Make Your Own Vertical Garden System: A DIY Vertical Planter Tutorial

Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Gardening | Comments


This planter is so easy to make, and the low cost and little time spent make it a true winner. It’s an ideal design for those who don’t have a lot of space or sun for gardening. It will even work well for those who have absolutely no yard in which to put it! The planter can be placed in a pot weighted with rocks or bricks. You can even paint this vertical planter system to meet your own personal aesthetic.

finished pvc planter with strawberry plants

Before we start, I would like to note that I did a lot of research on PVC before making this planter. It seems the verdict is still out on whether it’s safe for growing edible plants. Many believe it’s perfectly fine, and others have concerns about chemicals leeching into the soil. The PVC used in this project is the very same that is used for holding drinking water in your pipes. If you’re not comfortable with using this planter for edible plants, it will also work wonderfully for growing flowers or succulents.

Plant with weed cloth tucked into planter

How to make your own vertical planter

Time spent: 3.5 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Cost of materials: $35

  • Large Pipe: $10
  • Small pipe: $2
  • Spray paint: $5
  • Potting Soil: $5
  • Weed cloth: $3
  • Plants: $10

Note: Cost may vary depending on size of pipe, plant types and whether or not you need to purchase tools

Supplies:

  • (1) 4 inch or 6 inch diameter PVC pipe, cut to desired length (5-10 feet is best)*
  • (1) ½ inch diameter PVC pipe cut to same length as large pipe*
  • (1) ½ inch PVC end cap
  • Power drill
  • 1/4 inch drill bit
  • 2.5 inch hole saw for your drill
  • 1 can spray paint for plastic (can omit if you’d like your pipe bare)
  • 1 bag potting soil – 1.25 cubic feet
  • 1 roll of weed block fabric (smallest size)
  • 10 plants – Great plants for this project: strawberries, herbs, succulents, flowers
  • Measuring tape
  • Nail file or rough sandpaper
  • Shovel
  • Several rocks or bricks

*Be sure to buy PVC pipes that are made for holding water, not sewage pipes. I also don’t recommend using salvaged pipes as you have no idea what they were used for previously.

Step 1:

Using the ½ inch pipe and measuring tape, mark the pipe every 4 inches all the way to the end. Flip the pipe over and mark every 4 inches on that side too. Next, take your drill fitted with the ¼ inch drill bit and drill a hole into the pipe on every mark.

When you’re finished you can set aside this pipe, as you won’t need it for a while. The purpose of this smaller pipe is to help thoroughly water the plants. The small pipe will go inside the large pipe, and the bottom of it will be capped to be sure the water goes straight to the plant roots rather than pooling out the bottom of the pipe, which would make a big muddy mess and compromise the stability of the planter.

Drill bit and 1/2 inch pipe

Step 2:

Take a look at the large pipe. You’ll need to come up with a game plan on where to position the holes on your pipe, and the spacing of the holes will vary depending on how far apart your plants need to be to grow properly. If you’re using a 6-inch pipe, there will be much more space and you can probably plant on every side of the pipe. The possibilities are endless here, so get creative and do what works for you!

Note: For those who may be stumped by this step, here’s how I designed my planter.

The holes were spaced 6 inches apart and I staggered their position on the pipe to give them a little more space.

I started by setting the pipe on its side and positioning the measuring tape down the center, from top to bottom.

Pipe and measuring tape

I made a mark every 6 inches down the pipe, skipping the last 12 inches since that will be buried underground.

Next, on sections that I wanted the holes to be staggered, I set my measuring tape up so the mark was set at 3 inches, then made my official drilling mark at 0 or at 6, depending on which way I wanted the hole to stagger. This made for an artful design and gave each plant maximum space in which to grow.

Measuring tape across pipe

Step 3:

Make sure you’re wearing safety glasses for this next part and go nice and slow. Line up your hole saw so the drill bit goes directly into your mark and cut the hole. After each hole is cut, you can move right along to the next. Be sure to check and re-check that you’re cutting in the right place, because you can’t go back if you make a mistake. After this step I used a nail file to smooth the edges on each hole. Rough sandpaper would work just as well.

Hole saw lined up against pipe

Pipe with 3 holes cut out

Step 4:

After your holes are all cut, take the pipe outside to paint it. Make sure the pipe is perfectly clean and then spraypaint the whole outside in even coats. If you’re using the planter for food, make sure the paint doesn’t get inside the pipe. It can also be left bare as most of the pipe will eventually be covered by your thriving plants! The paint is only aesthetic and the choice is yours.

Step 5:

Give the pipe some time to dry and allow the paint to set before you start planting. During this time you can choose the location for your planter and start digging your hole. The hole depth needs to be about 12 inches in order for the pipe to stand on its own. When the hole is ready, set the pipe inside and place rocks or bricks around it to keep it standing. Take your time with this step and make sure the rocks are situated tightly to keep it from moving. Once the pipe is secure you can load the soil back in around it. Stamp it down with your feet to make sure it’s as solid as it can be.

Pipe in the hole with rocks around the base

Step 6:

Now you can slide the ½-inch pipe inside of the large pipe, making sure the cap end is down. Some small stones or broken pieces of pottery placed around it will help to keep it standing in the middle. You may need to adjust the small pipe as you’re filling the planter to keep it in the center.

1/2 inch pipe with holes drilled into it

Step 7:

Start filling the pipe with potting soil. When it reaches the bottom hole you’re ready to put in your first plant. The choice to use weed cloth around the stem of the plant is entirely up to you. I used it for two reasons: it will keep the soil inside the planter when I water it, and it will help to keep the plant separated from the painted sides of the planter.

If you choose to use weed cloth, cut one square (approximately 3×3 inches) for every plant. Cut a small slit in the middle of the square and gently push the leaves and stems through the hole. Take your time and make sure you’re not breaking any stems.

Trowel pouring soil into the planter

Step 8:

Once the plant has its little coat on, you can put it in the first hole, being very careful not to crush or disrupt the root structure. Once it’s in, you can push the weed cloth into the pipe, pressing it against the sides of the pipe and making sure it’s not wrapped around the soil or roots. You just want it to act like a barrier to keep the soil inside, not disrupt the growth of the plant. Feel free to trim the cloth to any size that will work for you.

Strawberry plant in vertical planter with weed cloth

Plant with weed cloth tucked into planter

Add in more potting soil on top of the plant and keep repeating Steps 7 and 8 until your whole planter is filled. When you’re finished, give those plants a good drink of water and pat yourself on the back, you’re now an official vertical gardener!

finished pvc planter with strawberry plants

What types of plants would you grow in a vertical garden system?