Pallet Wood Projects: DIY Pot Rack

Step-by-step instructions for converting a wood pallet into a DIY pot rack made for holding planted and grafted trees in place.

  • Marking the height of the rack.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • Cut along the squared marks on all three skids to remove the pallet end.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • Check the height of the rack by fitting a pot into the space between pallet boards.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • Select deck screws long enough to secure the foot to the frame without jutting out the other side.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • The unpainted pot rack, weathered to a silver-gray, proved to be functional and attractive.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • The author set his rack beside their deck, within easy reach of a hose and sheltered from storms, high winds and perching songbirds.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman

It’s true: Necessity is the mother of invention. I was reminded of that fact last spring, when I moved some apple trees outside for the season. Up until then, I had always grown newly grafted trees in 2-gallon nursery pots. These, however, were potted up in “deep root” pots – tall and skinny, designed to create an impressive root ball in minimal space. The pots did an excellent job of this. What they did not do well was stand up on their own. A 16-inch-tall pot with a base only 4 inches by 4 inches will tip in the slightest breeze.

A new graft is a delicate thing. For the first year, a songbird’s weight or the force of a stiff breeze can snap off a graft union. Add to this a pot prone to tipping in the best of conditions, and you have a recipe for disaster. I needed to find a solution. As it happens, there is a pot stand specifically made for deep pots, but I didn’t know that at the time. I did the next best thing: I designed a pot rack of my own, from a repurposed shipping pallet.

Shipping pallets are readily available and economical, sometimes free. You can usually get them from a hardware or appliance store, supermarket, or any place that receives regular shipments of bulky items. Take the time to find a pallet in good condition – clean and unbroken. Most pallets are manufactured of low-grade wood, secured with cement-coated nails. Resist the temptation to try to pull the nails; you will only succeed in splintering the wood and frustrating yourself. Another thing to look for is the letters “HT” on a code stamped on the side of the skid. These letters stand for “heat treated,” a process designed to kill potential hitchhiker pests without using toxic pesticides.

The following instructions are just guidelines, but you can tailor-make your rack to suit your purposes. Your rack could be tall enough to store long-handled tools in your shed, or maybe hold several tiers of alpine strawberries in a vertical garden. It’s all up to you.

These instructions make use of several power tools. Always practice safe work habits. Keep your hands away from saw blades, cut away from your body, and always unplug a power tool before changing blades or bits. Finally, wear a pair of safety glasses while you work.

• Clean wooden pallet in good condition, heat-treated if possible
• Decking screws
• Safety glasses
• Pencil
• Tape measure
• C clamp
• Speed square, rafter square, or combination square
• Handsaw
• Power saw (jigsaw, circular saw, saber saw or reciprocating saw)
• Electric drill
• Pot for sizing purposes

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