Introduction: DIY Organic Vertical Planter

Picture of DIY Organic Vertical Planter

Ever wanted to grow plants but you didn't have enough room for them? Have you ever wanted to grow plants in a more water-friendly way? Are you tired of raking and your garden and pulling out those stubborn leaves or using harmful chemicals that are not healthy for you and damage the fruit's flavor and texture?

The simple answer is a vertical planter: The vertical planter allows you to grow plants in a very small area limited only by height, and that too can be amended. It uses a water-friendly watering system where the water is not wasted but moves on to other plants. It needs no chemicals for those pesty weeds! Did I mention it is easy to make?

- Any length 4-6 inch wide PVC or any other kind of pipe
- Planting soil and compost
- Any plants you want (I don't recommend large plants or bushes)
- Large pebbles of about the same size to put under
- A drip irrigation pipeline (you can also water from above and it will trickle down)

- Circular drill bit (Or a jigsaw if you don't happen to have one)
- Drill

Step 1: Choosing Your Pipe

Picture of Choosing Your Pipe

The first step is deciding the height and width of the pipe. The difference between the width of the pipes depend on how much space you have and and the space you want between the plants- for a 4 inch pipe I recommend only one hole so the plants have enough room for their roots and to expand hole only on one side of the pipe on each row (or if you are planting flowers you can make 2 holes on each side). For 6 inch pipes you can have up to 3 holes in each row depending on which plants you choose (I recommend three holes for flowers only, the rest either one hole or two).  The size of the hole directly depends on the plants type and size. I made a 2.35 inch wide by 2.8 inch high hole ( 6cm wide by 7cm height hole)

You can cut the pipe to any length you want, depending on your restrictions. The pipe must be put  at least a fourth of its height above ground, in the ground.
I mean by this that  if you want the height of your pipe to be 4 foot above ground, you will need to have a foot below ground, which means that the total height of the pipe is 5 feet.
Another example for this is, if you want the height above ground to be  2 meters tall then you will need 50cm underground, thus having a two and a half meter pipe. 

Step 2: Cutting Out the Holes

Picture of Cutting Out the Holes

**Safety first, always remember, wear safety glasses and gloves!**

Measure the height of the pipe and mark a line that shows where the pipe goes under the ground we discussed this in the earlier steps. . Divide the pipe circumference into 4 equal parts. You need to choose whether you want to grow herbs, fruits and vegetables or flowers. For vegetables you will need to mark every 11.8 -15.7 inches (30-40cm), for flowers (depending on their size) should be about 7.9-11.8 inches (20-30cm). . Whichever one you choose, keep the marks at a constant length. A good trick to make the marks constant and aligned, stretch out a piece of twine from one side of the pipe to the other (make sure it is perpendicular to the top and bottom!), and mark each hole from the ground level line you made earlier. 

There are several ways to cut out the holes, depending on your tools:

- If you are using a circular drill bit, simply place the drill at the middle of your marking and drill through.
- If you are using a jigsaw
       * First make a rectangle out of paper or cardboard according to the size of the hole you want.
       * Mark the middle of the cut-out's width and place it on top of the mark on the pipe, parallel to the ground.
       * Outline the cut-out onto the pipe.
       * At each corner of the rectangle, drill a hole the size of the jigsaw blade you are using.
       * Cut according to the holes and outline you made.

Step 3: Digging the Hole

Picture of Digging the Hole

Dig a hole a little bit wider than the width of your pipe and at the depth of the line in which the pipe goes to the ground (The one you marked in step 2). Now place the pipe in the ground and insert (through the top or any of the holes) the pebbles until ground level. If the ground is soft where you are digging, place heavy rocks underground (so they won't be seen) around the pipe as to keep it from tipping over. 

Step 4: Watering System

Picture of Watering System

There are 2 major ways of watering the vertical planter. 

- One, as I used, is to insert a drip irrigation pipeline (as shown in photo) from the top or the bottom (depending on your needs) into the pipe. 

- The second way, if you have sparse soil, simply water from the top part and let it trickle down to the bottom.

Step 5: Filling the Pipe and Planting Plants Inside.

Picture of Filling the Pipe and Planting Plants Inside.

Put the planting soil until you reach the bottom of the first hole. Spread a small bit of compost at that point (be careful, as too much compost will burn the roots). Insert the first plant through the hole and cover it with the potting soil, until you reach the next hole. Repeat as needed. Keep in mind that each plant has its unique structure- plants like cucumbers and strawberries tend to snake down, so plant them near the bottom so they wont choke the other plants.

