The Ultimate Terrace Garden: Square Foot Pallet One Gardening System Is All You Need





Introduction: The Ultimate Terrace Garden: Square Foot Pallet One Gardening System Is All You Need

Trash to Treasure

This is an entry in the
Trash to Treasure

Pro Tips Challenge

This is an entry in the
Pro Tips Challenge

Everyone knows how wonderful it is to garden! To grow for your'e own food, flowers or just grow for the fun of it. There is no better feeling!

But unfortunately there are a few dissapointments and difficulties in successfully developing and maintaining a flourishing terrace garden. Over the time I have seen a large number of terrace gardening enthusiasts give up due to the plants failing, be it due to pests, lack of watering, over watering, it just lack of proper resources

One solution I came up with is by building an ultimate squarefoot garden which is:

  • Cheap,
  • Easy to build,
  • Everlasting,
  • Least carbon footprint and is
  • Plastic free

Being my first instructable I wanted it to be a blast, so here are the step by step instructions of a wonderful project that has been documented for over 3 years. If it is not up to the standards of good instructable please comment the changes and I will be sure to include them if needed.

Some info on the current terrace based gardening Systems:

Grow Bags:

Here the bag is made of LDPE or HDPE plastic of various thicknesses. The soil mix is filled in and holes are punched in the bottom to drain the excess water. It is one of the cheapest systems for starters.

Demerits of gardening in Grow Bags:

  • Easily tears apart, very fragile in nature.
  • Lasts no more than 1-2 years in sunlight and soil weight.
  • The roots get to grow only downwards and many times soil and height of the soil is not enough for the roots.
  • There is no gap between the bag and terrace, this is a huge hazard for the terrace, Over time water seeps and weakens the roof in the long run.
  • ‎The bag being made of plastic let's zero aeration into the soil for a healthy microbial and soil-root symbiosis.
  • ‎Plastic obviously being used is not the best Eco-friendly method let alone the garden gets an artificial look.

Concrete Planters

Concrete planters are basically containers made of concrete to hold soil and since these are made of concrete they can be shaped however needed. They are usually planned while constructing a new building but there are some ready made planters available in the market too.

Demerits of using Concrete planter:

  • Extremely heavy to maneuver in a terrace and in some cases they are permanent.
  • Expensive to construct.
  • Too heavy for the terrace in some cases may pose a threat to the strength of the terrace.
  • They are obviously not the most Eco-friendly method as they us a lot raw materials like cement, sand and bricks ‎

Clay Pots:

Clay pots are the most comfortable to work with and also give a natural look to a terrace. They also provide natural aeration.

Demerits of using Clay Pots:

  • Unfortunately they are not very eco friendly as they are made of top soil and this leads to soil erosion.
  • Clay pots though solid, are very brittle in nature.
  • They can easily crack and break..
  • Also these pots are a bit on the expensive side nowadays.

Frames Of metal:

One common sightings of modern terrace gardens is the containers made of metal. Here a metal frame(iron) is made along the perimeter of the cuboid and plastic sheets or structures are lined inside. This system employs a square foot approach as well which is very beneficial for the garden ecosystem.

Demerits of using metal frames in a terrace garden:

  • First things first, they are made of iron and iron just loves to rust in a garden. They wouldn't last 2 years without any maintenance.
  • ‎Iron is expensive to purchase and be welded as desired.
  • ‎Only the periphery of the structure is iron, the rest is made of plastic. Not only does the plastic experience wear and tear but also it bulges and experiences stress all over. Never have I seen it sustain more than 2 years.

The goal of this instructable is not to discourage people from terrace gardening but to show the world what the best way is. Being the first in a series we shall show u exactly what to do to successfully grow anything on a terrace. This is not just words in a blog but results from experience. Please post your'e terrace garden and share the experiences.

Step 1: Planning the Garden

First we need to map out the space..

The best part of most terraces are that they are extremely spacious.

We need to setup a 2 foot or 3 foot(max) width and we can setup an infinite length and it is customizable based on the terrace availability. (or)

one can just use one pallet at a time for very definite partitions(Although you would lose one or two planks extra this way)..(or)

Use your imagination XD.

Step 2: Gather the Matireals

The simple components are:


There are tons of places to find good pallets.

Many transport and packaging companies discard pallets and we are using these "WASTE" pallets to build something really worth.

One can also easily find these pallets in local waste marts.

Duck-back Rubber:

  • It is readily available in all medical and surgical supply stores.
  • Fairly inexpensive and buy the rubber as per the design.


  • Nails(A lot of them)
  • Hammer
  • Pliers
  • Chisel
  • Hacksaw, Jigsaw(If available) or any other saw.
  • Dremel tool(If available)

Gardening Materials

  • Soil mix
  • Watering can
  • Seeds
  • Mulch

Step 3: Denailing!!

In this entire project Denailing is the only difficult step.

Well here we take the top of the pallet apart so that the slabs can be hammered to the sides and a frame can be created for holding the waterproofing lining.

Denailing only what is necessary:

Obviously we mustn't denail the entire pallet, the beauty of the pallet is that it is already constructed the way we want it to be. We just need to denail the planks that run in the center of the pallet. We need 4-8 slabs in one pallet for the side boundries. If the pallet has some broken slabs or if the pallet has few slabs then keep one pallet aside and denail that pallet completely for the other ones.

