Vertical Strawberry Planter: Reclaimed Ladder

Introduction: Vertical Strawberry Planter: Reclaimed Ladder

Limited space, want/ need for home grown food, limited funds, guilt for garbage?

These are all reasons one may get into upcycling. There is so much that we through out that can be reused as beautiful planters. Whatever your reason this is a great project that will meet your needs and impress the neighbors.

Step 1: Step 1: Find Your Trash and Make Your Vision

Not everyone has a twelve step wooden ladder that is twenty inches wide in their garage. Possibly you just cleaned out your garage or saw the an old wooden ladder that was laying on curb on bulk day. Examine the ladder and consider if the steps are deep enough to plant in and whether it is short enough for one vertical planter, tall enough for two planters or even three short ones. Be creative, you may want to have two step shelves you hang on your house walls. Before you start making you planter, find a spot to put them once they are finished. This may change your idea of what size is best for you.

Two approximately 5 ft planters work for me. Maximizes space, accessible for harvest, and aesthetically pleasing in my garden design.

Take away: Keep in mind the practicality of the different size options and how it will look in your desired location.

Step 2: Step 2: Gather Your Materials


-Wooden ladder

-Plywood 4' x 8' (standard size at a Home Depot)

-Rubber pond lining



-Linseed oil wood stain


-Circular saw


-Power sander or sandpaper (have fun with that!)

-Paint brush


-Tape measure


-Staple gun



-Sharpie (white or silver would work best)

-Dust mask

-Eye protection

-Ear Protection

-Gloves (for staining)

-Drop cloth

-Cloth (for wiping off sawdust)

-Rag (for wiping of stain)

-Empty garbage can/ large bucket

Step 3: Step 3: First Cuts

*Tools and materials required:

-Circular saw



The ladder will be used upside down. I will refer to the top and bottom respective to the final orientation. The front of the ladder is the same, the top edge of the step should be closer to you.

Cutting instructions are based on constructing two ladders.

1) No numerical measurements are require for the first cut.

a) Use a t-square to cut a straight line at the half way point on the ladder, just above the top step of the lower ladder.

b) With a circular saw cut the ladder in half (or thirds etc.) at the top of the step of the bottom half of the ladder. The cut will be made at a 90 degree angle to the wood.

c) Cut off any excess wood at the top of the top half. Also even out the bottoms of the now two ladders. Leave space between the bottom step and the ground; you should only be cutting the longer of the two bottoms.

2) Angling the bottom.
(There are probably better methods of doing this but, with limited tools and experience it is still possible and easy)

a) On the back of the ladder measure 2-2 1/2 in. up and make a mark (start shorter before going longer). With a straight edge and carpenters pencil draw a line from your mark to the bottom front corner. Draw the same angle on all four bottom legs.

b) Cut off the back corner following the line.

c) Stand up the ladder and see how the angle looks. The more of an angle it is on the shallower the soil will be for the roots.

d) If you like the angle move on tot he next step, if not keep taking more off a bit at a time. Make sure to measure to keep angles equal on all four bottom legs.

cut equal lengths, cut at the top of the step on the bottom half of the ladder

Step 4: Step Four: Measurements

*Tools and materials required:

-Tape measure



You will need the following measurements:

-Length of back -----------------------(5 ft)

-Outside width-------------------------(20 in)

-Inside width/ long side of step. (18 in)

-Length of step from

front to back, including

any gap.---------------------------------(8 in)

-Depth of step. This is the

distance from the top of the step

to where the step meets the back

(if there is a gap you will

have to extrapolate the step.--------(6 1/2 in)

Step 5: Step 5: Sanding the Ladder

*Tools and materials required:

-Electric sander

-Eye protection

-Ear protection

-A cloth

The ladder I used had a fading stain on it. It was rough and old as well.

Prior to staining give the ladder a good sanding with the power sander.

1) Put on dust mask and eye protection. I would recommend wearing ear protection as well.

2) Remove the old stain and smooth out edges and fresh cuts.

3) Wipe down with a cloth the wood to remove all dust.

Step 6: Step 6: Cutting the Back Board

*Tools and materials required:

-Circular saw

-Tape Measure





1) Use the length and outside width to determine the side of the back. For my it is 5' by 20".

2) You will want to leave a small gap on the bottom, a half inch will do. This will raise the back board off the ground when you angle the plant back.

3) Mark your measurements on the plywood with a pencil.

4) Cut the plywood to size.*

5) Lay the ladders on horses and line up the plywood with the top and side edges.

6) Nail in the corners to keep the board in place.

7) Nail in a nail every 6 inches along the sides.

*Home Depot may offer a service to cut the ply wood for you. I recommend this because it makes transportation easier, also they will be more accurate than an unguided circular saw.

Step 7: Step 7: Staining

*Tools and materials required:

-Linseed oil

-Paint brush

-Drop cloth



Linseed Oil will take several days to a week to dry, keep that in mind.

I chose linseed oil because it is a plant based stain. The oil is neither toxic to the plants, us humans, nor the soil and aquatic critters.

1) Lay down drop cloth.

2) Set up the horses on top of the drop cloth.

2) Elevate the wood above the ground on horses.

3) Coat the entire ladder and back boards in linseed oil.

4) Apply a very light coat of oil. Blot off any excess oil with a rag or towel. Excess oil will take a much longer time to dry, if it ever does. The oil can become rancid if it does not dry properly.

