Vertical Gardening: Grow Vegetables With DIY Structures, Trellises, Containers

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | February 14, 2024

Woman looking at vertical garden on his fence after reading a vertical gardening guide that explained how to create types of vertical gardens for plants as well as indoor vegetable gardens and ornamental vertical landscape gardens.

With vertical gardening, living in urban areas does not mean you cannot enjoy fresh vegetables from your garden.

You can learn how to grow plants in small spaces with Do-It-Yourself (DIY) structures like trellises and containers.

Vertical gardening methods shown in graphic as caging, staking, trellises, and wall.

Over the years, urbanization has become a trend on an upward trajectory as the world population grows. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), 80% of the world’s population is projected to live in urban areas by 2050.1

This means higher food demands in urban centers. Luckily, vertical gardening can help meet these growing demands.

Plus, vertical indoor gardening can help reduce the era of seasonal vegetables and fruits, thus providing a sustainable solution of consistent year-round production.13

So, What Is Vertical Gardening?

Vertical gardening is a technique for growing plants on walls, fences, or DIY structures like trellises, wall-mounted garden planters, and other vertical surfaces.

The wall supports plants, or they can loop on the pillars, grow on free-standing structures, or hang from baskets mounted on vertical surfaces.

The four main methods of vertical gardening include:2

  • Trellising: Involves creating sturdy vertical supports for climbing vines and plants that can be trained.
  • Caging: Entails spiraling materials like chicken wire mesh into a cylindrical form to prevent heavier crops like melons or squash from overburdening a trellis.
  • Staking: Involves cutting stakes made of wood, bamboo, or PVC, fixing them, and weaving them together with strings to support climbing crops as they grow.
  • Companion Planting: This method allows you to plant more than one crop, and then one crop uses another for support. For example, planting pole beans beneath sweet corn so the beans can use corn plants as support.

Vertical gardening can be done indoors, outdoors, or in private or commercial spaces.3

Difference Between Vertical Garden Indoor and Outdoor

Indoor and outdoor vertical gardens have many differences, as outlined below:

Indoor Vertical Gardening

  • For indoor gardening, plants use pillars, railings, ceilings, pots, and walls for support.
  • Plants growing indoors are not exposed to the same environmental conditions as those outdoors.
  • Plants in indoor spaces rely on artificial lighting.
  • Some indoor vertical gardens have climate-controlled environments.
  • Indoor environments have lower levels of humidity compared to outdoor settings.
  • Lastly, indoor plants require frequent watering because of drier air.

Outdoor Vertical Gardening

  • With a landscape and backyard garden, fences and walls may already be in place and can act as the ideal surface for growing plants.
  • Outdoor vertical gardens receive direct sunlight, which is essential for plant growth.
  • Outdoor vertical gardens are subject to temperature fluctuations.
  • The humidity levels are higher outside compared to the indoor settings.

Vertical Garden Plants

Not all plants can grow in vertical gardens. The choice of plants you grow depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • The availability of space
  • Climate conditions
  • Personal preferences
  • Lighting

The plants that grow in vertical gardens can be edible, aromatic, or ornamental. Also, they can either be annual, bi-annual, or perennial.

Graphic showing the elements needed for a vertical garden including soil, lighting, containers and frames, and water.

The most common plants to grow in vertical gardens include vegetables, herbs, vines, berries, flowers, succulents, ferns, and tropical plants.

Vegetable Vertical Gardening: Learn How To Grow Vegetables With DIY Structures, Trellises, Containers

Vertical gardening lets you maximally utilize a limited space.14 Whether you want to grow zucchini or tomatoes, this urban gardening method is ideal and increases crop yields. David Hillock, a Consumer Horticulturist at Oklahoma University, says that cultivating plants through vertical methods broadens the potential for urban gardening areas.4

Vertical Gardening Systems: What Are Vertical Gardening Structures?

The vertical gardening system comprises the setup, structures, and elements for vertically growing plants. These systems provide support, nutrients, water, and lighting.

