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How to Build a Vertical Balcony Garden

How to Build a Vertical Balcony Garden

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Let’s talk about balcony gardens. No yard? No problem! You can make it work as long as you have enough sun! But how will you have space for an herb garden and veggie containers when you already have a little patio set on your teeny tiny outdoor space? You build up, my friends.

Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

I’m not the first person to come up with the idea of building up to save space, and I’m definitely not the first person to plant a container garden on my balcony. But I’m so happy with how much my little DIY garden apparatus has helped me maximize space that I couldn’t not share it. I’m also just going to put a little feather in my cap because I used wood I took from a dumpster at my apartment complex. Perfectly good wood, thrown away. Some people, right?

Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

I’ve never successfully grown anything edible. Our past apartments have either had no balcony or a balcony that got very little light. Window herb gardens also aren’t an option for us; we tried a little one by a window on a wall that I thought might get enough sun, but it didn’t. When we moved into our current apartment, I knew the balcony had growing potential and couldn’t wait for spring to come. But here’s what was working against us:

  • Our balcony gets some great direct sun exposure, but for most of the day it’s isolated to one small part.
  • We can’t mount anything from the balcony ceiling (i.e., the balcony above us) or the walls.
  • I didn’t want to buy a bunch of railing planters because the ones I liked were more than I wanted to spend. (Although check out this amazing gutter planter I found just today from Boxwood Avenue…adding that to the project list.)

With those three challenges, I decided to build a standalone structure that I could hang herb pots on. That way, I could maximize the space on the balcony that gets great sunlight. Curious how I did it? Read on to learn more.

Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

Supplies

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  • Wood–I used a mixture of my dumpster wood, which was actually crib slats; common pine boards (the knotty stuff); and furring strips.
  • Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer (here) and HGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams Laid-Back Beige paint (here)
  • Flower Pot Klips and eight 6” pots (Note: Pot Klips can hold 5″-8″ standard terracotta pots)
  • Nail gun, drill, and saw
  • Screws, pencil, assorted sandpaper
  • Optional: clamps and spray paint for the pots

Cut List

  • Vertical cross pieces: Three furring strips cut to 4’ each.
  • Horizontal cross pieces: Three 31.5” pieces of pine for the horizontal strips–this was my dumpster wood
  • Base box: To make it easy, I got one piece of 1” x 8” x 8’ pine cut into three 30″ pieces (front, back, bottom) and two 9″ pieces (end caps)

And here’s how we tackled this project.

(Remember to wear a mask and eye protection while sanding and working with wood, and wear an appropriate mask while working with paints, stains, and finishes. Follow the directions and warnings from your particular brand. Do not use any tools without proper training, precautions, and supervision from a professional. Read my full terms of use here.)

Step 1: Before we started assembling the planter, I gave all of the pieces a quick sand using 150-grit sandpaper. Then it was time to create the base box, which is necessary to keep the weight in the bottom of the vertical planter so that it can safely stand alone.

We built this base box by first using a nail gun to attach all four sides to the bottom.

Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

Then, we pre-drilled holes to avoid splitting the wood and added reinforcing screws at corners and other key pressure points.

Make a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

Tip: Since we were working with imperfect wood, we did have some spots that didn’t line up perfectly due to slight bends in the wood. Take a look at this one we encountered after nailing the pieces together:

Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

For those spots, we pulled out a clamp and clamped the pieces together, pre-drilled, and then drilled the screws in. This avoided putting too much pressure on the fragile wood while drilling.

Once the base box was done, we used a drill bit to drill drainage holes in the bottom.

Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

Step 2: Next we attached the three vertical pieces: one on each side of the back and in the middle. We used a nail gun to attach them, then we pre-drilled holes and screwed them on tightly.

Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

Step 3: We used a pencil to mark on the three vertical pieces where we wanted the three horizontal pieces to go. We grabbed some clamps and clamped the horizontal pieces on to help us visualize how it would look.

The clamps also made it easier to shoot a few nails in using the nail gun, which held everything in place when we removed the clamps but hadn’t yet pre-drilled the holes or drilled the screws.

Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

Tip: When positioning the horizontal strips and deciding where to drill the screws, we had to remember that each of the pot clips would need to be drilled on, too.

Step 4: Paint! Since I knew this piece would be out in the elements and the base would hold wet soil, I gave it a coat of primer and two coats of this paint. I am so happy with how much a few coats of paint cleaned this piece up.

Here it is bare, with primer, and painted!

Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony! Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

Step 5: Lastly, I attached the pot clips. I absolutely love these pot clips. They don’t look terribly sturdy, but they hold the pots very well.

Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

They don’t fit all lips–for example, they didn’t fit the 6” pots at Jo-Ann, but they did fit the 6” pots at Lowe’s. The key is the pot’s lip size, not the diameter of the pot’s opening!

I painted my pots using this paint so that they would have a nice contrast with the light beige planter.

Make a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

For my herbs, I planted spicy oregano, parsley, a few sweet basils, thyme, Thai basil, cilantro, and of course catnip. So obviously Henry wanted the Oregano instead.

Make a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

I love how you can easily slide the pots in and out of the hooks! These Pot Klips are great.

Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

I decided to plant lettuce in the box, and they started sprouting just a few days after I planted them. Let’s hope they keep growing!

Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

A last-minute addition to this project was using Liquid Nails to glue pieces of scrap wood on the bottom corners of the planter base. Since we have a solid balcony surface, I wanted to raise the planter a bit to help with drainage. You can see them in the pic above.

When I’m not taking pictures of this for the blog, I actually turn it toward the front of the balcony. That’s the sunny spot! It also gives us much more room when we’re using our bistro set.

Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

Build a vertical balcony garden...what a great way to maximize space to create an awesome garden on a balcony!

I’m so happy with how it looks, and as of this post going up, I’ve managed to keep everything alive. Container gardening can be challenging, but I am happy with how this option has worked out for us so far, especially for our small space.

DIY vertical balcony garden


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Kathy Brock

Thursday 11th of August 2016

Thank you for a great project! I have a wall that has little pins sticking out that I could use for my vertical garden Would you tell me where to find the pot clips?

Brittany Merth

Thursday 11th of August 2016

You are welcome, Kathy! Of course, just click here :)

Carrie Celuch

Wednesday 20th of July 2016

Great blog. Thank you for sharing.

Hans Maerker

Sunday 26th of June 2016

Thanks for this great idea. I mulled about something similar for quite a while, but everything [good looking] took too much space on our balcony. Your idea is just the right one for us. My wife is used to wide open space and when we left the U.S. West Coast to move to Europe, dimension were way smaller.

We are currently in Malta, a small Mediterranean island. To have at least 'some green' around us on this rocky island will be great. That's where your design fits our dimensions. :)

Hans

Brittany Merth

Sunday 26th of June 2016

Hey Hans! I'm so happy to hear you found this idea helpful. Malta is definitely somewhere I'd love to go one day! Good luck with your balcony garden. Having some green does make so much of a difference.

Maria @Pastels and Macarons

Sunday 29th of May 2016

What a fabulous herb garden. I have a backyard but would still love something like this in my backyard!

Brittany Merth

Sunday 29th of May 2016

Thank you so much Maria!

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