natural system, decomposition occurs in the same spot as plant growth.
  • With this system, nutrients, liquid, and heat will transfer from the food waste decomposition and help the plants grow to be more nutritious.
  • Update: my friend tried this out in the Yukon after reading this, and added plants and let them establish when the pallets were still on the ground, and then, once established built the composter. This was a great success.


  1. Get 3 pallets all the same size. Attach them using screws and whatever else. Have the open side be the northern most side because plants won't be growing on this side.  
I took some slots off to ensure enough plant growth.
With the two left ones, I made pockets for the gaps to help secure the soil.
Sides showing are east and south.
These are north facing attachments so the this side can slide open
when you want to access the finished humus.

I used one L-bracket at each top and bottom of the two joining corners.
2. Staple a backing on the inside of all 3 pallets using burlap sacks, landscaping fabric, or something else that liquid can penetrate, but soil can not. Secure this with chicken wire, to prevent rodents, and to help hold in soil, especially as the burlap sack decomposes.

Coffee shops give out free burlap sack. It will rot over time though...

3. Make a door or slots using cedar or something else, on the other side. Make a lid using plastic, metal or cedar.
Original plan was cedar, but then I found out that the waste windows in our backyard fit perfectly, and there was a waste plastic sign just down the road. So I used these products instead. Now people will be able to see the compost turning into humus, because the window faces our alley.

4. Fill the pallets with soil. 

5. Wood burn a nice sign for neighbours. Wait for them to use it. 

Here's what it looks like these days. You can see the two layers showing two seasons of neighbours using the bin.
Still to come:
  1. Plant seeds or starts in between the slots of the pallet. Best are greens and herbs.


  • Thinking about making it more pyramid shape, out of new wood, to retain soil better. 
  • Monitor best plants to grow in the system.


  1. cool. excited to see pictures with more details

    1. I've added some more pictures to have it up to date. Hope you like it. In the next couple of weeks I'll fill the pallets with soil and add some more pics.

  2. This is awesome Dylan! Nice work

  3. Ive been wanting to build a compost bin at the back of the bakery.. and I just cant justify buying all new wood for it.. so This looks like a great use/project to fit the space. Thanks :)