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DIY or Die: Vertical Garden

(Sidenote: Not attempting this DIY project will not actually result in death. You will still live, even if you don’t do it)

So, I have a Pinterest account, but I mostly just use it to store links. I almost never just peruse it to see what’s out there. Generally, DIY projects tend to stress me out because they sit, waiting to be finished, in my garage for months, while I feel simultaneously guilty and like I want to take a nap as I think about starting them.

This vertical garden wall was no different. I saw someone post this DIY tutorial about a vertical garden and I like the idea of it, so I filed it away on my “Things that Will Probably Never Happen” Pinterest board, so I could find it again if pigs started flying.  Last Spring, we got a porch roof installed, which is awesome, but the evening sun made the porch un-sittable, which was less awesome. We were trying to think of ideas for things that we could use to block the sun and I remembered this vertical garden.

Once I started looking at that tutorial, I realized that it wouldn’t work for the space where I needed it. The original tutorial calls for the garden to be anchored against a fence or a house and we needed a free standing “wall”. Also, this guy made all those little crates and ain’t nobody got time for that in this house. So, I came up with a new plan.

We finished it last fall and I must say that I like it alot. The plants are doing really well in it. They all lasted through the winter and everything stays pretty moist. When you water the top, the residual moisture falls to the crates below.

Below are the instructions for how we built this garden wall. I do not usually do DIY things so I don’t have pictures of the process or even specific details. If that stresses you out, take some deep breaths and deal with it.

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  • 9 wooden crates from a craft store (hint: COUPONS, PEOPLE)
  • 4 support boards- The size of these will depend on the crates and layout that you decide to use. Our support boards are a wee bit narrower than the crates themselves. ***The support boards also extend into the ground about a foot, so account for that when you’re thinking about the height of your boards
  • Screws- whichever ones work for you
  • Chicken wire with a smallish grid pattern
  • Weed cloth
  • Staple gun (with staples, duh)
  • Stain/paint/polyurethane
  • (optional) colorful vocabulary


  1. The first thing you do is buy all your supplies and then let them sit strewn about your garage for several months. This is a key step in the process because it creates anticipation about the project being finished and motivates your husband to help you so that he can get a screwdriver without stepping over 9 crates every time.
  2. We stained and polyeurethaned everything prior to putting anything together. As you can see, we did the crates “light” and the support boards “dark”. This made everything much easier once we put it together.
  3. After everything is dry, it’s time to line the crates. Now, after building our chicken coop this past summer, I would rather spend an afternoon chillin’ in Satan’s armpit than work with chicken wire again, but it provides the structural support so that the dirt doesn’t fall through the cracks in the crate. I have no real advice for you, except to wear long pants and gloves and use that colorful vocabulary on the supply list. You’ll cut the chicken wire to fit the width of the crate. You can staple it all inside, bending it into the corners so that every crack in the crate, even on the sides, is covered with chicken wire. Then you’ll do the same with the weed cloth (which is a blessing after working with that chicken wire).
  4. Now you’re ready to start building! We hauled all of the components out into the yard and “built” the garden laying on the ground, so we could play with the placement of the crates. There are several different configurations you could do with them. Go crazy with it!
  5. Once you get your crates looking the way you want them (on the ground), you can start screwing them into the support boards. We did 3 screws per crate side (so six screws per crate. Our screws were actually too long and stuck into the crate a little, but it worked out fine because it’s covered with SOIL, ya’ll.
  6. Once you have your wall built, it’s time to get your area together. We figured out generally where we wanted the wall to go. Then, we dug holes where the support boards will stand, so that they actually extend into the ground to provide the structural integrity.  We wanted the boards to extend a foot into the ground, but it was more probably like 8 inches. That way, your cool vertical garden wall doesn’t fall over and crush your grandma so that her obituary would read, “She was killed by aloe and green onions in a wicked awesome vertical garden wall.”
    1. Sidenote, this would be the step where me offering you some really helpful advice about measurements and leveling would be awesome. I don’t have any. Sorry.
  7. Once your holes are dug in the correct places (you’ve probably dug about 5 holes now), you can stand your shelves up and try and start leveling. We actually had to use bricks underneath some of the bottom crates to get the whole level and stable, where we felt like it was secure.
  8. Ta-da! Now, you can fill them with dirt and start planting! This thing has withstood some very big winds so obviously, it has stood the test of time.

There. Wasn’t that specific enough for you?

In reality, these turned out great and you could really fit the size to your needs. You could make it a wider vertical garden or taller! Paint it bright colors! The sky is the limit! (Actually, the limit is probably a bit less than that if you want to keep your granny alive.)

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