How to build your own DIY Vertical / Hanging Vegetable Garden for Practically Free!

posted in: Self Reliance, What's New | 22

Traditionally, bushmen are hunter / gathers.  However, between the years of about 1950 through the 90′s, they tried their hand at farming due to governmental pressures to “modernize.”   Although I’m not too certain on their method of farming, I recently came across the interesting concept of vertical / hanging vegetable gardens.  Vertical gardening allows for one of the most efficient ways of watering plants, a huge benefit both here in the States and the most of the world.  Another benefit to this style of gardening is that since the plants are in containers, the gardens themselves can be moved: either to meet the garden’s need for sun or to transport it from one place to another.

One of my favorite vertical gardens was from a guy on YouTube.  He took 4″ PVC pipes and formed pockets along the side of them (this formed the individual planters) and hung them on his fence.   I tried finding his video to share with you guys here, but was unable to find it again.  So instead, I took some pictures of my vertical garden as I was building it and because I believe in recycling materials, I’m going to tell you where you can get 3″ tubes for free in most cases.  Enjoy!

note:  before I start, I want to explain that I don’t give precise directions for two reasons.  First off, it’s easier to write.  Second and more importantly, this project DOES NOT require precision nor do you need me to tell you exactly how it’s “supposed” to be.  I give you the general idea and you make it happen.

Also, please resist the temptation to run out and buy new tubes.  Yes, buying new tubes is much easier than going to a tint shop and asking if you can have theirs, but try it.  You may surprise yourself with the positive reactions you get from people when you explain to them what your intentions are.  What’s more, recycling these tubes is super eco-friendly and helps preserve our natural resources.

DIY Vertical / Hanging Vegetable Garden:

First off, the materials you will need for this project:

  • heat gun (to form pockets in plastic tubes)
  • drill (to drill holes in plastic tubes and in framing material)
  • a saw (to cut slits into the plastic tubes and cut the framing material)
  • some screws (for building the frame)
  • rope or twine at least 1/8″ in diameter (used to hang the tubes)
  • 5 – 3″ diameter plastic tubes at least 3′ long (used as the main vertical garden planters)
  • 12′ of 2×4 lumber (or any other material suitable to build a frame)
  • a pair of leather work gloves (these will protect your hands when it’s time to form the heated tubes into planters)
  • planter mix (soil for the planter chambers)
  • a pack of your favorite shallow rooting vegetable seeds (I chose lettuce)
  • about two hours of your time

 Step 1:  The Tubes

  1. Acquire free tubes:  I recently got my truck windows tinted at a local window tint shop.  While I was waiting, I watched as the workers threw away these 3′ – 5′ plastic tubes.  Apparently, the tint film comes rolled on these tubes and they are discarded after use.  I explained to the shop owner what I had planned to do with them and ask if I could take a few.  He was more than happy to give me as many as I needed.  Infact, he agreed to save them for me if I wanted more in the future.  Awesome.
    Free plastic tubes for vertical garden
    Free plastic tubes for vertical garden
  2. Drill holes on top of the tube so that you can later hang these tubes from the frame.  Drilling the holes now will also help you identify the top of the planter tubes.
    Drilling the vertical garden tubes
    Drilling the vertical garden tubes
  3. Now, starting at the top of the tube, measure of approximately 10″ sections of the tube.  This is where the pockets will be formed.
    Measuring off the vertical garden sections
    Measuring off the vertical garden pockets
  4. Using a saw, cut the tubes halfway through.  This will become the opening of the individual pockets.
    Cutting the individual pockets for the vertical garden
    Cutting the individual pockets for the vertical garden
  5. Now, using the heat gun, heat the plastic tubes just above the slits you cut.  Once it’s pliable, use your gloved hands to push it in, forming something that resembles the top of a cave.
    Use heat gun to soften the plastic tubes above the slit
    Use heat gun to soften the plastic tubes above the slit
  6. Repeat instruction #5 until all the pockets have been formed.  Step 1 is now complete and your tubes are ready for hanging.
    Before and after forming the planter pockets
    Before and after forming the planter pockets
    Finished tubes
    Finished tubes

Step 2:  The Frame

  1. Cut your 2×4′s or other framing material and build a rectangular / square frame.  Make sure it’s high enough to for the planter tubes to hang from and sturdy enough to stand on it’s own (reference finished garden picture below).   Step 2 finished.

