Introduction: VERTICAL VEGETABLES: "Grow Up" in a Small Garden and Confound the Cats!

Picture of VERTICAL VEGETABLES: "Grow Up" in a Small Garden and Confound the Cats!

''How to solve a problem like cats digging and toileting in the vegetable patch'''''', and growing veg in a very small garden. I needed a solution and the answer occurred to me after watching The CheIsea Flower Show on TV and seeing walls of flowers and herbs. The only thing I had to hand was a hanging pocket shoe store and I decided to use it to grow my plants in. I have included the dates I took the photographs to give readers an idea how quickly the veg grew.

Step 1: Materials Needed

Picture of Materials Needed

- Hanging pocket shoe organiser /store.
- Pole and attachments ( curtain pole or pipe fittings, screws).
- Strong metal saucepan or utensil hanging hooks
- Compost of a good quality moisture holding type.
- Selection of plants or seeds... e.g. mixed leaf salad, herbs,sorrel, peas, mini tomatoes.
- Piece of wood 2"x2" as long as the width of the pocket store to keep the base of pockets away from the wall.
- Trough planter to catch drips.

Step 2: Attach Pole to Shed or Wall

Picture of Attach Pole to Shed or Wall

I attached a strong chrome pole with metal fittings to the shed.
You could use a curtain pole.
Make sure it is at the correct height especially if you want to grow plants in a trough below ( see step 7). This uses the surplus water from the pockets above.

Step 3: Attach Hanging Shoe Store

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Use strong hooks or wire to attach the shoe store. They must be strong enough to support the weight of the compost, plants and water.

Step 4: Test Drainage

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Pour water into the pockets to check the drainage, if they don't drain then make a few small holes in each of the pockets.

Step 5: Fill Each Pocket With Compost

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Add a good moisture retaining compost, fill to 1" below the rim so that water does not pour out over the rim.

Step 6: Add Plants or Seeds

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Sow seeds or add seedlings I suggest....
- herbs thyme, sorrel, chives

- salad mixed leaf, mustard, cut and come again, or spinach

- minibel tomatoes

- 'petit pois peas you can eat the young leaflets and tendrils

Step 7: "Drip Aid"

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Use a piece of wood to make sure the excess water drips into the trough below.

Step 8: Maintaining a Healthy Hanging Veg Plot

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- Water slowly with a gentle flow, or you may wash soil and plants out of the pocket and it will dirty the crop below.

- Add water retaining crystals to the compost. HINT... add water to some crystals in a container and allow them to swell then add that to the compost and fill your containers, otherwise when the crystals swell they can grow so much that they push the compost, seeds and plants out!!

- Plants like tomatoes will need regular Tomato fertilizer (and use slow release granules) as the fertility of the compost will soon get exhausted.

- Do not over pick salad leaves, so the plant regrows.

- It is important to keep a look out for aphids, slugs, caterpillars and other pests.

- Remove diseased , infected or damaged leaves... compost them.

- Remove unproductive plants and compost them

- When reusing pockets add some fresh compost.

Step 9: Develop the Idea

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- NEXT I would like...
-to hang up more shoe stores and pocket organisers, to increase the harvest.
Could it become addictive??? will I end up covering every available wall?
- try out different vegetables and herbs
- add an automatic drip watering system.


T0BY (author)2016-12-06

Great use of space.

cdstudioNH made it! (author)2016-06-19

I wanted to change the aesthetics and functionality slightly. I made the base out of burlap, and used sturdy fabrics in garden colors, making some of the pockets quite large to hold plenty of soil and roots.

ggallen103 (author)2016-06-15

I did this last year. The biggest problem I had was the soil drys out very quickly, since there isn't much. Unless you have an irrigation system, you will most likely need to water every day, or more if it's in direct sun. But they are great for lettuce, but the lettuce bolts quick when the soil heats up.

PattiM30 (author)2016-04-19

I am going to line my pockets with plastic baggies with a smallish hole in the bottom for drainage. In the fall I can simply lift the baggies out for storage of the holder, and the plastic bags liners may prevent mildew and staining. I hope.

EvangelineB2 (author)2016-04-16

I just found this project and I can't wait to try it out! Thanks!

JessicaV34 (author)2016-04-12

I hung my shoe thing off the railing of the deck. Started my plants from seeds, so everything is still tiny. I planted basil, parsley, kale, collard greens, spinach, and a bunch of different leaf lettuces.
I got my shoe organizer from a local thrift store for $2. I have seen pictures on the internet of pockets that came unstitched, I guess from the weight of the soil. I didn't want that to happen to mine so I reinforced the stitches.

