Plant Tower Made Out of PVC Pipe (15 Pockets)

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In this instructable I'll try to show you how to build a planting tower out of 1 meter of PVC pipe. The planting tower can be used (based on the diameter) for strawberries, lettuce, (bigger pipes) pansies and other small summer flowers (smaller diameters)
I made a couple of them already and the minimum diameter is 125mm otherwise there is not much room for soil anymore.

The hardware:

1. 1 meter pipe min. 125mm diameter
2. 1 pc endcap for your tower
3. Optional a irrigation pipe (32-50mm depending on your tower)
4. A plastic cap to plug the irrigation pipe
5. An old T-shirt or old piece of long cloth
6. Steel wire
7. A small strip of (waste) cardboard
8. Some small screws

Tools:

1. Marker
2. Ball point
3. (Foldable) Ruler
4. Plumb line
5. Heat Gun
6. Garden gloves (with leather patches)
7. Multi tool
8. Drill

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Step 1: Preparing Your PVC Tube (I)

First you determine the 4 sides of your PVC tube. This can be easily done by calculation Pi * outer diameter / 4. In my case the outer diameter is 200mm

3,14159 * 200 / 4 = 157,07mm or 15,7 Cm.

Now you take your scrap piece of cardboard and cut out a piece of 15,7cm long and mark the center of this piece of cardboard. (You are going to use this piece of cardboard later)

Put a random mark on top of the pipe and use the cardboard strip to put the next mark 15,7cm further and than the next and the next. You should be ending at approx your first mark. Mark one line as "Front" and two marks as "Side" the back isn't used.

Use a plumb line or something similar to copy the marks to the other side of the pipe.

Step 2: Set Out Your Grid

The next step is to set out your grid.

Take the foldable ruler and place over the two adjecent lines and fix it with a clamp.

Place your first mark at 20cm from the top, the 2nd, 3rd, 4rth and 5th 15cm apart

Then do both the sides

Place your first mark at 27cm from the top the 2nd, 3rd, 4rth and 5th 15cm apart

Step 3: Draw Your Cutting Lines

Next thing you do is take your piece of scrap cardboard and place the center of the cardboard on the marking and draw a (more or less) straight line. When all the lines @ front and both sides are drawn the pipe should look a bit like on the pictures. As you can see on the pictures the lines are staggered. This is needed to keep the structural integrity of the pipe, along with the non used backside

Take your multi tool / saw and cut along the staggered lines you have drawn in the previous steps and you should have 15 (clean) cuts after that

Step 5: Moulding the Pockets

Now the real hard work starts.
Take your heat gun, gloves and make sure you are in a well ventilated area, preferrably outside.

With the heat gun (in nuclear mode) start heating up the upper side of the cut, make sure you're heating up evenly over the full cut approx 5-7 cm above the cut. after a minute or 2 you should be able to push in the the PVC about 2-3 cm (as you like). PVC has a memory function so keep the PVC pushed in for a while until it gets solid. (WARNING!! ITS HOT!)

Now you heat up the lower part of the cut. This part (also 5-7 cm in height) should get a little more hot than the upper part as you have to pull there to create a cup. Once the PVC is hot enough gently start pulling and moulding with your fingers to create a cup. Don't pull too hard, otherwise the PVC might tear up a little at the ends of the cut. Also here keep on working the cup until the PVC gets solid again. (WARNING!! ITS HOT!)

If all goes well the pipe has undergone a transformation and has now 15 pockets

Step 6: Preparing Your Irrigation Pipe (optional)

The irrigation pipe is mainly intended to get water and (fluid) fertilizer to the lower plants.
The process is pretty straight forward .

Take the 1 mtr irrigation pipe. (For 125mm tower use 32 or max 40mm pipe, I used 50mm for my 200mm pipe) and drill holes (8mm) on 3 sides (not the backside) every 7 cm (start approx 30cm from top) and deburr them a little with a small screwdriver .
Then wrap the pipe with the old cloth / t-shirt around the irrigation pipe (single layer) and fix it with some steel wire. The cloth is only intended to prevent soil and plant root ingress into the irrigation pipe. Plug the bottom of the pipe and insert it into the tower.

Step 7: Finishing and Filling Your Tower

No your tower is close to finishing. The only things left to is preparing the cap and fill it up with soil.

