I’ve seen vertical gardens in public places and they’re always pretty impressive. But mostly they’re done with many containers on a framework. I got the idea of a compact, picture frame type planter. But you can’t just turn a box of dirt up on end. It’ll all schlump to the bottom. Also, there are the problems of how to water the plants and where does the run-off go. So here’s what I came up with.
It’s a mini succulent garden in a frame. Dirt is held in place with plastic baffles. The succulents don’t require much water. I just hit them with a spray bottle every once in a while. I think it looks pretty good and fits into the small space available for it.
- 1/6” plastic panel – Home Depot
- Redwood slats – mine were ½ x 2”, 2 at 20”. 2 at 19”
- ¼” plywood - cut to 20x20”
- Redwood fence board – rip to 5” wide, miter to 27” outside
- ½ x½ redwood sticks - to align frame to box
- ¼” galvanized eye bolts, nuts and fender washers. – I used 4 but only w are needed
- 18 gauge staples – 1 ½ and 1” to fit pneumatic staple gun
- Galvanized angle brackets - 4 to hold frame to box
- Chicken wire – about 19” by 22”
- Preserved Spanish Moss, Cactus planting mix, Plants
Step 1: Box and Frame
I had a lot of redwood slats about ½ inch by 2 inches “in inventory” (left over from some other project). So these formed the basis of the project. The box is 20” by 20” with a piece of ¼ inch plywood on the back. I stapled it together with galvanized 18 gauge staples. (After time the plywood back has started to de-laminate. I should have chosen something more waterproof).
The frame face is ¾ inch redwood fence boards ripped to 5” and mitered, with square strips tacked on the back to allow invisible attachment to the box. Overall it’s 27” square. Again, all attaching was done with my 18 gauge staple gun. I lined the box with black heavy duty garbage bag plastic sheet. I painted it all later.
I had the idea that I might want to turn it upside down later if the plants started to migrate either up of down. So I put in eye bolts on two ends of the box. They are ¼ inch galvanized with nuts and fender washers on the inside. Experience tells me that it’s not necessary to turn the box over. So only one set of eye bolts would have been necessary.
Step 2: Plastic Baffle
This is 1/16” plastic panel from Home Depot. I cut it into strips about 2 ½” wide, close to 18” long. And to let the pieces mesh I used a sheet metal nibbler to cut slots. The nibbler (shown in the first pic) removes a little material and it allows for a better fit than just cutting a slot, though one could just use heavy scissors. I was pretty happy with this solution to prevent the dirt from slumping.
Step 3: Coverings
At this stage I cut a piece of chicken wire to size and stapled it to one side of the box so it could later fold over to keep everything in place. Then I put in the plastic baffle and the dirt. The dirt hides the plastic and holds it in place. One should pay attention to exactly where the plastic is - maybe make small marks on the box. This is to avoid running into the plastic later when putting in the plants (I learned that the hard way).
The dirt is covered with weed cloth to keep it in place. This is stapled to the inside of the box. Then put in “Preserved Spanish Moss” to cover the cloth and make it look good. There were many colors of moss available but I went with a neutral tan.
Then the chicken wire gets pulled over the whole works and stapled in place before the frame goes on. The frame is aligned using the little redwood "sticks", and held in place using angle brackets.
Step 4: Planting
This is really the hardest part. You have to snip apart the chicken wire to open up a planting holes, then push the moss aside, cut through the weed cloth, and make a suitable hole in the dirt. This is where you do Not want to run into the dang plastic.
Poking the plant roots past the chicken wire is “problematic” since the sharp pieces of cut wire want to poke your fingers. I later thought that planting before the wire was down would have avoided this, but the plants would have to be smaller to fit through the wire and it would present its own problems.
The whole works is pretty heavy, so wall attachments should be stout. I hung my planter on a stucco wall, so I used lead anchors and bolts protruding so the eye bolts could hand on them. In the pic you see on one bolt the small collar I used to adjust the box to level. I keep a spray bottle near the planter and give it a shot every once in a while.
A couple of years later I took it off the wall to replace some of the plants. It became clear the plywood back would need replacing (last pic). But it's been raining here and it's too heavy to move without damage. The plan is to wait until it dries out, replace the back, and then replant.
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