Step 6: Tips

Picture of Tips

- Make sure the planter gets sun from all four sides, or at least as much as possible
- Strawberries are good plants to plant inside
- Try using all-year round plants to keep your planter pretty all year

For people living in apartments, keep the planter steady by putting it in a bucket  or anything else heavy enough to keep it from tipping over and falling (also you can make it a base or stand).

This is my first Instructable so don't be harsh :)
Comments and improvements are always welcomed.

Step 7: After a Month or Two :)

Picture of After a Month or Two :)

So guys we took some pictures of the Planter today so you could see what happened to it. Enjoy :)


Bspoony (author)2016-06-22

OK To try and add some actual reality check to the comments I read i post the following. And yes, I would build this.

Plasticised PVC has been used for over 50 years without a single known case of it having caused any ill-health and the environmental effects of phthalates are known to be minimal. Academia and industry have continually worked together to address the concerns and conduct necessary research, making phthalates some of the most researched and best understood chemicals today.

Some concerns have been expressed concerning carcinogenicity. In 1980s, liver tumour of rats and mice was reported upon an extremely high dosing of DEHP, but subsequent studies clarified that such effects are unique to rodents such as rats and mice and would not occur in primates such as monkeys. In 2000, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC: an affiliate organisation of World Health Organisation - WHO) re-classified DEHP from Group 2B to Group 3 in their carcinogenicity evaluation, thus clearly showing that DEHP is not carcinogenic to humans. Tea and tap water (drinking water sterilised with chlorine) are also included in Group 3, which means that the carcinogenicity of DEHP is lower than that of coffee.

Endocrine Modulation
In past years concerns have been reported on about possible risks of PVC products related to endocrine modulation and alleged disruption of certain phthalates.

Phthalates are a large and diverse family of chemical substances with different hazard classifications regarding human health.

  • High molecular weight phthalates DINP, DIDP and DPHP, which are the most widely used in Europe, are not endocrine disruptors.
  • Low molecular weight phthalates DEHP, DBP, BBP and DIBP have all been classified as toxic to reproduction of category 1B.with hazard phrase H360 (“May damage fertility or the unborn child”)

Further information and references may be found at

JorgeG52 (author)2016-06-16

Como resolvo o problema do substrato escorrer pelos furos?

avinsen (author)2012-04-23

PVC is not toxic. It is not food safe either. That is why you never see foods packaged in PVC. Believe me, if it was safe for food, you'd see it everywhere in the grocery aisles.

As for plumbing, PVC is used for water/waste leaving the house, not coming into it.

The reason PVC is not food safe is because petro chemicals leech out of it over time. This means that over time, what ever is stored inside absorbs those chemicals. If it is food, and the food is ingested, then those chemicals gets inside whoever eats that food.

This is a great idea, but we need a different material to build it from.

JorgeG6 (author)avinsen2016-01-28

Que tal bambo?

crispyjones (author)avinsen2012-04-23

PVC is most certainly used in plumbing for cold water supply. If your refrigerator has an icemaker, the water supply likely goes through PVC. I don't know the technical definition of "food safe" but please don't scare people with misinformation.

avinsen (author)crispyjones2012-04-23

PVC, or polyvinyl chloride is in wide use for both water (cPVC) and even food storage (Saran wrap apparently makes use of it). However, what is not commonly known is that there are chemicals which can be leeched out of the plastic through time or environment. PVC outgasses (as does most plastics, which is why they have the smell). Heat also causes the PVC to outgas, One reason why you shouldn't microwave Saran wrap (or any plastic wrap) is that the thalates which makes the plastic pliable leeches out and into your food. Studies have shown a possible link between thalates and a reduction in population growth.
Further, food manufacturers (and I do work for one) will not use PVC for their packaging because of the leeching concern. This leeching is what makes PVC not food grade.

Now, I'm not saying that your project is bad. But I am concerned about the material used. Especially since I assume this is something that will be out in the full sun, where it will get heated up.

The vertical watering system is a great idea and I hope to use it myself.

