Introduction: Vertical Garden Made From Scrap Materials

I wanted to make this for a women's charity to hopefully get some people interested in gardening and maybe even sell what they grow. My father had lots of spare wood knocking around so when they gave me permission to build one, I set about designing and making it.
I am not at all an expert in this kind of thing but it worked very well so I share it with you here.
It cost me less than £10 to make.

You will need:
Lots of good quality wood (i.e. strong enough to hold the weight of plant pots and not rotting)
Wood protector
The usual tools like a saw, hammer, plane, screwdriver
Nails and screws

Step 1: The Design

I wanted to make it as compact as possible while being able to support a lot of plants. I tried a few designs until I came up with this one, which was partly determined by the wood that I had available (length of pieces and so on).
I decided to set the shelves in a step fashion so that none would be deprived of sunlight. Note how they come forward as they go down.
It had to be made shorter than this because the longest pieces I had were 2.16m which was still a good size.
The drinks bottles at the one end you see are optional extras that can be attached to grow more plants in.
The 80cm extension at the base it to provide it with stability, in case of winds from behind but it is very open and is unlikely to happen but it's always good to take precautions.

Step 2: Cutting the Wood

Once I'd selected pieces of wood to match the design, of course some of them needed to be cut and others needed to be attached together.
The first photo shows the shelf supports which were then painted with wood protector. In the middle is one of the floorboards to be used as a shelf.
The second photo shows how I would fix a few pieces of floorboards together by putting another piece of wood under the join and nailing them together. Just a tip for people who might not know about the best technique for nailing- hammer the nails in at angles instead of straight down. This acts as a hook which makes it very hard for the wood to come apart. You'll see an example of this in a later photo.

Step 3: Tidying Up the Wood

Think ahead with how the wood is going to be used. These, which are parts of the shelves, would have a thin strip attached to them to create sides around the shelves so pots won't fall off. I sawed off the thin wedge which you see on the right of the wood and planed it down so that pieces can be fixed on securely.

Step 4: Vertical Beams

The vertical beams were made from old fence posts which were all the same length (1.55m). This made them not too high so that everyone would be able to reach all the plants. In the photo here, the post on the left by the fence is one of them, the other piece is for a shelf and I was cutting another length to fit alongside it.

Step 5: Putting It Together

This shows the area I was going to put it into. Luckily, it is a south-facing fence so will get a lot of sunlight.
I began by making the sides with the shelf supports on. The supports are all 67cm to fit across the posts and leave 50cm between them for the shelves to go on. To line up the posts I laid two of them at each end as you can see then nailed the one at the top on. I left the bottom one resting there while I measured where the others should go so they are far enough apart to leave room for growing plants.
Photo 3 shows putting nails in at angles, which, as I said, stops the wood from being able to come apart.
Photo 4 shows the two ends with shelf supports and the top pieces. The bottom extensions were fitted later.

Step 6: The Frame and Shelves

After adding the bottom extensions, I needed to fit the long beams across the top and bottom. These needed extra support to stop it wobbling so you can see in the corners that short pieces of wood were screwed in at 45º. They also have the additional support of metal panels right in the corners, which were originally attached to the fence posts.
Photo 2 shows the middle post added which is necessary to support the middle of the shelves. Three metal brackets were fitted to this, that the shelves would rest on. To find were they needed to go, I rested each shelf on the end supports, held the bracket under it, pushed it up a little (as the wood naturally sags in the middle) and used 2cm screws to fix them in.
Photo 4 then shows how the shelves were placed. I also screwed the brackets to the underside of the shelves to help prevent it swaying from side to side.
Photo 5 shows how the shelves are off-set to allow for sunlight to reach lower down.
I wasn't too pleased about the shelves not being too deep but luckily I had another length of wood that I'd prepared then decided to change so I later added that to the back of the middle shelf.

Step 7: Back in the Workshop

After I'd got this far, the weather here in England was awful and we had a lot of heavy rain. I thought that new seedlings would need protection so that they wouldn't drown so wanted to make a rain cover. Again, I toyed around with a few ideas until I came up with this.
I was going to fit two overhangs on to the two front posts and make a big plastic cover to slot into them when needed.
Photo 1 shows the markings on a good thick piece of wood. I sawed most of the lines but in the slot had to saw down the two sides then chisel out the cross line. It came out very easily it it goes along the wood grain.
Photo 2 shows how the plastic beam would slot into the overhang. This plastic was a piece of trunking, which is what you have in houses to hide the electrical wires in. It was 2.5m long so it would be longer than the frame was wide.
I then fixed the plastic sheet (2.7m x 1.8m) by cutting some small pieces of wood, rolling the plastic round the trunking once then screwing them on in four places along the trunking (thanks to my dad for this tip). I did exactly the same at the other end to weight it down and prevent the plastic from being moved by the wind.

