Gardening is a great way to get outdoors, enjoy nature, and to get some fresh produce in your life. But it can be challenging to garden if you don’t have a yard—or if your yard just isn’t in the right place to get that much-needed sun. This DIY vertical planter creates more space by growing up instead of out, and, even better, it’s easy to move to wherever the sunshine is. It can even be used for an apartment balcony garden!
I love how versatile this vertical wall garden is for the above reasons, and how customizable it is, too. Our design is 30” wide and 64 1/2” tall and has four hanging planters in two different sizes, but you can change the dimensions, the number of planters, or the type of wood. You can buy vertical garden kits (like this one from Williams Sonoma that costs $270), but why would you want to when you can make something that’s truly yours for less money?
Speaking of gardening, we’re excited to head back to the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival for our fifth year. We'll have some fun projects on hand to help you get set up for spring, and we'd love to see you at the show (which runs February 20-24). We'll be in the Dunn DIY booth, which is booth 707. Stop by and say hi!
Note: We’re splitting this project into two parts. The first part is the trellis and the second is the planters.
Part One: Trellis
Trellis Step 1: Cut Lumber for Trellis Frame
Most of the wood for this project is cedar. We picked cedar because of its beautiful looks and its natural durability in the Pacific Northwest environment. Cedar is naturally rot- and bug-resistant, making it a great choice for your backyard. You can add to its durability with Penofin Verde (an all-natural stain) or LifeTime Wood Treatment’s non-toxic wood stain to help it gray beautifully.
You can make all of these cuts with a hand saw, circular saw, or a chop saw.
- Cut the 8’ two-by-four into four equal parts for the feet (2’ each)
- Cut the cedar channeling to two 60” lengths for the sides of the trellis
- Cut a 30” piece from one one-by-two for the capping on the top of the trellis
- For the rungs, cut the remaining one-by-twos into 14 pieces that are 28 ¼” long
- Cut the one-by-six and the one-by-four to 28 1/4” for the top and bottom decorative pieces
- Cut your two-by-two down to 30” for the capping on the bottom of the trellis
Trellis Step 2: Pre-Drill Holes
Because this is an outdoor piece, we’re not going to worry about sanding, but if you want to, that’s totally up to you!
After cutting, we’re going to measure and mark the sides of the trellis for pre-drilling. Measure down the “outside” (or the back side of the channel) of your two 60” channel pieces. Find the center down the length of the wood and mark at these measurements: 3/4”, 4 3/4”, 8 1/4”, 11 3/4”, 15 1/4”, 18 3/4”, 22 1/4”, 25 3/4”, 29 1/4”, 32 3/4”, 36 1/4”, 39 3/4”, 43 1/4”, 46 3/4”, 50 1/4”, 53 3/4”, 57 1/4”, and 59 1/4”. These marks will line up with the decorative boards at the top and bottom as well as with the one-by-two rungs spaced 2” apart. Note that where you start measuring is going to be the top of the trellis sides. Pre-drill at all these marks with a 3/32” drill bit.
Trellis Step 3: Assemble Top
Now that everything is pre-drilled, it’s time to start assembling. Apply glue to one end of your one-by-six decorative top piece. Slide it into the top of one of channels. Rest the other end of the one-by-six inside the other channel so that the board stays level while you secure it. Secure with 2” screws through the top two pre-drilled holes.
Don’t worry about the other channel, we’ll get to that later.
Trellis Step 4: Add Rungs
Before attaching the rungs, I like to lay them all out in order. Cedar lumber varies in color and I didn’t want a bunch of light boards at the top of the trellis and then all of the dark ones at the bottom, so I mixed it up.
Line up the rungs one by one along the channel below the one-by-six. I used a speed square and a couple of one-by-two scrap pieces cut to 2” as spacers to make sure the rungs were perpendicular to the side and properly spaced, and I propped up the opposite ends of the rungs on the other channel. When you’re ready to attach them, apply a liberal amount of glue to the end of the rung and secure in place with a 2” screw. Work your way down to the bottom until you run out of rungs. Your rungs may get slightly off center of the pre-drilled holes, but don’t worry if it’s just a little. If it gets to be too much, you can lessen the gaps between rungs slightly.
Trellis Step 5: Assemble Bottom
Once you’ve attached all the rungs, it’s time for the decorative bottom piece. Apply glue to one end of the one-by-four, then slide it into the bottom of the channel. If the gap between the one-by-four and the rungs isn’t 2”, don’t worry about it. I don’t think it’s noticeable enough to make a difference. Secure with 2” screws through the bottom two pre-drilled holes.
Trellis Step 6: Attach Opposite Side
Now it’s time to secure the other channel. Start by applying a liberal amount of glue down the inside of the channel. Then, with the ends of the rungs hanging off the edge of your workspace, bring the channel in at an angle from the bottom so that all of the rungs (as well as the top and bottom pieces) are caught and easily slide into the channel. Once that’s done, it’s smooth sailing. Secure the top and bottom pieces by lining them up with the ends of the channel, then use the spacers to line up all the rungs evenly. Secure everything with 2” screws.
