Today’s DIY project is one from our very own garden. We constructed it last weekend. It was only a matter of time before my vertical planter garden dream became a reality. I think Justin helped me make it partly because he was sick of me talking about it so much.
“Honey, we should totally make a vertical planter for the fall when we want to grow greens and such – the rabbits won’t be able to get into it that way!”
“Yeah, that would be cool.”
“Justin, look! Look at this awesome DIY planter I saw someone post on Pinterest. Isn’t it awesome? We could definitely do this.”
Repeat this scenario about 5 or more times with different planter box ideas, and I finally ended up wearing him down. Or, maybe it just took him a little while to realize how much he LOVED the idea…and LOVED the idea of constructing it for us.
Fast forward to Saturday morning. We spent some time cleaning up our garden; removing some dead plants, weeding, etc. I kept inquiring what new vegetables he’d like us to plant in the open spaces. I was rattling off the options for fall gardens when Justin suggested we head over to Lowe’s/Home Depot to gather supplies for that planter garden I said I’d been wanting. Yes! Grab the keys! Let’s go RIGHT NOW!
The conceptual idea for this garden structure came from that photo on Pinterest (and I quickly got frustrated trying to follow the links to dead ends. I couldn’t easily locate a tutorial), but as we wandered the aisles of lumber, we decided to make some tweaks to suit our situation and to figure out the darn thing on our own. Instead of a 3 box planter, we wanted to go for the gusto with the 5 step. The inspiration photo had the stairs positioned so the planter set lower to the ground. We decided to opt for the tall choice – it takes up less space on the ground, and the top planter hits at a little lower than my eye level. We also elected to secure our planter boxes to the steps instead of leaving them loose. As each step of the process came together, my excitement continued to rise. I could barely contain myself when the final touches were added. I love this darn thing. Love love love. I can’t wait to show you what we’re growing this fall as things begin to flourish! And in case you want to make one for yourself, I’ve outlined the steps below!
Have you made any DIY planters for your garden?
DIY Vertical Planter Garden
You will need:
2 stair risers (we used risers with 5 steps, but you could also use a 4 or 3 stair riser as well)
5 planter boxes (we used 6″x24″ resin window boxes)
1 2″x4″x12′ board (pressure treated)
4 bolts (we used 3.5″ 5/16 hex bolts)
4 nuts (5/16)
8 washers (5/16)
20 screws and matching size washers
8 additional screws
1. Cut the 2×4 into three pieces – 2 legs and one board to stabilize the back/connect the risers. For our 5 step riser, the leg beams measured 50.5 inches each, and the back support measured 20.5 inches (the width of the bottom of the planter boxes). We had some wood left over. If you don’t want to bother measuring and cutting the boards at home, most home improvement stores have a cutting center you can use (we did!).
2. Drill two matching holes into both the leg and stair riser so they can be attached with bolts. Make sure the holes align – measure before drilling! Align the top of the leg with the top of the stair riser, and the back of the leg with the very back of the riser piece. Attach each leg to a stair riser with bolts; slide a washer to the end of the bolt, insert into the riser/leg, add another washer to the exposed end, and tighten a nut to finish. Repeat until all four bolts are attached. We placed the legs of our vertical planter on the inside of the structure, but you can also place them on the outside of the riser if preferred. However, if you choose this route, you will need to measure a longer piece for the back stabilizer to account for the added width of the structure.
3. At this point, each stair riser now has a leg attached. Stand the stairs upright; the next step is to attach the back stabilizer piece of 2×4. Align the stabilizer piece directly on the back edge of the structure. Drill screws directly in the back of the stabilizer piece and into the leg/stair pieces to connect them. This may require the assistance of a second person to hold the stabilizer/stairs/etc. in place. We used 8 screws; 4 on each side of the structure. Make sure the screws you select are long enough to drill through the stabilizer and into the stair risers/leg pieces. ***Note: before drilling the stabilizer piece into place, it is a good idea to place a planter box on the top step of the riser to make sure it is the correct width to hold it.***
4. It is now time to attach the planter boxes. Place a washer on the end of 20 screws. Carefully hold a planter box in place on a stair riser and drill the screw/washer into the base of the step. We placed 4 screws in each planter box; we started from the bottom and worked our way up the structure.