Step 3:  The Assembly

  1. This step is pretty simple.  All you have to do is use your twine / rope to hang the vertical garden tubes on the frame.
    Tie the vertical garden tubes to the top of the frame
    Tie the vertical garden tubes to the top of the frame
  2. Fill pockets with potting soil and seed with your favorite vegetable.  Ideally, you’ll want shallow rooting vegetable like lettuce.
    Fill the pockets with potting soil
    Fill the pockets with potting soil
  3. Water and wait indefinitely.  Step 3 done.
    Verical Garden
    Verical Garden, Finished

That’s it.  You’re ready to produce vegetables in a relatively small area.  One thing I noticed.  When I water the planters, if I start at the top of the tube and water slowly, the water will eventually drip through all the chambers and come out the bottom.  Perhaps someone out there can come up with a cool way to make this a self watering system.  But for now, that’s all I got.  If I come up with anything to improve this planter idea, I’ll post an update.

Thanks for your time and happy gardening!

~ John, Modern Bushman

22 Responses

  1. How did you seal the bottom of the tubes? Or did you just not plant anything in bottom hole?

  2. Do you have a pic of the growing garden?

  3. I think you could use a watering system using small tubular lines and attach to each plant (you know the ones you can set up on a timer).
    When I first saw the pic of this I thought you had used very large bamboo, cutting just below a joint for the hole to plant and where the next joint was there is a divider. This idea would also work :) I think I might just try that way first. I’m going to mount on my fence with tie wraps.
    I’ve also seen an idea where someone used a vertical plastic laundry basket, they lined with fabric and placed soil inside of it. They punched holes in the fabric where they wanted to plant some potatoes. I DO think I’d drill some drain holes in he bottom tho.

    • Brenda, I think you are right about having watering tubes for the vertical garden. I’m about to plant seeds this weekend and I think I’m going to take your advice and run tubes from my drip system.

      Wow, the bamboo planter idea is awesome! When you build yours, I’d love to see pictures of it on our Facebook page! If I can get a piece of bamboo, I’d like to try it myself. Thanks for the idea!

  4. thismightbeaproblem

    My big concern here would be leaching chemicals from the plastic….

    • thismightbeaproblem: Hmmm… you know, to be perfectly honest, I was so happy with the way it turned out that I hadn’t thought about the leaching problem. You’re right, chemicals from the tube might leach out into the soil. Maybe I’ll build one out of wood next time. Thanks for the heads up.

  5. I did a 10 x 12 shed this past spring and it was prttey easy. Plans did come with it. The toughest part, to be honest with you, was shingling the roof and it prttey much sucked. I paid someone $100 to come finish it. Other than that I would really recommend it.I no way whatsoever is building something my strong suit either.

  6. PVC works for this type of planter and will not leech. The difficulty would be that PVC is rigid and the openings would have to be cut in, then a floor glued into each planter section. There are disc sold for this purpose, thin plastic ones not the end caps. I drill some holes in the disc so that the planters drain from one to another. You can glue an end cap onto the bottom. You must use PVC glue for this purpose. They last through the test of time if proper material (PVC and PVC glue) is used.

    • Witt: definitely PVC is probably the better material to use. My vertical garden lasted two years at which time it became too brittle to use. The next time I build one, I will definitely use better materials.