Step 8: Getting the Last Bits On

Before fitting the rain cover, I needed space to fit the borders for the shelves. These were made from window blinds, which can be cut very easily and screwed on. It also gave them a nice finish as well as keeping the pots on the shelves! (You can see where I extended the middle shelf in photo 2).
3: I fitted the overhangs as shown using two long nails, one through the top, one through the front. This is why the wood needs to be thick or it would split it in half. The trunking will fit snugly into these when it's needed and in photos 4 and 5, at the back, you need something to rest it against when it's not needed. I used hooks that were on the fence before and the cover rests well against these.
6 and 7 shows how it looks when it's pulled over. The plastic sheet will sag in the middle so I just made three small holes near the front for the rain to drain through. Otherwise it would get too heavy and eventually tear the plastic.

Step 9: Wanted: Lots of Plants!

I put extra plastic in the shelves to conserve the water from the rainfalls and held them in place using drawing pins.
So it was ready to put the first plants on. My mum did us a big favour by growing some spinach, cabbage and peas in her greenhouse and donating lots of pots that she didn't need. You can see how there is a lot of space for many plants and an open area at the bottom for bigger pots. If you don't have many plant pots, you can use plastic milk bottles or other big bottles and simply cut the tops off so the base is a pot. Make some holes in the bottom for drainage and Bob's your uncle. Those bags at the side in the photo 1 are full of bottles we'd collected over a few weeks.
It was appreciated by the women at the charity and I was happy to have designed and made it for almost no money. Now they can grow loads of things and maybe even start their own little market and sell them. :)

Comments

author
Eh Lie Us! made it! (author)2012-07-22

Great use of limited space. I'm in the US and I'm a fan of the metric measurements. Equally great to see people buiding for charity. Best of luck.

author
Elliot Lord made it! (author)Elliot Lord2012-07-22

Thanks very much. :) Yes, the metric system is far more sensible and if most of the world uses it, it kind of makes sense! (None of this 3/17 of a furlong makes up a pint and is equal to 1367 ounces rubbish!)

author
rmcgraw made it! (author)2012-07-19

Perfect for my little patio! Thanks for the plan/design!
I can't tell which plant is spinach and which is cabbage [they look like cabbage] but all the pots on the second tier seem really shallow. How deep does a container need to be to grow leafy green things like spinach, lettuce & Swiss chard to normal harvest size?

Does the size of the container affect the size of the cabbage heads? [Sorry if this is a totally retarded question.]

Is there a rule-of-thumb for mature height of plant vs. depth of container?

Thanks, again, Elliot. Looking forward to my son making this for me!
Rhe

author
Elliot Lord made it! (author)Elliot Lord2012-07-19

Hi. The spinach is on top and grows very slowly. The cabbage is in the middle and need to be transferred. Of course the roots need enough space for a plant to flourish but I don't think they need to be in such big pots. I'd like to see them in pots smaller than the empty ones on the shelf below. They can make pots from 2 litre bottles that are about 15cm deep.
It would be great to know if you follow my design and make your own. Keep me informed!

author
Elliot Lord made it! (author)Elliot Lord2012-07-19

Sorry, I didn't check the photo. I was talking about the middle empty pot so to correct that, they would do well in the smaller pots on the shelf below.

author
-chase- made it! (author)2012-07-19

I've seen these before and this is a nice one.

And this instructable couldn't have come at a better time as just a week ago on a temp job clearing out some old shrubs from along side of a house this idea was discused for a herb garden fo the lady of the house who is is really into herbs.

This would be perfect for what she is looking for and looks real nice as well.

I like the suggestion of gaiatechnician conserning the pump idea - though this being Florida and with all the rain we've been getting - it may or may not be needed for this area.

though it might prove usefull for some type of auto fertilizer unit...

thanx for sharing your intructable.

- chase -

author
Elliot Lord made it! (author)Elliot Lord2012-07-19

Thanks for that. Yes, it just depends on the climate as to whether you'd need to use a pump. As I'm in England, this isn't a problem. It rains every day! (It's throwing it down right now...)

author
gaiatechnician made it! (author)2012-07-19

You can use an aquarium air pump with t valve airlift to recirculate water to the top 3 rows. If you put it on a timer, you can do this once an hour for peanuts worth of electricity. (Less than a dollars worth per year).

author
jessyratfink made it! (author)2012-07-15

It looks fantastic! Love that you staggered the shelves too. Very smart. :)

author
Elliot Lord made it! (author)Elliot Lord2012-07-15

Thanks, Jessy!

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Bio: I work voluntarily to help develop the community where I live. I like to explore new areas and experiment with making things myself. I am ... More »
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