5. When the planter boxes are attached, drill additional holes in the bottom of the boxes to allow them to drain well.
6. Fill each of the planter boxes with potting soil, plant seeds/seedlings, and watch them grow!
If you’re looking for some more DIY projects to sink your teeth into, here are some more of my favorites!
How to preserve your fresh basil (after you grow a ton in your vertical planter!)
Oh wow! That is such a great idea! My mom would love it!
I love it. I could even put than on my lanai.
That is really cool!! I have no desire to garden but I am super impressed that you guys built it yourselves!
It’s look like terracotta
Verrrrrrry Nice! A couple things come to mind: To stabilize the unit, one could put cross pieces at the front footing and between the 2×4 legs. Another one in the middle might prevent a significant change in shape due to weathering. The risers get a bit pricey at about $27 each, but they are far easier and much smarter to use especially if your carpentry skills are not all that great. We plan to make a modified version of this to go into an 11″ wide planting bed. Being more vertical I am hoping that any water running out will be used by the tray below it. Using the crosspieces mentioned above I am going to make a free standing unit to place next to my Tiki Bar.
Where did you find the risers?
Any home improvement store, like Home Depot, should have them.
I found the risers for $11 at homedepot.com and they can ship to your store to pick up. I also found the boxes there for about $6 each. So I think this will be under $75 total. We are making one this week!
I know I’m a year late to this, but it could also be cool to stabilize 2 of these back to back. Like a pyramid! I think I’d plant catnip at the bottom to lure n’hood cats and hopefully keep the chipmunks away, too. 🙂
I want this next spring. I think it would be so pretty filled with wave petunias! Not sure what else Ill put in there but I know all the different colored petunias cascading down will be beautiful! Thanks for this idea!
the planters look great on the stairwells spaces, just one engineers observation (not critical just a suggestion). The planters have a square side and an angled side. You have placed the planters with the angled side butted up to the square face of the riser. If you had turned the planter around so that the square edge had fitted directly into the square face of the riser it would have looked and fitted a little better. Brilliant idea and one I am going to make right now as we speak! Cheers!
Oh Phil, I hope you pay more attention when you’re engineering.
If you’ll notice the left hand end of the planters in the first photograph, or the right hand end in the second, you will indeed see that the planters are angled on both sides. However, I’m sure you already discovered this when you purchased planters for your own project 😉
I love your diy projects. This one sounds as though I could do it myself. That’s what I like about it plus it’s so nice looking too! I will try it this spring so I can have some plants outdoors this year. Thanks for the patterns.
Thanks for the kind words Betty! I definitely try to keep my projects on the “doable” side of things…I can be crafty, but I’m definitely practical. Hope you give this one a try – it only took us an afternoon to construct!
Built one today. Very easy
Thanks for the instructions and the “how to get the man to build it”! I want to try this with hanging strawberries.
I hope it works out! 😉
Connie-I’ve seen rain gutters used as strawberry planters. I don’t recall how they were held up but they shaded an area below for shade loving plants and, with holes in the gutter bottoms, any extra water ended up watering the plants below, like lettuce.
This is exactly what I was thinking! I saw the strawberries in the gutters but I didn’t know where to find the rebar. This seems like it would be easier too. Just extend them to the length of the stairs to the length gutters you use. This is going to be my next project this weekend!
If you are going to extend the width of this planter, you might want to consider adding a third stair stringer in the middle for support. Else your gutters might sag in the middle from the weight of the soil and plants.
Awesome planter. Someone posted a picture of this to me on Facebook. I’m not sure if it was yours or not. I’m always looking for ideas to get more production out of my small garden plot. This will be my weekend project for next week. I’m planning 3 planters and 2 shelves for pots. I’ll send pics when it’s done.
Thanks Gordon! I’m glad you found me, even if it wasn’t my original photo that brought you here. I hope that your planter construction worked out well! I am still loving mine – my second round of veggies/herbs are currently growing!
Aaaand! Three weeks later, I finally got it done. I couldn’t locate a pre-cut 5 step stringer. Home Depot was out of them. So I took a 4 step stringer and took it over to where they sell the lumber. Then I traced the pattern onto a 2×12, shifting it over to make 5 stairs. Then I cut the stringers myself. Power saws are good. After that it went together pretty fast.