  7. Umtagati

    Like the idea:) For managing the water you pour in, you could make the top section a little longer. That way you can pour all the water you want into the top “reservoir” and the water will slowly drain down from there.
    For the bottom, you can add some “catchment” containers to allow you to recycle the water.
    Having the folds in the pipe, the water will tend to pour down the back-end of the pipe. You could drill holes in beforehand (keeping the lower section of the burrs) to catch and allow some of the water to drip through in a more distributed manner.
    As far as the leaching goes, you could paint as much of the inside with a non-toxic rubberised paint for ponds (probably difficult but depends on the diameter of the pipe)
    Anyway, that’s my 2c worth:)

    • Umtagati: thanks for you input. Sadly, I have given up on my vertical garden because the plastic tubes became too brittle after the second year. I have been looking at some other designs and plan on building a wall type vertical garden out of wood and steel. Hopefully, it’ll be done by next year. Are you doing vertical gardening? If so, please post a picture of it on our Facebook page. Thanks!

  8. Very cool, I have been compiling ideas to make vertical gardens. When I saw your design I was inspired to do the same out of pvc. I have started 2 versions, 1 out of 1.5″ tube for small plants (probably strawberries, and a 4″ pipe (probably for leafy greens).
    We will see how it goes. Thanks.

  9. For the people worried about it being to brittle over time, PVC is uv sensitive and will degrade if left in the sunlight, the best is to use an HDPE product that is UV stabilized, and typically potable water grade. (Most thick walled PVC is too) If using PVC pipe, sand it (just roughen the surface for paint bond) and paint with a plastic primer and use a good paint over the top, your pipe will last a lot, lot longer. ALso if you mount the pipe to a 2×4 with a screw through the back (pilot hole in front and pre-drill the back) you can plant a plant in the very top.

    • Fender: good to know. I’m not too familiar with plastics and wish I knew about HDPE prior to making my vertical garden tubes. Next time I make anything out of plastics for outdoor use, I’ll be sure to look for HDPE’s. Thanks for that bit of info.

  10. Master Sgt, retired

    I am amazed that your PVC became brittle in only two years. I have used a lot of PVC for various outdoor projects and have not had that problem unless it’s in the dead of winter. When I used a PVC “wand” with a 2″ ball valve on it to pump water every day, the PVC contraption sat in the sun all day and used to last 3 or 4 years, until eventually I”d forget, sometime in January, and drop the wand on the sidewalk instead of setting it down carefully. It does get brittle in the winter & care must be taken not to shock it.

    A friend with a swimming pool has it plumbed completely with PVC and the pump setup & plumbing is generally in full sun. I think it’s been there about six years now, and no failures yet.

    A coat of paint, of course, would keep the sunlight off the actual surface of the PVC and eliminate that source of deterioration.

    • MSG: the pipes I used weren’t PVC. They were repurposed plastic tubing from a window tinting shop. Originally, the tubes ha window tinting film around it so I don’t think they are sun stabile plastic. An oversight on my part. I haven’t had time to rebuild it, but the next time I do, I’ll be sure and use PVC. Thanks for the heads up.

  11. Use schedule 40 or thicker on the pvc…water potable (used in plumbing for drinking all the time.)
    Do not paint inside of pvc…if you want to paint outside of it…black can make it too hot for plants.
    -There are UV protected pvc products (fence posts, etc) even plain pipe…so shop around before buying the “cheapest” then pvc won’t crack. The “window tint” shop items for free are nice, but not the pvc you want.
    -”Off-gassing” is not issue for PVC, but cheaper plastics. Large farms irrigate with good PVC, not cheap.
    -3″ pipe is pretty small, and can get clogged with roots. Plant items that you can harvest in 30 days like lettuce and herbs…it you want strawberry or cukes…4-6″ is needed.
    -”Run to waste” systems are certainly easiest, but even if you put buckets to catch runoff water under each tube, then reuse, that is more efficient. If you can put a larger single “tub” to catch all the tubes water, then you can put in a submersible pump and run it to the top of all the tubes to recirculate. I’d put in on a timer for 1hr, 3-4 times per day depending on the heat levels.
    -Keep up the efforts and keep sending pix…it’s a trial by error hobby. Don’t give up.

  12. thanks for the tutorial, give me a good head start.

    in my opinion, if we use dripping watering system, all the nutrient will be washed away.
    instead i’m planning to add capillary watering system so that no water or nutrient will be wasted.

    the supply can be gravity feed, and no valve is required as it will be controlled by vacuum.
    google for “autopot” for the ideas.

    :)

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