Vertical garden structures are the components that plants use for support. Choosing the ideal items or components to create a DIY vertical garden is essential.

That choice depends on several factors. For instance, you should pick a vertical garden structure based on space availability and goals. Also, what you hope to grow, be it flowers, small trees, herbs, or edible plants, also determines the ideal choice.

For edible plants like vegetables, you can learn and understand how to use any of the following DIY vertical gardening structures:

Trellises and Arches

Trellis is one of the most familiar vertical garden structures. It is easy to attach to the ground and raised bed.

Trellises accommodate a wide range of plants. These include the ones trainable to loop and the climbing vines.

Photo that shows the end of a series of vine trellises.

(Image: Fabio Ingrosso19)

Some of the best edible plants and vegetables to grow using trellis include:

  • Vining tomatoes or indeterminate tomatoes
  • Vining squash and gourds
  • Pole beans and peas
  • Cucumbers
  • Melons

Trellis vertical frameworks and DIY structures are made of wood, metal rods, or PVC pipes. The most common shapes include obelisks, tripods, arches, and flat grids.

An ideal material and design depends on the plants you intend to grow. The structure should be strong enough to support the plants you intend to grow.

For example, a plant like a squash needs a sturdy and taller trellis. This is to be able to withhold the heavy weight of squash.

A taller arch requires more base support. So, creating a taller pergola or archway suspended between two raised beds is ideal. Taller arches increase the growing space and are visually appealing.

Creating a long-lasting structure is also crucial. Concrete mesh frames can help extend durability.

Vertical Garden Wall/Wall Garden

A vertical garden wall, also called a living wall, entails a structure attached to a wall providing plant support and a surface to grow on. Usually, this DIY structure is made of wood, metal, or plastic.

It’s suitable for indoor and outdoor spaces. Numerous buildings around the world, both commercial and residential, have vertical wall gardens.

You can arrange the plants in pockets or modules. As plants climb, cascade, or hang on the wall, it adds unique lush greenery to the building. This garden turns a plain wall into a vibrant living artwork.

Photo of a wall garden planted with different types of plants and vines.

(Image: Andriez77720)

Numerous plants can grow well in a wall-mounted garden bed. Edible plants that do well in wall gardens include:

  • Strawberries which are mostly the day-neutral variety
  • Herbs include sage, basil, chives, parsley, and thyme
  • Salad greens, including kale, lettuce, mustard greens, and arugula

Tower Garden

Unlike wall gardens, where plants grow on a wall, tower gardens grow on multiple levels and shelves. With this farming method, trays and columns are stacked together to grow various vegetables at different heights.

The tower garden uses hydroponic and aeroponic systems.5 This helps ensure sufficient water and nutrient delivery to the plants. The hydroponic system is more efficient as it uses 90% less water.15

Several towers used for having indoor plants.

(Image: Mx. Granger21)

Made from PVC, fiberglass, or durable plastic, towers work indoors and outdoors according to their design.

Virtually any plant can grow in tower gardens, including vining and those that can be trained.  Legumes, herbs, strawberries, rapes, salad, and collard greens can do well in a tower garden.

Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets gardening is the use of baskets or containers to grow plants. This container gardening is where planters suspend from walls, ceilings, railings, or free-standing frames.

A typical example of a hanging basket is an inverted planter where plants grow in an upside-down container, and watering is done from the top. The structure uses wire with a waterproof lining, usually plastic, to retain its contents.

Photo of hanging baskets with colorful flowers planted in them.

(Image: S.G.S.22)

This DIY structure is used outdoors to grow decorative plants like orchids and fuschia flowers. However, it is also used indoors to grow vegetables like salad greens, peas, strawberries, and tomatoes.

The baskets are ideal for shallow-rooted plants. You should fill compost-free peat, water-retention gel, and granules to control the release of fertilizers.