But I couldn't just let everyone thing that is was perfectly okay to us PVC in food manufacturing, even when it's growing it yourself.

elizabethingham1 (author)avinsen2014-03-02

So, what you're really saying is this project is great for plants that aren't going to be there for long periods of time. Pvc's chemicals take quite a while to leech into anything that is put in it. That's why it's neither safe nor unsafe. Am I correct?

avinsen (author)elizabethingham12014-03-02

Not quite. The idea is great, but the material is questionable.

While some will scoff at the left leaning liberal organizations who issue warnings on these and other materials, it is worth noting that the FDA has yet to allow rigid PVC to be used in food packaging. Also, I mentioned environment as an issue. In particular, I was thinking of the heating the material will get from the sun. It speeds up the transfer of chemicals from the plastic to the soil it will be containing. Of particular concern is vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) which is used to create PVC and is a known carcinogen.

If you do a search on the internet, you'll see plenty of arguments for both sides of the debate. In the end, the choice is yours. But for me, I'd steer clear of the PVC in this project. Remember, x-rays were once thought to be completely harmless. Now you can't get a medical tech to be in the same room with the x-ray machine when it is being used.

mikeguen (author)avinsen2015-01-02


am interested in this project. I know that I can use Clorox in a water
solution to clean wine and beer bottles to use again for home brewing. Could a
Clorox solution wash be used to reduce the hazard in a PVC pipe, to warrant use as a
growing structure? If not I am going to use ceramic drain tile to accomplish
this project.

silkier (author)avinsen2014-05-11

One minute you talk of PVC the next you are talking about phthalates, not the same thing at all. Please make your mind up and take a look at some peer reviewed research on the subject of PVC in contact with growing plants.

avinsen (author)silkier2014-05-11

The reason for the mention of phthalates is because of it's use in plastic manufacturing. It is used as a plasticizer and is what gives plastics its ability to flex and bend without breaking. Otherwise, plastics are very rigid and fragile. You can see an example of this when you see old plastic that's been out in the sun for extended period. As the phthalates leave the plastic, it become brittle and inflexible. This is due to the fact that the phthalates have left the plastic leaving it in this fragile state. Plastics and phthalates are both part of the same conversation. In this context, it is difficult to separate the two.

That said, if you have examples of peer review articles in a scientific or trade journal, please feel free to post it, as I would love to read it.


crispyjones (author)avinsen2012-04-23

I am not concerned about this use of PVC, and I don't think any reasonable person should be. The author suggests putting cold water in a pipe designed and engineered for moving cold water meant for human consumption.

If this use of PVC worries you than you have a great deal to worry about. If your house or apartment is plumbed with PVC than you are putting PVC water on your food, your house plants, drinking it, and cooking with it. If your garden hose is made of PVC, than you are watering your garden with PVC water. Hell, your gutters could be made of PVC, than all the rain washing off your roof onto your yard is PVC water.

elizabethingham1 (author)avinsen2014-03-04

Thank you for the info. I will definitely take it into consideration :D

jusdafaks (author)avinsen2012-08-27

It seems to me a cheap way to avoid toxic problems would be to roll out a sheet of wax paper a couple of inches longer than your tube. Tightly roll the paper lengthwise, fasten the ends with tape or clips and insert in your tube. When you release your clips plastic paper roll will unroll to the size of your tube, giving you a food grade liner! You could double this roll tfor extra protection.It could be changed every 3 to 4 years when the container would need to be emptied due to being rootbound depending on what plants you grow.

JorgeG6 (author)2016-01-28

Como evitar que a terra (substrato) escorra pelos furos ao longo do PVC?

Topsail Time (author)2015-05-18

Very cool! Thanks for posting.

Maria Knows (author)2015-05-09

Hey, great concept, really liked your choice of plants too. Keep innovating.


motogazi (author)2015-03-16

After all this talk about PVCs (even though I'm late on the issue) and pointing to green peace, etc... I thought I'd look up on more of an authoritative location. Please read at your leisure and make your own decisions.

