Paula Bailey

June 2, 2013

Cheap and cheerful in the garden

This weekend I managed to grab another day to myself and spent the time in the garden again. Last week I put together a pallet garden, but I can’t lift that into place until next weekend so I had to find something to do so I wouldn’t give in and move it.

I still had a lot of bedding plants left over and had stuffed some of them into various containers (saucepans, a pair of stillettoes, an old boot and some cracks between the wall and an old railway sleeper). I popped out for some cheap terracotta pots and planters and dug out all my bargain tester pots (none more than 50p or left over from when we started decorating the house).

Cheap and cheerful. I tend to avoid primary colours for the pots but that still gives me plenty of scope.

The original plan was simply to paint everything, as I had done with several larger pots last summer. But once I got going, I first decided to make the wider rims a different colour, and then it seemed natural to add some simple decorations.

I painted the largest pot green and splashed each of the other colours onto it for a random look.

The small pots used up some slightly muted paints which were almost empty. It doesn’t take much paint for each pot so I had plenty to splash on the green pot afterwards (and still have some over).

Simple decorations were painted on quickly and randomly. No point worrying about being perfect when they’ll be partly hidden behind foliage soon.

The larger pots were done in stronger colours – but you can see that the general range of colours is similar. Just go with whatever you like or whatever you’ve got. If you use more than three colours, suddenly everything ‘goes’.

Slightly more complex designs but again you can see that I’ve done them quickly – they still look effective so don’t worry about whether you think you’re ‘arty’ or not. Or why not get the kids to paint some?

As the terracotta pots are so porous, the water-based paint dries really quickly. Most tester pots are matt, but even some satin finish paints behave the same way so you can get all the painting done on one sesssion. This also means that the pot can still ‘breathe’.

The ‘Pollock’ pot.

Then it was time to plant them up. I had a few alyssum, some mixed verbena (some of which had started to flower) and still lots of lobelia of different types (upright and trailing) and different colours. The lobelia I planted last year flowered profusely and continued right through the summer until October so they were a natural choice.

The pots were put in place alongside my most recent £5 charity shop mirror (you can see my other garden mirrors in one of my garden project posts from last spring). They’re going to look great when they start to flower and settle in. For colour in the evening I have a lot of pretty solar lights and some painted lanterns (which I did last spring, also using tester pots and leftover paint).

Double the colour (and flowers) with a few well placed mirrors around the garden.

A riot of colour.

Because of the decorations, I didn’t get to paint the three planters so that’s another job for a sunny evening after work this week, or maybe next weekend. I also need to treat and paint the bench and get my tomatoes off the kitchen windowsill and into the garden.

I’ll show you how I get on next weekend when I’ll also be raising the pallet garden to its vertical position. Why not sign up to hear about updates as soon as they’re posted.

Still plenty to do this week.

You don’t need a big garden, just a few ideas.



May 27, 2013

Upright pallet garden

My Pinterest ‘Garden’ board has been brimming with pictures of clever pallet gardens and I’ve been dying to make one for ages. Today I did just that.

A couple of months ago I took delivery of a settee and sofabed which arrived on a sturdy pallet, on the kerbside. I was almost as excited about the pallet as I was about the furniture. They took some time and effort to assemble so the pallet project was put on hold for a while.

It’s been propped up in the garden all that time and I did get as far as buying a few lobelia trays but then … well you know how it is sometimes, other things take priority. Plus the weather has been very wet lately.

There are a lot of guidelines online for pallet gardens. I followed this one from Life on the Balcony because it had good clear instructions, and good photos. I did deviate from the instructions from time to time, so the following is my own experience of putting together a pallet garden.

First confession is that I didn’t sand anything down. I just went for it.

I’m not sure what landscape fabric is, and I couldn’t find any at our local garden centre chain so I bought a small tarpaulin (3m x 2m – bigger than I needed but it only cost £7). I stapled it across what would become the bottom, and worked my way around the frame, stapling, folding and tucking as I went. I allowed some overlap to the front of the pallet too – just so the whole thing was secure.

Neat hospital corners.

The top.

As I had a lot of tarpaulin I was able to double back at the bottom where I was worried the weight of soil would accumulate.

I went mad with the staples – better safe than sorry. There were only three planks across the back – top, bottom and middle – so I did as much as I could there.

Sizes will vary of course. The tutorial I followed suggested two bags of potting compost. I had bought three 60 litre bags. I’d also bought enough bedding plants to cover a small field. I went for what they had and chose things I thought wouldn’t get too big. I’m no gardener so I might get a few surprises.

I started by stuffing plants along the top of the pallet. Very random, but trying to keep taller plants to the back. I followed the instruction to jam them all in.

I can’t remember everything that went in here but there were lobelia, alyssum, geranium, verbena, petunia …

… marguerites, marigold, more lobelia (upright and trailing) and a few I’ve forgotten the names of – all crammed in tightly at the top.

I then poured in two of the bags of potting compost and started planting.

Pallet gardens take a lot of soil or compost.

I love lobelia so the second row down was all trailing lobelia – a mix of colours according to the label. After that I went random with everything I had bought (though no more lobelia except one or two fillers – they will go elsewhere in the garden as they flowered ‘forever’ last summer).

The tutorial suggested buying six plants for each opening but I think their pallet was smaller than mine. However, even though they said to cram the plants in as tightly as the top, I did leave some gaps. I might regret this when I lift the pallet but we shall see. I have enough plants to plug any gaps if necessary and the upright lobelia could do well here.

I randomly assigned six plants to each opening. Some plants had more complex root structures and therefore had wider spaces to occupy.

Working from the top down meant that I was able to pack the compost ‘upwards’ as I completed each row. Be careful to stuff compost into the sides and don’t forget the space where the central bar is. I hope I didn’t leave too many gaps or loose areas.

And that was that for today. Long and tiring work, so make sure you have plenty of time – and don’t forget to look after your back as you work. I used two and a half 60 litre sacks of potting compost in the end – this will depend on how big your pallet is of course.

All planted up – those gaps might need filling too.

I’m going to do my best to be patient and wait the two weeks before lifting it into place. Hopefully the regular watering will show any spaces that could do with being filled by more plants, and the roots will begin to form a structure to hold it all together.

All that remained to do was give it a good drink and put some sticks in to try to prevent my cat Bob from lying down on it. That, for now, is my biggest worry.

It just needs to settle in for two weeks and then it can be lifted into place against the wall.

Have you made one of these? Do you have any hints and tips to share – I’d love to hear from you.

I will post an update once the pallet has been raised to vertical – why not sign up to hear about updates as soon as they’re posted.




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