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Use of pallet hardwood boards

 
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New to this form and hugelkultur: could I use clear and clean pallet boards in the hugel mix? talking only about heat treated wood, nothing else. If not, please why not? Thanks

 
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It may be difficult to tell what has been done with the wood. It's not always that green colour that is common with deck boards. Sometimes it's just a spray-on fungicide without colour. Fungus is a the most important organism that will work within the bed as it breaks down, and fungicides are some of the most dangerous chemicals out there.
 
pollinator
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My understanding is that, at least in Canada, you should be safe with pallets marked 'DB-HT', indicating debarked, heat-treated.

At least, you should be safe if nothing nasty has soaked into them during use and nobody has repaired them with treated wood...
 
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As long as they're not contaminated or treated, I'd go for it.
 
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If you got most pallet factories(we will use the term factory LOOSLY) you can usually get truckloads of fresh trim lumber....
 
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They would be a VERY poor choice for a Hugel because the wood via their very nature is rot resistant to start with. Even if untreated, they would be slow to rot, and that is not really what you want in a hugel. The best wood is wood that is mostly decomposed. I am afraid with a pallet wood hugel, in ten years you would unbury it and it would look hardly different from when you started. That would not do you, nor the plants growing on top of it, a whole lot of good.
 
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I, coincidentally, am in the process is making eight, 4'X8'X30" tall raised beds.  I plan on filling the bottom 20" with complete pallets packed tightly with wood chips in all the  voids.  Then a few layers of heavy cardboard, then the top ten inches will be compost.

I figure the wood chips will break down faster than the pallets, and that will cause seepage of the compost into the lower section which would lead to having to add more compost every season.  The cardboard would slow this process down, but I don't know for how long.  I'm fine with this.

I actually already made two of the beds, and used all the scrap wood and logs I could find.  Pallets are free at my work, and are easier to find than wood logs out here in the desert.  I'd prefer wood logs.....

If the pallets I'm using are treated, is it a concern for annual veggies that probably won't even get roots down that far the first year?  How long before the a treated pallet is safe if it's surrounded by other moist rotting wood?  

Is it just  a bad idea period?

Thanks!

This old thread answers some questions.  https://permies.com/t/20299/Pallet-Garden-Hugelkultur-Stacked-Wood
 
Mike Haasl
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Hi S, I'd definitely skip the chemically treated pallet wood (Heat treated is fine, I think).  Along with any heavily used pallets that have mysterious dust/liquids spilled on them.  Annual veggie roots will easily go down a few feet.  While they'll survive in a shallow box with shallow roots, if they have room to go deep, they will.
 
Joshua Bertram
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Thanks Mike.  

I'll make sure the pallets I use have the ht stamp on them.  

I was thinking the cardboard would prevent the roots from mingling with the pallets for the first season or so, and was hoping any bad stuff on the pallets would be broken down enough by the next season not to be too concerned about.  
 
Mike Haasl
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Yeah, the cardboard might keep the roots awy.  In my climate, under 4" of wood chips, it is pretty much non-existant by the end of the first summer.  It seems to be highly dependent upon how damp the cardboard is.
 
Richard Stromberg
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Do the rusting nails ADD to the soil richness?
 
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I'm a firm believer of using what you have access to but, for me, pallets are much more useful for making pig/turkey/geese pens, garden fences, compost bins & bins to put my shovels, rakes, etc., and a bunch of other uses. I could see using one that's already started to rot, but not one that's still in good shape

But, if that's what you want to use them for, then I think you should try it. The worst that could happen would be they fail to retain moisture and break down. Even treated wood breaks down, eventually, but I wouldn't use it for food production until the fungi has had a few years to work on it (but I know very little about how that works).
If you do decide to use pallets of untreated wood, I recommend adding some additional wood that's already started to rot, as you'll want something to hold the water in until the pallets start to break down. Also some manure or other nitrogen source to feed the bacteria that will be doing a lot of the work of breaking down the pallet wood.

If you do try it, be sure to keep us posted on how it works. Even if it's not successful, it's helpful to share for others who may be considering doing the same thing.
 
Joshua Bertram
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KC, yeah, it's free, so I want to utilize it/them if possible.

Here's what I be working with.  The first two beds that have onions and garlic are done.....and are a pleasure to work in due to their height.

Looking forward to getting it all done before spring.



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I was gonna ask if raised beds were the best idea in the desert, but the photos show why you had little choice.
Nice beds, btw.
 
Ron Haberman
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I appreciate all the tips. I decided against using pallet wood in the hugel-beds. I do use them for other things in the yard like making an upright planter for small flowers. That worked great.
 
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It's only happened to us once but an employee carried a pallet outside and her arms broke out in a blistery rash. Don't just think about initial treatment but what might have been on the pallet secondarily. I still reuse pallets often but in the back of my mind remember her topical reaction.  
 
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S Tenorman wrote:KC, yeah, it's free, so I want to utilize it/them if possible.

Here's what I be working with.  The first two beds that have onions and garlic are done.....and are a pleasure to work in due to their height.

Looking forward to getting it all done before spring.





Are those beds made using pallets?
 
Joshua Bertram
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The beds are made of new 8' 2X4's from Home Depot for $2.50 or so each.  There are 8 1/2 used for each bed (if my math is right).  4 uncut lengths for the long parts top and bottom, 2 more cut in half for the sides (4 total 48" long), and then 2 1/2 more cut down into quarters (24" X 10 pieces).  No waste of wood since I'm making multiple beds.  
The tin roofing is about $18 per 8' section.  3 pieces per bed, 2 full 8' pieces for the long sides, and one cut in half for the 48" ends.  (I actually cut off a few inches so they'll fit, but it's very little waste overall.

Meh, I question how long they'll last.  I know the tin isn't strong enough to support the full weight of soil, it'll bow out for sure over time.  I'm using pvc pipe with end caps glued on to support the bottom from bowing out (I'll snap a picture on the next one I build).  I figured the pallets inside would take a tremendous amount of pressure off the sides for a long while???  Maybe?

If I had more $$$, I'd have done it different, but it is what it is.  They are aesthetically, and ergonomically pleasing for now.  Certainly not permie friendly, but I'm not a permie, I'm much too logical for that!  Bwahahaha  :)

The cost for new building materials, all from Home Depot is about, but less than $100 per bed including the pvc, glue, and screws.   The pallets were free, of course.

The compost to fill the beds (about 12" deep) is half Nutri-Mulch (from Turkey farms here in Utah), and half sifted wood chips (full of mycelium) from my deep litter chicken coop.  A cubic yard of the Nutri Mulch is about $50, and I'm using about 1/3 of a yard per bed mixed with my mulch.   So add about another $20 per bed for the growing medium.

I dream of being more thrifty, and using more "sustainable/cheap" building materials when I move, but my state of mind now is that I'm going to sell my house here, and I want it to look sharp for the purpose of selling.  I live in the fastest growing city in America right now....so it's more of an investment than a make it work regardless of what it looks like kind of situation.

I'd love to just pile a crap load of dirt onto some wood and call it good.  lol

I stand corrected, third fastest growing community in the US.   https://www.thespectrum.com/story/news/2019/04/18/st-george-utah-population-growth/3511212002/
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