Looking for a simple, easy, and cheap way to create a garden?
Over the past several years, I've lived in many different apartments; I wanted a garden that I could take with me from place to place. Once I created recycled vertical gardens, I realized that these cheap creations can be made anywhere, with almost any reusable materials. The city, a classroom, with children, or the elderly... the possibilities are endless!
Recycled Vertical Gardens are:
- Simple to construct.
- Created using upcycled materials in order to limit waste.
- Transferable from place to place.
Recycled vertical gardens are the perfect tool for growing what you need using what you alreadyhave.
Applying this Instructable to the classroom?
(With additional help from adult supervisors, students as young as 10 years-old can complete this project!)
Big Idea: Sustainability
Themes: Time* & Mark-Making
- grow food/herbs for their family and friends.
- grow flowers to contribute to community aesthetics.
- upcycle old containers into new gardens to limit waste.
- develop patience and care-taking skills through nurturing plants to desired growth.
*For the purpose of this project, I bought plants that were already starting to grow. However, students' patience will benefit from buying seeds and watching their growth process from start to finish. Plus, it's cheaper!
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Step 1: Materials + Tools
- Plants. (house plants, outdoor plants, herbs, fruits, vegetables, low-light plants, full-sun plants, etc.)
- Recycled Containers. (containers with holes work best for drainage, but all containers should work)
- Potting Mix. (All-Purpose works best)
- Trash Bags.
- Zip Ties.
- Command Strips. (preferably heavy-duty, outdoor, holds up to 5lbs.)
- Pocket Knife and/or Scissors.
*Components may vary depending on container application.
Step 2: Preparation
Plant Selection: When selecting your plants, read the instructional tab which comes inserted in the soil of the plant; these instructional tabs will explain prime growth season and the recommended amount of sunlight needed. If you are planting seeds, the seed packet will include this information on the back. All types of small plants should work for these vertical gardens, such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
My Plants: (from left to right)
- Parsley: part-sun
- Strawberries: full-sun
- Succulent: part-sun
- Pothos plant: part-sun (not pictured here)
Container Selection: Typically, any type of container will work for this project. However, the majority of my containers already had holes for water-drainage purposes. Most fruit containers, such as plastic berry containers, worked best for me.
- Parsley: upcycled strawberry container.
- Strawberries: upcycled strawberry container.
- Succulent: upcycled cake container. (this container does not have holes, due to the fact that succulents survive well in small, concealed containers.)
- Pothos: upcycled apple juice container. (once again, a container without holes. Pothos are typically vine-like house plants.)
Indoor Preparation: Open up trash bag(s) and cover your work station to contain the soil mess.
Outdoor Preparation: You're outside! Get messy!
*Teaching Tip: Have students collect their own containers from home and bring them into class! Discuss with students why they picked that container, and how they think it will benefit/hinder their plant growth.
Step 3: Plant
Planting is a very personal process; whatever strategies work for you, go for it!
For additional assistance on planting, refer to these steps:
- Gently squeeze the outside of the original, black plastic container in which the plant comes in. This will loosen up the soil and reduce the likelihood of any roots being torn in the process of removing the plant from its original container.
- Hold the plant from the base and gently remove it from its original container.
- Place the plant, along with its original soil, in the center of its new container.
- Grab 1-2 handfuls of Potting Mix and place in the new container alongside the plant.
- Mix both the new and old soil around the roots to ensure a healthy growing environment.
- Leave about 2 centimeters of space at the top of the new container to prevent any spills when watering.
*Teaching Tip: Model your strategies for planting to the class before having students try it on their own. You can have students research planting tutorials on YouTube if time permits.
Step 4: Construct
There are many ways to construct the hardware of your vertical gardens; I've demonstrated a few, but this part of the process is mainly trial-and-error. Find what works best for your environment!
- Using a pocket knife and/or scissors, cut a small slit in each of the four corners of your rectangular container.
- Cut two pieces of twine, approximately 5 feet each.
- Start feeding one piece of twine through the back left slit and feed it through the front left slit. Pull the twine through until both ends have an equal amount. Repeat process with the right side.
- Take each piece of twine and pull them up towards the center of the plant. (see brick image for reference)
- Tie a surgeon's knot (with loop at the end), using all pieces of twine, leaving a loop at the top.
- Reference: How To Tie a Surgeon's Loop Knot
- Using a pocket knife and/or scissors, cut four slits (top left, bottom left, top right and bottom right corners) on the back side of the container.
- Feed one zip tie through each slit.
*Teaching Tip: This step needs adult supervision! Demonstrate to students how to properly use the tools, or cut their slits for them before constructing.
Step 5: Apply
Now it's time to hang your recycled vertical gardens in your chosen environment!
Inside Application: Use the hammer to place the nail near sunlight. Using the twine loop, hang your plant!
Outdoor Chain-link Fence Application: Have one person hold the plant in place. Then, have an assistant reach around the fence to apply the zip ties. Make sure your plant is firmly attached to the fence!
Brick Wall Application: Using Command Strips (see instructions on the back of their package) place the hook where you desire. Make sure to press firmly on the hook. Leave the hook attached to the wall without the plant for up to 24 hours; this allows the command strip to solidify to the wall. The following day, hang your recycled vertical garden plant on the command strip(s)!
*Teaching Tip: For classroom application, use Command Strips on walls near sunlight, or place suction-cup hooks on windows for plant display.
Step 6: Nourish
Water, Water, Water!
Make sure to water your plants every other day for maximum satisfaction. Only water if the top of the soil feels dry. Too much water may damage your plants. Depending on your plant, environment, and weather, water amounts may have to be modified. For further information pertaining watering, refer to: Why are my plants dying?
If temperatures are going to reach low enough for potential frost, make sure to bring your plants inside!
- Time: with technology giving instant gratification to students, this project slows down time and directs focus to the growth process. Have the students discuss their feelings of waiting; does the duration of time make one appreciate the outcome more than before? What benefits do you receive from waiting? How can this lesson be applied in daily life?
- Mark-Making: By creating these recycled vertical gardens, students are making their mark on their peers, school, and community through beautifying streets and producing food/herbs. Discuss the question, How can you contribute to your community?
- Integration: This project can be integrated with teaching the life cycle of a plant, aesthetics of beauty, giving back to the community, or a lesson on recycling/upcycling.