PattiM30 (author)2016-04-08

My garden is in shade except for the wall of the tool shed. This is the perfect solution for my kitchen herb growing needs. Just picked up the shoe holder today at the local thrift shop, so I think that makes it official. A bit worried about the mildew comment, but I think being in good sunlight should help with that.

rdicenzio (author)2016-04-03

this is a great idea for my deck since I'm in a wheelchair & can't get out in my yard to do a big garden. I'm so trying this this season.

couponchief (author)2015-12-26

Cool idea, sending this to my brother.

HamzaN4 (author)2015-09-11

This article was
really good and informative. If someone interested seeing another related article on Vertical Garden, here is the link to visit and let me know your views.

BrendaB1 (author)2015-05-09

I had this idea two years ago and did it myself. It looked great for a few months that summer but after then it had to be taken down as the mildew made it not so pretty!

I am not giving up but think that next time I will try coating the material with an outdoor fabric protector to make it more waterproof. I just want to be sure that it doesn't impart a toxic impact to the herbs. Perhaps I will stick to flowers if I can't be sure of that since I prefer to go organic and any chemicals make me weary.

I have a few more of those shoe holders which I find tedious for actual shoe storage as it needs cleaning pretty often and many of my shoes are too big to fit in the little pockets!

my4pop1 (author)2015-02-26

Very nice liked. I hope you the further development.

PatrickBishop (author)2015-02-18

My father used to do gardening stuff like this one, but he never made it vertical. I'll show him your project, maybe he'll try.

realjohnherlosky (author)2015-01-11

It's January now when is the best time to get my plants started?

If you're in the UK, you may want to sow them around april/may

pippa5 (author)realjohnherlosky2015-01-11

It will depend where you live and what you are growing. The salad cut and come again are very quick. The soil and air temperatures need to be warming up, frosts need to be over.. Good luck, sow afew seeds if they die off sow again . You can plant earlier if you protect from frost by using fleece covering.

UdyRegan (author)2015-01-07

This is an awesome idea to maximise the space we have in our tiny garden! And I bet the kids would love a chance to put their gardening skills to the test - they've got some seeds that they've been dying to plant but haven't been able to find a good spot for them yet!

peets (author)2014-05-21

i can eet all the vetegbls

Snellingkorey (author)peets2015-01-06

you should EAT the VEGETABLES

davidbarcomb (author)2014-11-11

This is pretty amazing. Kudos to you

RobertGoldring (author)2014-08-20

such a simple idea, i like it. i grow herbs and this would be perfect for doing that.

Garden Beet (author)2014-05-02

Hi Pippa - its four years (2009) since you first posted this solution. This post has had huge interest over the years. Well done you.

When you first posted this vertical garden solution I was critical that the shoe holder was not really an effective means to garden. I believed it would fall a part and use loads of water. I questioned its long term environmental- cost effectiveness.

Are you able to give us an update? Do any of these 2009 shoe holders still grow vegetables?

What about your water usage? Vertical gardens are water hungry. This solution must be even more of a water guzzler? I would love to hear back from anyone who set about constructing a large vertical garden using shoe holders - Have your water bills increased?

This topic is being discussed on

pippa5 (author)Garden Beet2014-05-05

I moved house in 2010 and did not need to continue using the vertical veg as I had a bigger garden and cats were not a problem. So I only used it for one season and cannot answer your questions about its longevity, watering etc. But it was a pleasure of growing things that way and I cannot put a value on that.

kalireagan made it! (author)2014-05-04

I'm super excited to see how it goes!

mrfoltz (author)2014-04-04

I'm going to try this , this spring... I bought some cups to go inside the holders to give them more strength because I bought my shoe hanger at the Dollar store so I'm not sure of the quality??? I'll take a picture as soon as the 6 feet of snow melts this spring... :(

idydstie (author)2014-04-04

Wow you are a genius!!! That would be perfect for lettuce! Where I live, it doesn't warm up much till mid June, I think I will try to find an organizer that is made in a darker color so the sun warms the seeds and get's em' growing sooner.

I think that my only concern would be keeping birds from nesting in it, but if you have cats that should be no problem!

Kelly02 (author)2013-06-17

Amazing idea! very nice.