5) Leave the wood elevated to allow to dry. If the weather is sunny and dry leave them outside.

Step 8: Step 8: Cutting the Rubber

*Tools and materials required:

-Staple gun

-Rubber lining



When looking for materials I checked to see what I had laying around the garage. I had left over pond lining from my Eagle Scout project. The material should be water tight and non-toxic. This will keep the soil and constant water from contacting the wood to prolong its life.

The material will be cut and folded to fit the inside step. Remember that gap I talked about between the step and the back board, this will also close that up.

1) Determine the size:

Inside width of step x Length of step + Depth of step

18 in x 14 1/2 in

You will have to cover all of this area plus the inner sides of the ladder. I found it best to increase the length of the Inside width of step. Experiment with inside width of step length. On each side I added 2 in. This is a process of trial and error. Start out larger than you thing you need and trim off until you reach the right size.

2) Mark your rubber lining with a white Sharpie at the desired dimensions.

3) In between the Length of step + Depth of step draw a line of equal length on both sides. The lines on my lining were 2 inches, leaving the original length of 18 inches separating the lines.

3) Cut out the rubber lining and make a cut on the 2 in lines; just as it appears in the photo.

Part 2: Drainage

The water has to go somewhere.

4) Puncture holes in the bottom. I used a small saw, after I stapled it too... could have be done wiser. Use whatever you have around. The holes should be about hole puncher sized and spaced every 2 inches.

5) After the stain on the wood has dried place the rubber lining in the steps. Fold the rubber edges together to cover the sides.

6) Staple the front corner first (either one), then smooth out the rubber along the edge. Two staples on the front and back sides will suffice (soil will hold it down).

Make sure to staple all corners, smooth out and dimple in the material, and staple the intersection of the two rubbers in the middle.

You may wish to trim the rubber if you think it will show above the soil line.

7) Fill with water to test the drainage, enlarge the holes if you think necessary. Water does not have to be pouring out, a steady trickle is fine.

Step 9: Step 9: Filling the Steps With Soil

*Tools and supplies required:

-Gravel (l used left over paving gravel)

-Spade or rounded shovel.




-Top soil, compost, sand, worm castings.

-Garbage bin for mixing soil.

Not all soil is the same. Pre-made mixes at the store work fine, but all work different with different plants. Know what you are planting, and know what the plant requires. Choose a soil made for the plant you are planting or one that has the characteristics you need.This will ensure healthy plants. More suited the soil is for the crop the less maintenance require for you i.e. watering, control diseases, fertilize.

Your choice of planing is limited to the depth of its roots. I have approximately an 8 in depth. My crop of choice strawberries. They require 6-9 in of depth, so I will see how they do in the ladder. The strawberries like a slightly acidic soil, high organic matter, and good drainage. My soil blend consisted of top soil, compost, sand and worm castings. Top soil for bulk; compost for organic matter, porous structure and acidity; sand was the cheapest way to increase drainage (I am from Long Island you don't have to dig to deep to get some) and increase acidity; worm castings for added nutrients and beneficial micro organisms. Of course you don't have to blend your own soil; that is just a hobby of mine. It is a money savor but NOT a time savor.

Ready for these complicated steps?

1) Put gravel in the bottom about 1-2 inches deep.

2) Fill steps to 1/2 inch below top.

3) Pack down. Don't make it into a brick but don't be too gentle either.

4) Top dress with worm castings (use the rate on the back).

4) Water the soil.

Step 10: Step 10: Plant Your Transplants (or Seeds)

Transplants get you a start on the season, in my case it gets you ahead in fruit production.

1) Dig out a hole to some degree larger than the transplant's container.

2) Dump out your plant. If it does not come out easily pull out the plant by the leaves if the stem in small and weak or by the base of the stem if it is durable.

3) Place your transplant in the hole. Make sure the soil level is even with the base of the transplants stem. For most plants you do not want to bury the stem.

Strawberries have a crown that build up one layer per year. Make sure all of this is above the soil level.

4) Pat down the soil. Pack it in, your plant can take it. Actually will prefer it.

5) Remove any yellow leaves. For plants other than strawberries remove low hanging leaves that are touching the soil.

6) Add a layer of mulch 1- 3 inches thick. Hay works great for strawberries. Don't have spare hay laying around? Use dried grass clippings/ thatch aka suburban hay.

Really mulch, it reduces need for weeding, reduces pathogens, retains water, reduces pest pressure and much much. It mimics strawberries natural habitat.

7) For the first you let runners root, only pinching runners going in undesired directions. Pinch off flowers to encourage runner growth. This will ensure a larger harvest for the following years. If you are antsy leave some flowers on.

Some Ideas and Considerations:

Also you could pinch half and keep half fruiting. Then the following year you pinch the other half and allow your bushier plants to fruit. After the planting space has plenty of foliage continue to pinch off runners season after season.

The soil should already be moist enough, so a second watering is not required. Unless you only lightly watered on the previous step. Moisture levels can be calculated by picking up a tablespoon full of soil and pinching it into a ball, the ball should form and stick that break apart. You will know when you see it. If the ball holds it is too wet, if it breaks apart it is too dry. Keeping transplants well watered for the first week is very important.

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    2 Discussions


    4 years ago

    This is great! I love the look of your new planter!


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thank you very much. It is so practical but it looks so nice as too, passer byers always comment positively.

    If you come across a wooden ladder give it a go!