So basically when the waterproofing fabric material is placed on top theremust be enough planks tohold and distribute the tension of the fabric to avoidbulging in the bottom when the soil is added

How to Denail:

There are many sophisticated ways to do the denailing like using a JIGSAW or specified tools made just for the purpose

The simplest method that anyone can adopt:

  • Just introduce the chisel in between the wooden planks and create some leverage.
  • Once a gap is created use a hack saw to cut the nail off, or try to remove the nail completely.
  • Repeat the proccess.
  • Even though cumbersome this method is less expensive and doable

If you have a dremel tool or a jigsaw, you can save a lot of time denailing.

Step 4: Putting Together the Framework


  1. First place two planks on either side of the base, and nail them from below upwards carefully. this is the most important step which determines the strength of the system. do it with care and caution.
  2. For filling the width, repeat the same process in one end of the model. in the other end, it can coupled with another model, according to the space available.
  3. Get a second persons help to hold it along the edges of the kit and nail it generously to fasten it.
  4. Now, once the basic design is over, the height of the model can be increased by adding another plank above the first one. This will double up the volume, which is suitable for growing root crops like radish and beets.

This height along with the root sharing area is more than enough to grow most of the horticultural and botanical plants in a garden.

Step 5: Waterproofing

This is the magic ingredient of the square foot garden!

Waterproofing Duckback rubber

we needed a waterproof material which is

  • natural
  • Plastic free
  • durable - longlasting
  • safe - non leaching
  • cheap alternative
  • least carbon footprint

Duckback rubber addresses all the above issues! It is made up of latex rubber(tree extract) and cotton fabric, and is readily available in all medical and surgical supply stores

We have tested it in multipple setups for more than 3 years and it is still water proofing and strong as ever.

Lining the kit

  • Firstly place it in one length across the entire setup and use clips to fasten them
  • Use extra bits of length and clip them to opposite sides.
  • Start nailing or stapling the edges and boundries first one by one..
  • (Pro Tip: Hammer the nails 70% inside and bend them physically sidewards to get a stronger lining)
  • After the edges and boundries are done, go ahead and do the corners to define the shape of the soil holding container.

Step 6: The Soil Mix

Only the perfect soil mixture can yield the best produce for the gardener.

Some ingredients of a Healthy Soil:

  • Garden soil
  • Coco peat
  • Manure (Petrified animal waste)
  • Compost
  • Mulch

Our Golden mix:

  • Coco peat
  • Garden soil
  • Manure

in the ratio of 1:1:1

Also it is better to sundry the soil mix for a couple of days before using it!

Add 1 spoon of microbial mix in the soil mixture to create faster soil activation.

the mix must be free of stones and residual plastic

Using the soil:

  1. First apply a layer of dry matter(carbon source) like dry leaves, cardboard, husks, etc. to a hieght of 2-3 cms.
  2. Next apply the soil mix till the brim and neatly level it so as to create a good uniform surface.
  3. Water the soil thoroughly so that it is fully moist, but not wet.
  4. Spread a layer of mulch to eliminate evaporation of moisture.
  5. Let the soil cure for a few days, so that microbes start their work.

Step 7: Watch Em Grow

Step 8: Some Pro Tips for All Garden Enthusiasts!!

These are some pro Tip.

Enjoy the slideshow!

Step 9: Our Experience With Square Foot Pallet

It has been three years since we built our first square foot. we constructed with discarded pallets and we used surgical class duck back rubber sheets. the results are more than what we expected. the wood is still free of major pest infestation, around 25% is weakened due to rains and scorching sun. otherwise the rubber sheet stands brand new and is protecting the wood from water seepage. in the present strength, I am confident that this will last for next 3 years easily.

The plants grew more healthier in the square foot when compared to grow bags, pest attacks were comparatively less due to healthy plants and hence the produce was eventually higher. and, still the plants in the square foot are growing as you read this instructable.

Step 10: Going Beyond to Grow Anything We Want....

This is the basic instructable for a series of instrables yet to come.

The goal of the series is to demonstrate the usage of the Square Foot Pallet in various applications like:

  • Flowers: Square Foot Pallet Plant types: Botanicals
  • Shrubs: Square Foot Pallet Plant types: Small and medium shrubs
  • Creepers: Square Foot Pallet Plant types: Creepers
  • Climbers: Square Foot Pallet Plant types: Climbers
  • Drip system: Drip system on the Square Foot Pallet
  • Garden Automation: Automation and electronics in the Square Foot Pallet
  • Composting: Home brewed compost in the Square Foot Pallet



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    Please be positive and constructive.


    What is the recommended width for setting up a system like this??



    Hello , I have I just started my account here it's really motivating I "don't know who you people are" but keep going you guys could bring up a green revolution in technology my regards and best wishes for your work

    Awesome work. Always used to think gardening is a tough job to implement. This article has changed our views. The step by step process helps us to understand and implement it without any doubts. Keep it up..!!


    Gardening is hard no more! XD

    Good article. Go green!!! Good all round study and information not just about growing healthy food but also how this can sustain and help the environment. Great work.

    Thanks for the feedback :)

    I am positive this project will reach the world to create an impact!

    Awesome work putting this together here. I am really interested to try this out. Thanks for putting this wonderful instructable here.

    Thank You!
    Please post ur work, Ill be glad to see it...

    Fabulously made! Way to go with the easy step by step process to design this simple yet efficient model. Will get in touch with you to get this fabricated on my terrace too! Keep up the good work!

    Thanks a lot for the feedback :)

    Ill be glad to be of help!