(US Nat'l Library of Medicine talking about PVC and health concerns.)

neil.riewer (author)2015-02-19

What about abs pipe? The black stuff I found 5 8 footers on CL for free

pat.elgee.5 (author)2015-01-02

Check out aeroponics. Instead of soil, you just use water.
I have read that US PVC has less toxins than PVC from China.
Youtube has a lot of information and examples of vertical aeroponic gardening.
Hydroponics uses fish in a tank and circulates water through everything. I will pass on the fish and go just with the water and plants.
RASA has supplies on the internet. I am near San Jose, CA so will drive down.
Apparently they use a small pump, like for a fish tank to recirculate the water.
It appears that they just use a bit of fertilizer to get things growing.
You start seeds in something just to hold the roots. I am going to try a small wad of quilting fiber in a net plastic cup.
The holes can be drilled so the 2" net cups snap right into the vertical planter PVC. Some Vertical chambers appear 6" others appear 10" in diameter.
Another design is heated and bent to accommodate the net cups. Remember heating plastic requires "well ventilated area." If you are in the middle of your back yard and there is no breeze, you are not in a "well ventilated area"!
The third design shows a smaller 2" PVC cut at angles, the holes in the vertical pipe are cut at angles and the net plastic cup sits in that.
I intend to pass on the heated one and try 1 and 3.
I will also use a gutter under the vertical hangers to drain into a bucket with the pump. Plants are suppose to grow much faster without the soil.
You are also suppose to watch the PH. Epson salt is suppose to work there. There are meters to test PH.

AlbeBasson (author)2014-08-11

Hi, how do you keep the ground from washing out through the holes or is that not a real problem?

IgorM1 (author)AlbeBasson2014-09-15

It is a problem, even when I had 2cm diameter holes. Put some waterproof foil around the plant that you planted so that you also push it under the PVC pipe and then the rain and soil will only make it tighter as long as you tuck it in properly under the PVC and around the plant.
BTW, you might like to try this with strawberries - works amazingly!

jterry (author)2012-04-22

Great idea. What did you use to paint the pipe? Do you think it would be possible to "stain" the PVC to where the color would last longer?

Also, in light of the comments about the toxicity of PVC, what about using a clay pipe like those of old for construction? I think one may still be able to get them. Not sure how they would hold up to being cut, but they would be of the same type of material that is used for regular clay planting pots.

Thanks again!

FireCGun (author)jterry2012-04-22

the PVC i used is NOT TOXIC at all. this PVC is the same one that is used for house pluming, and like a said its NOT TOXIC. I dont know where you get you PVC from or what job that PVC was made for but my is NOT TOXIC and is the right one for the job.

i did not paint the PVC it came at that color.
i think clay pipe will make a good job because they are astatic,and there biodegradability, i dont know how will you can cut them if you can. but if so it will make a very cool Vertical Planter

sellulose (author)FireCGun2012-04-23

You are not getting it my green friend. If its labelled PVC, it is PVC and its harmful. The whole article is about after it gets burned or thrown away. We cant install it and hope it does not get burned. we have to prevent it.
The idea is excellent, but the PVC is not green, not matter how much the manufacturer claims it to be.
Instead of buying more plastic it would be better if we reuse what others throw away
We dont need PVC and we can still stack as a tower.

silkier (author)sellulose2014-05-11

I thought the whole idea was to reuse a PVC pipe in the first place. Therefore taking a waste product and reusing/upcycling it.

jterry (author)FireCGun2012-04-22

Thats cool...I was not worried about the toxicity at all... just thought I would mention the clay as that popped into my head when I saw the original color of the PVC that you have. I would prefer it the brown color that you have, vice the white that is available to me.

I know that the grey exists at my homeimprovement store... I believe it is for electrical conduit -but it would work as well.

Thanks for the reply and great instrucable.


LynxSys (author)jterry2012-04-25

PVC can indeed be stained quite effectively (and I think it looks a lot better than the results I've gotten with plastic-bonding spray paint). See the following link for details and instructions:

wallpower68 (author)2013-01-16

pvc as an fyi - Thank you, I f/u with web search and found this info., appreciated you heads' up. "Relatively new data show that, in laboratory tests, some phthalates behave as endocrine disruptors, which seems likely to explain some, but not all, of their toxic effects" @

silkier (author)wallpower682014-05-11

You won't find phthalates in a PVC water pipe. Here you see a perfect example of someone confusing the issue to reinforce a dubious point. This is how the tobacco industry and many others have used dissinformation to confuse the public. One moment talk about one thing and in the same sentence talk about another unconnected thing. The average reader doesn't realise that there is no connection and so the misinformation reinforces prejudice/ignorance.

Gareee (author)2012-04-22

This looks interesting. What garden plants do you recommend other than strawberries and Cucumbers?

