June 4, 2012

DIY Project - Vertical Garden Planter

I ended up tweaking the design for this planter after a month of seeing how it worked.  Please see updated design here.


the start of a new month, I had a new plant budget to work with, so I was antsy to get to the ever-fabulous City Farmers Nursery today and see what new treasures they would have to add to my yard.  I was not disappointed and found many new plants to bring home and try out, and also picked up an idea for how to add them to the yard without taking up too much space.

On display at the nursery was a vertical garden box that I really liked the look of. Since I was headed to Home Depot to pick up some paint on the way home anyway (we're painting the exterior of our home) I figured I'd try my hand at making a vertical planter to use in our yard.  I thought that others might be interested in this design since it's a great way to get a lot of garden out of a small space.


Vertical gardening is exploding in popularity in many different forms these days, from Manhattan condos with living walls to 150 foot 'supertrees' in Singpore and everything in between.  (Both of those articles are awesome and highly recommended.)  For many people, vertical planters are a functional and easy introduction to using space and resources like light, water, and fertilizer in a more efficient way.

Below is a breakdown of the design I used for my vertical planter, along with some notes and photos.  The biggest advantage of a vertical planter is that you can get 3, 4, or more times the planting space as if you used just the ground on which the planter sits.  Additionally, with a design like this one the water you use can trickle down from one box to the next, maximizing the absorption and utility of your watering.  Fertilizers can similarly be added to the upper boxes and drip down, to a limited extent.  You can also utilize the shading of the lower boxes to plant different varieties of plants (with the most sun-loving on top, to those more sun-averse on the bottom).

Project Plan: Vertical Garden Planter


  1. Saw
  2. Drill (with Phillips head bit)
  3. 30 - 1.5 inch screws
  4. Tape measure
  5. Level (I didn't use this, but if you want everything perfect would come in handy to check yourself)
  1. 5 - 1" x 6" x 8 foot lumber
  2. 2 - 5/8 " x 1/2 " x 6 foot cedar fence boards
  1. Cut 8 foot lumber in half for 4 foot sections
  2. Take 3 of these sections and screw together at right angles (see photo, this is the base)
  3. Take 6 sections and screw together into pairs, at a 45 degree angle (these are the 'shelves')
  4. Attach base to bottom of cedar fence boards
  5. Measure up 15 inches from top of base and attach one of the 'shelves' created in step 3
  6. Measure up 15 inches from top of lowest shelf and attach next shelf.  Repeat for third shelf as well.
  7. Vertical garden planter is now complete.  Add organic soil and plants as desired.
Here's a photo of the (almost) finished product.  I still need to add the last shelf in but Eva was ready for dinner and it's hard to screw boards together with an infant on one arm.  I'll add some photos when the soil is added and everything is growing.

Below are notes on the new yard additions, starting from the top left.  Not all of these plants will stay in the planter, some are too large or needed in other areas of the yard but I liked the presentation for a photo.

  1. Purple basil - for cooking.  We love basil!
  2. Scarlet milkweed - I've been wanting to add milkweed to the yard for awhile since it's highly attractive to monarch and other species of butterflies.  We'll see how it goes.
  3. California blackberry - to attract birds and for eating the berries.  Will go in a narrow area that's mostly shaded next to the house.
  4. Fuggle hops - I enjoy making beer and am going to try my hand at growing some hops in the yard.  These will also be in mostly shade and are a climbing plant.
  5. Banana pepper - will stay in this planter, hopefully will have some nice peppers to add to our pizzas.
  6. Silky yellow milkweed - Another milkweed variety to attract butterflies, this one has light yellow rather than red and orange blossoms like the scarlet milkweed.
  7. Irish moss - will be used in another DIY project sent my way from Michelle Cajigal.  Keep an eye peeled for a future post on how this secret project turns out.
  8. Serrano pepper - for using in stir fry, guacamole, and other spicy dishes.
  9. Hungarian paprika - I had no idea what a paprika plant looked like until I came across this today, but love cooking with paprika and thought I'd give it a try in the garden.  Will have to read up on how to harvest and dry.
  10. Green santolina - A natural insect repellent.  We don't have many airborne pests in San Diego, but there are occasionally flies and gnats so I'm going to plant by the door and see if it helps to deter entry by these winged invaders.
  11. Spinach - always a favorite, and versatile for use in many recipes

 Hope you had a great start to the week today!

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