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Building Block Letters for Succulents using Pallets


When it comes to garden projects, I love to use what I have sitting around. I have used pallets for several different things, which includes gardens both vertical and horizontal along with garden furniture. One of the things I love to make with these spent pallets is a vertical planter that is as unique as the person I am giving it to. What is this? Well, it is a planter the shape of that person’s initials.

The key to this technique though is to make your planter in block letter shapes, no curves.

To begin this process, you will need to have a pallet, saw, wood screws, screw driver, sphagnum moss, potting soil, staple gun, metal mesh with 20mm squares, tape measure, and pencil.

The easiest way of creating this “letter” planter is to cut the pallet apart so that you end up with planks of wood. Once you have this, you can begin to plan out your planter. You will need sides and a bottom for your planter. All of this can be harvested from the planks you have harvested from your pallet.

Some of the easiest letter to make include E, F, H, I, L, M, N, O, T, U, W, and Z but all letters can be made with a bit of work and fitting.

Once you have your letters designed, screw the sides together. Using the letters as a pattern mark and cut out the bottom of your planters using the plank material. Secure this material to the bottom of the planter with screws.

The next step is to prepare the sphagnum moss. Since succulents do not require a lot of water, it is better to premoisten the moss in a bucket of water. Once it is evenly moist, gently squeeze out the excess and begin to place a layer in the bottom of the planter. The purpose of this layer is to act as a liner and in doing so this layer should be thick enough to cover the wood, including the sides.

Next, comes the soil layer but just as in the sphagnum moss layer, it will need to be moistened before placing inside the planter. You may wonder how much planting medium you will need. In this project, you will need to completely fill the created container with soil.

After the soil layer, you will need to repeat with the moistened sphagnum moss layer. To secure it inside the planter, you will attach metal mesh that has been cut into the shape of the letter on to the planter. This is done with staples. When doing this step, make sure that the wire mesh is snug but not too tight.

Now that you have your planter made, the next step is to plant it with succulents. At this point, you may feel that you need to use the plant but……this can be a problem. The openings of the wire mesh are not large enough to handle a root mass of any size. To solve this problem, the simplest solution is to use cuttings. When it comes to cuttings though, you should not simply remove a leaf and stick it in the planter. For best results, the leaf or stem cutting should be allowed to sit out for at least a few days. The purpose of this is so that the “cut” can heal over. This healing over process prevents the cutting from rotting on the cut end. While the few days is just a general rule, it can take up to a few weeks for the wound to heal over. Once that is done, you can directly place your cutting into the planter but……..I know you are scratching your head. How do you get that cutting into the planter with the wire and sphagnum moss? Well, the answer is simple and you will need a complicated tool. What is it? A simple pencil is the solution to this problem.

The pencil is easy to move around in the planter and provides you a tool by which to make a simple hole. Without this tool, trying to get your cutting into the soil could be a disaster.

The planting process is simple. Push the pencil down through the sphagnum moss and soil to the depth required. Once you have that, place your cutting in the hole and push the material around the cutting. After all the cuttings have been planted, gently mist the planter to settle soil and the cuttings.

Place your newly planted “letter” planter flat in an area that receives indirect light for a couple of weeks. This will give the cuttings time to take root.

Tips on Creating and Maintaining a Letter Planter

While most pallets are made of hardwood, which lasts longer it is a good idea to at least paint the inside with a varnish. This finish will extend the life of the planter. Also, to make your life easier when it comes to constructing the planter, consider predrilling holes for the screws. While I have done it both ways, it is a lot easier to put the pieces together when holes have been made for the screws and this is especially true if you are building it by yourself.

Another tip comes in the selection of the display area but before I go into this, let me tell you a story. I had made one of these planters for a newlywed couple. The initials I selected were both the first letters of their first names. I thought this was a wonderful memory of two people coming together. To make sure the “letter” planter looked its best, I built and planted it months in advance but then the phone call came. The bride called crying. She could not understand why her plants were dying. I mean, she placed the planter in a location that received indirect sunlight. No burnt leaves but squishy flesh. Well, the problem was easy to figure out. Somehow, the succulents were getting too much water and were rotting. The solution to this problem was just moving the planter to a sheltered area. This provides better control over how much water this planter receives. In the end, the mushy succulents were removed and I taught her how to start her own through cuttings. A happy ending to the planter story but keep in mind that this planter does not have drainage holes and what goes in cannot drain out.


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