FireCGun (author)Gareee2012-04-22

beans, tomatoes, all kinds of peepers, lettuce.
what i did is just take stuff i like think for a few sec if it will work or, talked with my local gardening store.

jusdafaks (author)FireCGun2012-08-27

If your planting tomatoes(a heavy feeder) the drip irrigation bottle with added plant food would be a good idea. If you are an organic gardener manure tea would work to replace Miracle Grow.

jwbiz (author)2012-06-13

I have 4 lettuce plants in a 4' gutter piece left over from our house, We attached it to our railing on the porch and trim it every few days, it grows so fast. We especially love adding it to our hamburgers and sandwiches as we make them!

macrumpton (author)2012-04-22

I suppose you could also hang the tubes or even make a Xmas tree like stand for them if you wanted the flexibility to be able to move them. Also it occurs to me that sewing a tube out of a waterproof nylon would also make a pretty good cheap easy to make planting tube and cutting the holes would be a lot easier, although they would have to be hung from a fence or a wall.

calskin (author)macrumpton2012-05-06

I'm about to make one of these and I was thinking I would use old wire hangers to support the tubes against my balcony's railings. I'll either drill holes for the hangers to go through or wrap the hanger around.

FireCGun (author)calskin2012-05-12

Yup, that sounds nice, if you need any help with that, you can always ask us :)

calskin (author)FireCGun2012-05-24

I made it and ended up using parachord to support it against the railings. I've had a few people in my appartment ask about it and once they found out what it is thought it was really cool. The planters are in the background against the railing in this picture.

katsmeat (author)2012-05-22

A vastly better way of doing this would be to use four untreated planks instead of a PVC pipe, to make a long square planter.

Two reasons.

1) It avoids the possibility of the toxicity issues that some have raised.

2) It's easier to fill with compost at the beginning of the season, and clear out at the end of the season. One simply unscrews one plank to have easy access to the inside of the container, as a U-shaped channel.

FireCGun (author)katsmeat2012-05-24

its a nice idea but i dont know how practical it is.

FireCGun (author)2012-05-16

i posted some new pictures that show how much it grew
and i added a picture of the first harvest of the season

karlpinturr (author)2012-04-22

Very much a D'oh! moment - strawberry planters have done this for ages. More recently, so have 'flower pouches' and - to a degree - so do potato planters (admittedly, to very different scales).

Why isn't this more common!?


A more 'biodegradeable' version might be to use the cardboard tubes that carpets come on (or bolts of fabric, or how about postal tubes).

Though, obviously, they WILL ROT, and you may want to use a wood preservative to colour them until your plants disguise them.

And you might want to be careful (particularly with foodcrops) about any chemicals they might contain.


If you want to make more of a display, then binding several together (rather like a 'desk tidy') would probably allow you to sink them less deeply.

FireCGun (author)karlpinturr2012-04-22

the PVC i used is NOT TOXIC at all. this PVC is the same one that is used for house pluming, and like a said its NOT TOXIC. I dont know where you get you PVC from or what job that PVC was made for but my is NOT TOXIC and is the right one for the job.

BriyinNZ (author)FireCGun2012-04-22

RE your "NOT TOXIC":

"The worst plastic, from both an environmental and health standpoint, is polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, commonly known as vinyl."

"While on its surface PVC may appear to be the ideal building material, it has high environmental and human health costs that its manufacturers fail to tell consumers." - Greenpeace

RoBear613 (author)BriyinNZ2012-04-29


Ahh, the nutjobs.

BriyinNZ (author)BriyinNZ2012-04-22

And don't confuse "food grade" with "non-toxic". Plastic is's toxic.

karlpinturr (author)FireCGun2012-04-22

I never said yours is toxic - nor did I intend to imply either that it is, OR that any PVC istoxic.

My mention of chemicals was only in connection with the cardboard tubes alternative - and, then, simply because I don't know what is in the glue that holds the layers together, or in what waterproofs the exteriors of postal tubes.

FireCGun (author)karlpinturr2012-04-22

thank you
i just wanted to make sure there are no miss understand

gumbytig (author)FireCGun2012-04-23

I think that from what i've read, PVC is ok as long as it stays cool. Exposed PVC has issues of leaching chemicals. That is why it is ok to have your well water supplied by pvc but not the rest of your house especially after your water heater. Being outside in the sun might be an issue for leaching chemicals. Just mentioning what i've read on it. I'll try and find some links.

nanaverm (author)karlpinturr2012-04-22

Cardboard, at least the corregated type, isn't toxic. In fact, it makes great worm bedding.

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