DIY Summer Project: Vertical Shipping Pallet Garden.

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Gardening for Small Spaces and Apartment Balconies.

The hardest part of any project is always the 30 minutes or so before I dig in, when I’m staring at the mess of materials on the floor and telling myself that it’ll be fun, that I do really want to do this, gathering the motivation to move my first muscle.

Thich Nhat Hanh says something similar about doing dishes:

“To my mind, the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you aren’t doing them.  Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up and your hands in the warm water, it is really quite pleasant.”

And so, I set to work:

The inspiration for the vertical packing palette garden came via this blog.

I’d been looking for some way to turn the brick and concrete courtyard of my little apartment building into something a bit more…inspired. The vertical garden, meant for apartment dwellers and small balconies, seemed like the perfect way to take advantage of the small slice of sunlight that fell along the courtyard’s fence. And since I’m contemplating a move this August, I can always pick the whole garden up and transport it to my new location, if needed.

I remember waking up as a kid during summer vacation and hearing my mom outside, in the backyard, sort of singing to herself while she watered the garden. I love that I can wake up and do the same—not yet singing (for the sake of my neighbors) but sometimes I hum. It’s a ritual that gets me started and into the right frame of mind for the day, like pouring a cup of tea or stretching out my muscles.

I’m sure there’s some project lurking in the back of your own mind.

And if you’re thinking—I’d love to but I don’t have time, well—that’s sort of the point. To drop the working and rushing and thinking for 30 or so minutes and instead focus on the minute details, the steady rhythm of making something physical. Whether it’s chopping veggies or rolling paint onto a wall, I find making things similar to running or sitting down to meditate. I focus on my breath and repetitive movement of my limbs. My mind races at first but then eases and instead of spinning in mental circles, I sink into that particular moment in time. The best kind of creativity comes out of this mindset.

This is all to say, even if it’s hard to gather the momentum to start a hands-on, DIY project (it’s always a little hard)—whatever project you’ve been turning over in your mind, do it now. Don’t even think about it. Just do it. Invite a friend over to drink a beer and talk to you while you get started, or turn the music up and turn off your cell phone.

All in all, there’s something about making physical things—following inspiration and idea through to concrete completion—that trains me bit by bit to shape and mold my life into what I most enjoy.

What are you going to make today? I’m thinking pasta sauce, with basil from the courtyard.

More photos of the herb garden are posted on my blog. Enjoy!

Relephant bonus: Free food!

Karme Choling’s innovative garden:

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About Merete Mueller

Merete is a writer and filmmaker, and was once-upon-a-time the Managing Editor of elephant journal's print incarnation, from 2006-2008. Today, you can find her on Twitter @meretemueller and on her blog To The Bones. Her first documentary, "TINY: A Story About Living Small", about people who have downsized their lives into homes the size of a parking space, premiered at SXSW in March 2013.


6 Responses to “DIY Summer Project: Vertical Shipping Pallet Garden.”

  1. Thank you…The farmer in me says, “I have to give this a try.”

  2. 100% Feldkamp says:

    Great suggestion! Love it!

  3. drbinder says:

    Awesome- we,have had a pallet in our garage for 1 year. I had no idea how i would use it, until now.

    posting to Elephant Wellness

  4. heathermueller says:

    Good luck everyone! It was really a lot of fun, and took only 15 to prepare the pallet and maybe another 30 to plant.

    Just make sure to pack the plants and dirt in rather tightly, and lay it flat for about 2 weeks to let the roots grow in, before standing it upright. Happy planting!!

  5. Lindsey Block says:

    Love this, Merete! What a great project. You've inspired me to dig in.