Hello Instructables, today I'm going to share my modular hanging garden system I developed to utilize more space in my Mylar grow tent I have in my living room. It's a great tent that definitely lets us grow and experiment under controlled conditions during the colder months, but the space is somewhat under utilized.
This hanging garden will be different than most in a few ways. First, it's completely modular and customizable, I'm going to make a 3 tier, 4 plants per tier setup but you can make whatever you want for what you need. The weight of the system is completely on the eye bolts and 'S' hooks, not the PVC tiers themselves. PVC is pretty weak so the only weight it has to bear is the soil in each individual pipe, not all of the tiers below it.
Second, it is extremely cheap and easy to make. I live in a small apartment and don't own a lot of power tools and was able to make it in my living room. The only power tool used is the cheapest battery powered drill I could find at the store and I refer to it as more of a "craft drill." The rest of the parts can be found at any hardware store or ordered offline. The PVC pipe itself is really the only thing that would be infeasible to have shipped.
Third, it can easily be moved and switched around. Since every tier (except the bottom if you so choose) consists of eye bolts going in both directions, you can move and rearrange tiers as needed. This would be useful for starting plants indoors then moving them outside later or even being able to change and swap tiers in your living space for decorative or functional purposes.
This is my first Instructable, so I may miss a few things but without further ado, let's get to the materials and parts list. (Remember, this can be customized any way you need so I'd recommend reading through all the steps and measuring where you're going to be putting yours before starting.)
x3 17" Length pieces of 4" drainage PVC
x10 3/8"x6" Eye bolts
x4 3/8" Threaded couplers
x2 3/8 Locking bolts
x6 3/8" Washers (Not sure of the exact dimensions but these are the bigger ones. The pipe will rest on these unless you use a piece of the holes cut out in a later step.)
x6 2" S-hooks
x6 4" End caps (Only place I could find these is at Lowe's in store or online)
x1 2-1/2" Hole saw, DAP kitchen & bathroom Kwick Seal, tape measure, marker, hack saw, drill with 3/8" bit, sandpaper, and Spray paint (Optional, don't use the cheap stuff in the picture because it does not work.)
Step 1: Cut the PVC
The first step is to measure and cut your PVC in the lengths you require. In my case I'm using 3 pieces of around 17" pieces. My hacksaw and measuring skills aren't the best so I recommend using the first pieces as your measuring tape just in case the first one is off. There will be enough wiggle room later if you're off by a 1/2" or so.
This would be a good time to discuss the strength of PVC. If you've never used it before, you'll find you can cut and drill through it like butter. This makes is versatile and cheap to use, but not all that strong. You're going to be filling this with soil, water, and plants which can get quite heavy. It will also have all of it's carrying weight on the edges so there is a chance of failure in the middle. Due to this, I wouldn't recommend making any tier more than 22" without an additional bolt support down the middle. I also wouldn't go more than around 10" past an outer bolt support. This is only based on estimation and may work further in either direction.
Step 2: Drill the Holes for the Supports and Plants
I drilled the 3/4" holes for the supports 1-1/2" from each edge. Don't forget to drill additional holes on the bottom for the second bolt support on every tier (except for the bottommost tier). At this point you have 13" of usable space left. In my case I'm using 4 2-1/2" holes for the plants. 2-1/2"x4=10" This leaves 3" left for spacing. Since you'll need 5 spaces, that leaves you with 3/5" between the edge of each hole saw. The pipe is very sturdy with this spacing so I'd keep each hold at least this far apart, especially if you make yours longer. At this point you may want to clean up the edges with some sand paper and paint if you so choose.
Step 3: Assemble the Bolt Supports
The first image shows what it will look like completed, but the bolts will connect inside the PVC. You'll have some wiggle room here as to the spacing of the tiers. The coupler has to sit in the middle of the pipe but will have a couple inches up or down for how you want it. You can also add a second nut to the top eye bolts if you want to add some security.
First, put one eye bolt through the top hole on what will become the first tier. Put the washer on the nut inside the PVC and add another nut to hold the washer in place. Next, screw the coupler half way in the top eye bolt. Finally, feed a second eye bolt through the bottom and into the the other half of the coupler. Lightly hand tighten the top bolt (if added) down on the PVC just until you feel the washer inside the PVC. Again, PVC isn't strong, so if you tighten this too hard the PVC will crack and break.
If you don't want to use the washers, picture 4 shows how you can use one of the holes that were drilled as a makeshift washer. This may better distribute the weight of the PVC.
Repeat this process and get it situated how you like for the rest of the tiers. Having a nut on top isn't absolutely necessary, but it makes it easier to carry. Be sure to put the locking nut on the very bottom since the other nuts may work themselves off. Picture 5 shows what the bottom tier should look like.
Step 4: Add the End Caps
Add a small bead of the caulk around the rim of the PVC. Push the end cap down until it's flush. Use a wet paper towel to wipe away the excess. Repeat for each end and let sit for 36 hours to dry.
Side note: This caulk is labeled as waterproof but it and the end caps are just being used to hold the dirt and hopefully most of the water in. Mine so far has not leaked at all, but be sure to test before hanging it over anything you don't want to get dirty.
Step 5: Prepare the Soil
There are volumes of information on soil so I won't go too deep into it here. This will mostly depend on what you're growing. If all you have is regular store bought potting soil, that should work for most applications. I use a mix of around 4 handfuls of potting soil, and one each of compost, Perlite, and peat moss. I mix it up with water and let it rest for a few minutes before adding it to whatever I'm planting in. Again, this part will vary greatly on what you're growing. Filling the bottom tier is the easiest since it can lay flat. It also has the added the benefit of holding everything in place.
Step 6: Hang, Fill, and Plant!
With the bottom tier filled, you can now hang all 3 tiers and fill the other 2 with soil. I cut the bottom off of a solo cup to make it easier to get the soil in the unfilled PVC. For my setup, I used some rope hanging from the metal frame of my grow tent and it holds well. If your grow tent uses PVC, this might be too heavy. You can also hang it from hooks that can be secured to studs. For easy switching, I recommend adding some hooks nearby that can be used for temporary spot when moving tiers around. As you can see in the second picture, the bottom tier of mine has peas so it won't be going anywhere for awhile.
Well that's it. Mine has been holding up great and vastly increased how many plants I can grow. I hope to make bigger ones for other spaces and maybe even some small individual ones with flowers in the Spring. Hopefully others will be able to apply this to other interesting ideas too. Thanks for reading!