I am so glad to hear it came together for you! I hope the plants begin to thrive as well!
I like new ideas in my garden. I made this for my grandchild to grow lettuce, spinach and other shallow plants. Cost was close to $90.00. The wood came to $25 and the planter boxes were $75. The boxes were 36-inch each -that was what was available. Took about 3 hours to cut and assemble. I highly recommend attaching a brace on the front to give it more stability.
I’m so glad it worked out for you! I love that the parts aren’t complicated or expensive as well. I hope the plants are coming along nicely!
Where did you find the planters? I live near St. Louis, Mo. and haven’t been able to find this size.
Walmart has them…36″ planter boxes, Home Depot has them (a little pricey), you might even find some at a thrift store…I’m sure Lowe’s also has them
I found some of the window box planters at Dollar General for 6.99 each.
I’m gonna have to give this a try! I’m thinking that, for the climate here in Tucson, I’ll need to brace it with some wood, as the planter boxes would crack in the dry heat. Some diagonal cross-braces would make it more sturdy. I’ll update you if it works!
Thanks Lon! I am sure a brace would be a good idea as well…Florida is such a humid climate so I didn’t have to worry about the dry heat as much. Although I’m jealous of it; I love the dry heat in comparison to the humidity!
We went tonight and picked up enough for two of these! We’re going to surprise our daughter with one, also! I might make one for my mother – not sure. Thanks for the wonderful idea. This is a wonderful space saving addition to the garden and a great idea, also, for a patio, with nothing else but flowers. THANKS!!!
I hope they turned out well, Diana! I am so happy we put ours together; I recently started up all 5 boxes with spring mix and basil. Yum!
Do you think that these would work for tomato plants?
A Tomato vine grows to over 6 ft tall, so no. This is for small plants only. I am thinking smaller plants and flowers and herbs would be locely though.
Indeed – this would not be for a tall plant of any kind, like tomatoes. I have grown lettuces and herbs in the containers so far, and it has worked very well for those!
Love this will do it as I have knee problems thanks for the wonder full idea. Now can have fresh veggies again.
It’s definitely nice to be able to have the herbs, etc. at a height where you don’t have to kneel down!
I would add a support on the 2×4’s that would keep them from spreading out plus you could use them as a step to stand and check on the top planter.
A support is definitely a good idea as well!
I hurt my back and dint think I would be able to garden this year. I love gardening, and this is one way to take some of the bending and weeding out of gardening. thankyou for the idea.
I hope it works out well!
It would be far more stable if you add a piece of plywood about 2 or 3 feet long, and cut to the width of the rear supports. Attach it near the bottom. Then add 2 1” X 4″ from the bottom front, the the bottom rear legs. You won’t believe the difference.
John – it seems like that is a popular recommendation! Definitely a good idea to add on.
Brace at the bottom good idea ,,but use biggest washer possible as small ones will tear thru plastic more easily,and use a sealant on the frame to increase life of the frame.,and if you dont already know,,place stones or chunks of broken concrete over drain holes to prevent plugging.
I use coffee filters (unbleached) over all the holes in my various planters. Keeps the soil in and lets the water drain. crumble egg shells in the bottom then add the soil. egg shells will compost in the pot for added nutrients.
I add egg shells to add calcium to the growing plants. Its especially important for tomatoes. Using unbleached coffee filters sounds BRILLIANT. I’ll use that this year! 🙂 Thanks for that idea. Also, if you boil veggies for dinner, SAVE the liquid! Let it cool and pour THAT on your plants. You’re returning the nutrients from your cooked veggies into the soil/plants and they grow better for it!
What a great idea! What type of plants can you grow in these? Everything? I’m interested in getting tomatoes, jalapenos and cucumbers planted in a vertical garden and I just wonder if there is enough root space or maybe if I should aim for deeper containers. Any advice would be great for a newbie.
Great idea … I am going to do this but silicone over the holes that the screws are drilled in and add something on an angle just under the planter boxes to catch the runoff and redirect it into the next box. That way you should avoid damage to the wood and lessen the amount of puddling under the unit.