Chloe8 (author)2013-06-09

Must try this! Will tomatos be ok when they grow taller? is it better to put it in the bottom row and use a stick just like the photo above?

pippa5 (author)Chloe82013-06-10

i used a hanging basket mini variety no good for tall ones

Latona38 (author)2013-05-01

Thank you so much for sharing your idea! I just moved to an apartment and have a small patio and couldn't figure out how I would grow a garden without taking up all of my outdoor space! I can't wait to try this!!

simpiligno (author)2013-03-11

Great idea! I rent my house, so I can't tear up my yard to plant much. I used your instructable and added a solar powered drip irrigation system!

simpiligno (author)2013-03-11

Great idea! I rent my house, so I can't tear up my yard to plant much. I used your instructable and added a solar powered drip irrigation system!

tincanz (author)2011-02-09

Super awesome Idea!!!

Is it alright with you if I add it to my "plants" group?

pippa5 (author)tincanz2011-03-08

yes thats ok

teddy6 (author)pippa52012-03-03

Can i share your article into our website
here in the Philippines
attribution to you Pippa5 and

pippa5 (author)teddy62012-03-05

yes i am fine with that

teddy6 (author)pippa52012-09-04

Good afternoon mam

I have posted your article in our website the,ph

With almost 900+ viewers and perhaps most of them have viewed this main link

Thanks and More Power

foobear (author)2012-07-21

This is a good idea. It is three years later, how has it held up over time?

beachmezz (author)2012-07-20

This is why read instructables. Innovative simple and elegant. Bravo!

andrewsvan (author)2012-04-21

How do pepper plants do in this style of planting. I was considering upside down planting this year but this is very practical if peppers do well in this.

SweetCarol (author)andrewsvan2012-06-23

Have to be careful nothing to leach into the dirt, like from plastic and no fire retardant in it that could leach into soil for any food products. Flowers would be fine. I am like you, I like the idea of growing food. Need to find something that doesn't have flame retardant and no plastic.

iamoma (author)SweetCarol2012-06-27

What about using large (or whatever size fits) Ziplock food bags inside each of the pockets?

SweetCarol (author)iamoma2012-06-27

Might drown the plants as watrer goes in and if can't leak out then the roots will get too wet and rot.

pippa5 (author)andrewsvan2012-04-21

i have not tried peppers but small variety may be ok
has anyone else tried peppers?

iamoma (author)2012-06-27

Great idea! What about using large (or whatever size fits) Ziplock food bags inside each of the pockets?

PoeDunkMae (author)2010-01-17

Does it matter what kind of shoe organizer you use?  Does it need to be "breathable" or can you use one of the kind that has the clear plastic pockets?  I am planning on doing this project this spring with my children, and I thought it would be neat if they could "see" the dirt and roots growing in the clear pockets, but I wanted to see if that would work first.

This is an AWESOME AWESOME IDEA I love it!! Now I feel dumb for tossing out our old shoe organizer! 

femmepasseule (author)PoeDunkMae2012-04-25

The only caution I would make is that if you plan to use it for food plants, herbs, lettuce etc, be sure that the material will not leach harmful substances into the soil. If you are just using it for decorative plants, no problem whatever you want to use I would imagine.

SweetCarol (author)femmepasseule2012-06-23

I was planning to put herbs in it but that couldbe a prblem then s if it is plastic, it might have harmful substance to leach out into the soil. If it is cloth, it might have flame retardant mateials in it which coud be poisonous to us. Any suggestions of how to get somethin that would be food safe? I love the idea. I don't have a decent sewing machine so can't get canvas or someting and make this.

pippa5 (author)PoeDunkMae2010-01-19

 hi You can use clear if you want but roots will tend to grow towards the dark ie into the soil. You will also get algae and other green weed seeds germinating and growing... educational perhaps. If you stick ( using duct tape) black plastic or cloth to some of the pockets then the roots are more likely to be visible when the black plastic is removed, or peeked under!! Or go creative and cut holes in the black mask and see what happens.
I used non breathable as it retained the moisture better . But have a go and experiment with what you can find and the children will be able to observe and learn . Good luck  You may not get vast crops but is a good way of saving space and sparking an interest

fulgenteft (author)2012-02-27

Thanks so much! I had no idea what to do with the one sunny corner I have on my patio, and this is my answer! I couldn't drill into my patio wall, so I had to be really creative about how I hung the organizer. For those who can't mount a curtain rod or similar mounting hardware for any reason, I've found strap ties are strong enough to hold the weight of the plants and flexible enough to be bent into most requisite shapes.

About This Instructable




Bio: I live in Somerset, England. I have always been practical and creative. I just love problem solving and reusing/ recycling materials for my projects..
More by pippa5:RAISED vegetable bed with storage underneathVERTICAL VEGETABLES: "Grow up" in a small garden and confound the cats!
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