Trellis Step 7: Add Caps
Next, add the caps. Place the 30” piece of one-by-two as a cap on the top of the trellis (the end with the one-by-six). Line up the ends, then pre-drill and secure with 1 1/2” screws. Place the 30” piece of two-by-two at the base of the trellis, matching up the ends with the channeling, and secure with a couple of 3” screws. Make sure to note where you’re putting these screws for the next step.
Trellis Step 8: Add Feet
Grab your two-by-four pieces for the feet. Take the pieces and measure halfway in from the end. Now, measure out 3/4” on either side and mark. Pre-drill between the marks, then secure the feet to the trellis with two 3” screws from the bottom of the two-by-four up through the two-by-two.
Trellis Step 9: Corner Braces
Add braces to the back side between the feet and the trellis body. This will help support the weight of all the dirt that’s going to fill those planters. Secure with 1 1/2” screws.
Part Two: The Planters
Planters Step 1: Cut Vertical Planter Wood
Now it’s time to make the planters. You’ll notice in this design that we used cedar, spruce, and plywood. Both the spruce and plywood were used as a cost-effective alternative to the cedar in less visible parts of the planter—keep that in mind as you’re making yours.
As I mentioned previously, this project is so wonderful because it’s customizable. You could fill your trellis with planters, or keep it simpler with one or two. Today I’m sharing cutting directions for one small planter and one large one, but as always—make it yours.
A note before we get started: Planter cuts are made easiest with a circular saw.
Cutting directions for one small planter:
Cut your tongue-and-groove boards into three 11” pieces for the front of the planter. For the bottom, I used a one-by-eight piece of spruce I had lying around and cut it down to 9”. This was to save cost on a piece that won’t be seen. (If you don’t have a one-by-eight, you can cut a rectangle measuring 7 1/4” x 9” from the half-inch plywood.) From the half-inch plywood, cut a rectangle 9” x 9 3/4” for the back of the planter. For the sides, cut the one-by-10 into two 9 3/4” pieces and then cut at an angle along the side so that the bottom is 7 3/4” wide.
Cutting directions for one large planter:
Cut tongue-and-groove boards into two 26” pieces for the front of the planter. Cut one 24” piece from the one-by-six fence board for the bottom (this piece can also be substituted for spruce or plywood as it won't be visible). Cut your half-inch plywood to 24” x 6 1/2” for the back of the planter. For the sides, cut the one-by-eight into two 6 1/2” pieces and then cut at an angle along the side so that the bottom is 6” wide. Cut a third one-by-eight piece slightly smaller for a middle support in the planter. Cut to 5 1/8” long, then cut at the same angle so that the bottom is 5 ½” wide and the top is 6 ½” wide.
Planters Step 2: Attach Bottom and Sides
These instructions will work regardless of your dimensions.
Start with the bottom and side pieces. Line up the bottom piece with the bottom (or narrower) end of the side pieces so they’re flush with the perpendicular side. I laid my bottom piece on a lattice scraps to create a slight lip. Pre-drill and secure the sides to the bottom with glue and 1 ½” screws.
Because wet glue makes things slick and can make pre-drilling harder than normal, I like to pre-drill one side first before adding glue. Then I wait to pre-drill the other side until I’ve secured the first screw. I’ve found this technique results in more consistent, precise results.
Planters Step 3: Attach Back
Fit the plywood back in between the sides (you may have to cut it to fit) and line it up with the angled cut of the sides. If it’s a tight fit, it should hold nicely while you pre-drill, otherwise you can use a bar clamp to hold it in place. Pre-drill and secure the sides to the back and the back to the bottom with glue and 1 1/2” screws.
Planters Step 4: Add Support Piece (For Large Planter Only)
To keep the larger planter strong and sturdy, we’re adding a support piece. Fit in the smaller one-by-eight support piece into the middle of the planter and secure through the bottom and back with 1 ½” screws and glue.
Planters Step 5: Assemble Front
Next, add the fronts. Fit the tongue-and-groove boards together and line them up with the front of the planter box. Center them so that the overhang of the front panel is equal on both sides (approximately 1/4”). Pre-drill holes and secure the front to the sides and bottom (and to the support piece for the large planter) with glue and 1 1/4” screws. I used truss head screws on this part for a more decorative effect.
Because cedar is a soft wood, the truss head screws have a danger of overdriving and creating dents in the wood around the screw. To prevent this from happening I used the very lowest clutch setting on my drill and went slowly.
Planters Step 6: Add Drainage Holes
With a large drill bit (I used a 3/8”), drill holes in the bottom of the planter for drainage.
Planters Step 7: Attach Hooks
Attach a hook upside down on the back side of the planter at either end. Be careful to avoid the screws on the side and pre-drill through the holes on the hook. Secure with 1 1/4” screws. For the large planter, attach a third hook in the middle and secure it into the middle support piece.
Planters Step 8: Caulk
Finally, caulk the inside seams of the planter box to prevent soil from breaking through the seams. I caulked along the front seams because the tongue and groove is fairly lightweight, and along the back seams because of some gapping between the plywood and the rest of the planter. For aesthetics, I started the caulk ½” down from the top of the planter so that it wouldn’t be visible. Let dry.
Hang the planter boxes and you’re done! Put the trellis in a nice sunny spot, fill it with soil, plant a garden, add a mason beehive, and watch as your bounty grows. You might even decide to grow a cocktail herb garden like we made last year!