I have a tonne of lumber left to me by a neighbor. Could you tell me what the measurements and angles are on the risers please? I am making these this weekend I think! LOL!
Building risers are not an easy thing. The ‘teeth’ have to be perfectly 90 degrees, while the rear angle is any number of degrees around 45. I would recommend you buy the risers at the store, and use the extra wood from your neighbor to create the supporting parts of the project.
This website http://www.decks.com/deckbuilding/Cutting_Stair_Stringers gives some information on the process of cutting stair stringers if you still want to do them by hand.
Sorry for the delay – I purchased pre-made stair risers instead of tackling the cuts on my own. It was definitely easy to just grab them off the shelves like that!
Yesterday students from NC State made three of these for underprivileged kids at the Wedge Garden. Thank you. We will share your post on our blog.
I like the idea, but that’s not going to stop rabbits from getting in. Maybe to put a dowel rod in front of the first step and make it as tall as the riser (steps) and then cut chicken wire and use a heavy duty stapler to staple the chicken wire to the dowels would keep cats, dogs, birds, rabbits and other pesky little critters entrance to the plants. You could release one edge for harvesting and weeding.
Thanks for the idea Cheryl! We’ve had this planter for over a year now and haven’t had problems, but this is a good thing to think about as well!
We made ours this weekend! Thanks for the breakdown. It worked out great.
I am so glad to hear that, Julie!!!!
I love this! How much did it all cost?
Actually it wasn’t very expensive for the wood and hardware. The major expense for us was the planters themselves. I would say for the wood and hardware it was approx. $40. The planters were just about that for 5 of them. I shopped around and couldn’t find a better price. The great thing is that once done it can be used season after season. It was worth the investment for us. 🙂
Thanks so much for posting this idea. I have been looking for hours. It will work our perfectly. I appreciate it.
Thank you for your tutorial. I kept it bookmarked for quite a while . . . finally I have gotten around to putting mine together. I have plenty of space in my yard so I made modifications since what I needed was a structure to house my collection of succulents. I used 3-4 stair risers and used fence slats for each of the 4 stairs.
I’m pleased with how it turned out and it’s receiving lots of positive feedback on FB, where I have shared yours as my inspiration!
I’m a total newbie to building things and I’m having trouble finding 20 screws with matching size washers. Could you share what you used? And also what size you used for the 8 additional screws? Thanks!
Made mine just like yours for strawberries but I don’t think our Ohio winter will allow them to stay warm enough with the small amount of dirt in the boxes. Now since securing the boxes to the risers without removing my strawberries how do you suggest I overwinter them? Originally I was going to put the entire structure under my deck against the house and straw cover them but my frame, plants and dirt together are too heavy to move. Other than building a frame cover what would you suggest or found to adequately save my berries from our winter after carefully building up the plants all summer?
Hi Vicki! Hm – that is a really good question…since I live in Florida I don’t have any super cold winter weather to deal with…and our strawberry season here is actually the winter. I wish I had an answer for you!
I haven’t had any luck with long boxes or what they call window boxes. What types of veggies or plants grows well in these boxes. But I do like your step idea!
Are the stringers upside down?
How do I Over winter my strawberries without having to plant new everyyear
This is pretty cool. It would look great under my bathroom window. I think I will add a couple mods to it. 2 more 2×4’s to stabilize the foot and midway. Thanks for the idea.
add some self watering setup to it and it will be even cooler
When the stair planter is finished add plywood or fence boards to the back and one side. Nail them to the outside of the frame. add plywood to the other side, cut to shape. install 2 hinges on the back post to make a door. Hang rakes, shovels or brooms along the back wall. Store fertilizer, dirt, extra pots and other tools inside. I also would add a large sheet of plywood along the inside of steps to help keep the weather out. To be really thorough seal with glue sealant and add a floor to help make it waterproof. Oh why not add a battery Led light and then call it done. lol
Hi, i took this idea & made one with additional support & was trying to add the photo but it won’t let me.
Thank you for the great tutorial! I made one this weekend. I ended up adding a stabilizer piece in the front bottom, but other than that the tutorial was easy to follow.
would it be fine to use all screws for this project, instead of bolt & nuts for the legs?
Would it be fine to use just screws for the whole project? Instead of bolt & nuts for the legs?
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