Drill to hole in the bottom of the cap for de watering and place the cap on the pipe. now drill 2 or 4 holes 3mm in the side of the cap through the pipe and fix it with little screws. This makes it easier to empty the tower from two sides if you are done with growing.

Fill up your tower with soil and plant and put it somewhere you like.

Optionally you can drill a hole in the back (this is where the unused back marking comes in handy) and hang it on a wall (use a sturdy hook) or drill 2 holes on the side, fit to S hooks and a chain and hang it on your porch.

In case it it free hanging you might consider cutting up the rearside as well with the same pattern as the front. I haven't tried this so don't know how it will affect the structural integrity of the tower.

This is it. you have your own plant tower. Good luck with it and if you found any other variant or way of working please share it with our community. And if you're proud to show your own tower please do it!!

Happy crafting!

Step 8: Alternative Way of Watering (dripping)

At second thought... (or actually later)  I thought it would be nice to add an extra method of watering... (more eco friendly as water is a scarce resource)

It's pretty easy.  You take a plastic bottle, dril a hole in the bottom approx 6mm. Fill it up with water (keep your finger on the hole) and firmly push the spout in the soil and let it sit until it is empty.

It will take a couple of hours but the water is than more effectively distributed through the soil as it slowly drips in.

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24 Discussions

I love your idea, I made it and I put it in balcony, all my familly love it

good luck and thank you

LOL, I start making it from steel pipe. I don't read a headline and instructions, and now I see it's made from PVC pipe, I tortured with steel and it's no good idea!! xD nice work

I'm not usually one to care much, but since everyone is worried about the possible dangers of PVC, it should be noted that the pipe pictured is made of ABS.

Very nice design, but PVC is better avoided when growing food.

From a quick google: "According to the National Institutes of Health, di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), commonly found in PVC, is a suspected human carcinogen."

Now that I have 2 little ones to feed I take this kind of thing seriously so I've avoided PVC when building self-watering containers even though it would have been very handy. And just because PVC is used in some food packaging, to me that is not enough assurance that after long days in the hot sun you are not having some of those nasty chemicals leeching leeching out.

so coool! I heard that once PVC catches fire there's no way to put it out! Haven't had that happen yet personally. Your design is very modern looking. voted

Actually, a good argument could be made for leaving it dark. If you've got it outside and plant it in the spring, the darker color would absorb heat, keeping the plant roots warmer. As the season progresses and the plants grow, they will naturally shade the tower and keep it cooler. Reflecting light to the undersides of low-growing plants isn't going to do much by way of encouraging growth, but warmer roots when it's cool and cooler roots when it's hot, will. ;)

Just brilliant idea, Great work, thanks for sharing. I am shifting to new house next month, don't know how would I wait till that time to create something like this in all corners.

This is seriously wonderful! I might just get brave enough to do this!

Great project and instructable. Thanks for sharing the idea. I've not tried the project, but I wonder if you could use a terracotta pot or short sections of appropriate size pipe to make both the indention and cup in a single step, after the necessary heating, of course. It might be necessary to initially stretch the plastic to form the indention and the cup, but then use a pot or pipe section to hold the shape as the plastic cools. Great project for spring. Thanks, again!

great idea, haven't thought about that earlier but definitely worth the try. currently I'm preparing a new project and will try to finish that one first. is going to be a MKI so takes some time to figure the best setup. ;)

The use of PVC is disputed worldwide but everybody is free to make up his own mind. If you would like to protect your small ones you can still consider making this and plant summer flowers like pansies or what else might be around this time of year.

Good luck!

Nice job...like the paint job, too. I painted mine shades of green with a fern leaf stencil, and instead of t-shirt wrap on the inner tube, I used some fiberglass screen and cinched it with zip-ties. Mine actually had staggered drilled holes, but I wanted it to turn out like yours-my heat gun would not heat sufficiently. I guess a torch would be dangerous but I was tempted to use one to heat the PVC. Thanks for reminding me I need to make more! ; )

2 replies

on a side note.... you'd might consider moulding two more cups on the side as there is some space but im using that space as a filling area for water. to soak level 1,2,3

:) on the std 125mm pipe any heatgun would do. the black colour is actually the colour of the pipe. so called recypipe and is quite a thing to work on. a torch wouldn't do much good to the material and not to mention the fumes you'd might create. so that means a new heat gun with nuclear capabilities. mine though was a std 2000w heater. my MKI was also one with holes. MKII was the grey one MKIII is the black one