Shipping Pallet Herb Garden: Drainage Problems

Posted on Nov 10 2010 - 3:44am by Mike Lieberman

It’s been over a month since I started the shipping palette herb garden. It didn’t take long for the containers to sprout, but there is a slight problem.

Initially I thought there would be a problem with the second and third rows because of the way that the water was draining down. That has not been an issue. I’ve been applying a small amount of compost every other week and reusing the water to help keep the plants nourished.

The problem that I am encountering is that the containers in the top row aren’t doing well. There appears to be drainage problems. When I water them, they fill up and slowly drain. This is causing either the seeds or sprouts to get dislodged.

Some of the containers at the top do have sprouts. I’ve been watering those slower in attempts to keep the sprouts in place.

I don’t think there is much that I could do right now, but when building more shipping palette herb gardens in the future, I’d make sure that the soil had better drainage. Maybe add some sand to it!?!!

What are some other ideas?


  • Anonymous

    you could start the seeds in seed trays then transplant to the palette when they have some size and roots to them.

  • Junglemn

    put holes in the bottom-most points and get rid of the paper being inside the bottle move it to the outside nad if you wanted you could probably just put the bottleneck uncapped touching the soil in the container below it this would reduce the loss of water through dripping and it connects it into one larger system

  • Mike Lieberman

    Good call on that, but don’t have a great indoor seed starting set-up.

  • Mike Lieberman

    I have the paper lining the bottles to protect them from the sun. when I said drainage problems I meant that the water is piling up at the top container. Eventually it drains fine. I’ve just been watering a bit slower for now.

  • anotherkindofdrew

    Well, I think we first need to isolate the real problem. Is it the amount of water being added or is it the drainage? So, take a day or two and start your water in the 2nd level to see if it reacts the same as the top level. If it does then we know it is the amount of water being poured. If it doesn’t then we know it is the drainage in the top level.

    I agree with Junglemn in that you need to have holes in the bottom of the bottle for good drainage. Pour normal and see if it drains quicker. You may also want to put in a bit of sand or light gravel on the top where the seeds are to help protect the seedlings.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Word. I think in my desire for now, now, now I am pouring too much, quickly. The water is draining fine, it’s just not fast enough….for me.

  • Alicelincoln75

    How about a soilless mix? That’s near equal parts of compost, vemiculite, and coconut coir. Maybe that will work. My thyme keeps dying – what can I be doing wrong? The basil and mint are fine. Also the rosemary never came up. I know it’s me, because the seeds came from a reputable mail order house (Park’s Seeds), and everything else is fine.

  • Mike Lieberman

    If you could get your hands on that it might work. Worth the effort.

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm. If you can very carefully scoop out the sprouts so you can put them back in after….

    I’d mix in some small gravel (look for it in hellstrips or commercial driveways, expecially near construction supply places), vermiculite/perlite, cactus/succulent soil, OR some rough mulch.

    Also, perhaps that newspaper lining is what’s preventing it from draining properly. You might poke some holes in the bottom of it next time :)

  • Mike Lieberman

    Think I’m just watering em too fast. It’s draining, but takes a lil bit.

  • B Large

    I’m experimenting with rice on top of some pea gravel. I bought a big ten pound bag of rice and figured it might hold in some moisture and also provide some nutrients for the other layers on the pallet as it slowly decomposes

  • Mike Lieberman