Hanging Wall Gardens

A hanging garden is a green wall garden built or attached to a wall, terrace, or balcony. This small urban farm includes hanging basket gardening, which involves suspending containers to grow plants.

However, hanging wall gardens are more than just the use of potted hanging planters. To make a DIY hanging wall garden, you can use other designs like ladders, pallets, fences, and wire mesh.

Several hanging wall gardens displayed in a park.

(Image: Fagairolles 3423)

It occurs indoors and outdoors in commercial, residential, and government office buildings. The structure is used in areas where space is scarce or can suit a mobile farmer or one living in a place for a temporary period.

Strawberries, cherry tomatoes, and different lettuce varieties are some plants you can grow in this garden.

Outdoor Wall Planters

Outdoor wall planters are only suited for spaces out of the house. They’re ideal for doing landscape gardening. They inject natural beauty and lush greenery into your surroundings while maximizing limited space.

Photo of several plants hanging on a house wall with the help of clay pots.

(Image: FatmaZehra ay27)

Outdoor wall planters can be floating shelves, wall baskets, or a ladder. They’re used in balconies, courtyards, and patios as they utilize outdoor space. These DIY structures let you plant carrots, onions, eggplants, cucumbers, garlic, and tomatoes.

Tiered Beds and Planters

Many homeowners have created thriving tiered beds. This is a uniquely structured type of gardening arrangement.

The growing planters are placed in a pattern at different levels and heights. Think of it as growing crops on a hill.

Photo of a tiered bed installed outside a house.

(Image: Ofer El-Hashahar24)

You can place the raised planters and beds by trailing landscape contours. On a steep slope, the beds create retaining walls. To build tiered beds, you require thick materials for durability.

This eye-catching DIY structure offers easy access to plants during planting, pruning, and harvesting. You can grow vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, lemongrass, basil, squash, and onions in tiered beds.

Grow Cabinets

Grow cabinets, known as grow rooms or boxes, come with lighting to help you grow vegetables all year round. These indoor grow cabinets have tiny hydroponic units, allowing them to fit into the smallest spaces.

Photo of an unused grow box or cabinet.

(Image: D-Kuru25)

These self-contained structures provide an enclosed space with controlled environmental factors to optimize plant growth.6 The system controls factors such as light, temperature, humidity, and ventilation in a controlled environment of agriculture.16

With this form of greenhouse gardening, you extend the growing season and offer consistent vegetables all year round. Leafy greens, such as tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, and kale, or herbs like parsley and cilantro, do well in these cabinets.

Vertical Straw Bale Gardening

Vertical straw bale gardening is a technique that involves stacking straw bales together to create a DIY vertical garden.

This gardening involves repurposing straw bales or agricultural wastes of cereal crops like wheat, barley, and oats. This provides self-sufficiency in terms of vegetable needs and is a sustainable farming method.

Photo of several straw bales used for vertical gardening.

(Image: Colling-architektur26)

Plants use the organic matter obtained when straws decompose.

Vegetables that can flourish in a vertical straw bale garden include radishes, lettuce, herbs, peas, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

Most Common Vertical Gardening Elements

Besides having unique structures, each vertical garden also has other distinctive elements. The common ones are listed below:


Soil is an essential component in plant health in vertical and traditional gardens. Plants require this growing medium enriched with nutrients to support their growth.

Absorbent soil is ideal, as it prevents soil compaction, facilitates proper drainage, and retains nutrients and moisture. This stops plants from drying out quickly.

You can mix coir and peat to aerate the growing medium. It makes it lofty and light for your plants.

However, the mixture can be expensive when working in large spaces. Therefore, be sure to scout for alternatives of an economical mixture high in the loft but low in added fertilizers. Then, add well-rotted compost to your chosen mixture as needed.


Controlling the moisture levels of your plants is crucial.7 The growing medium should hold sufficient water so plants do not dry or drown.

Garden watering systems for vertical gardens differ based on various factors. Invest in a rain wand for an outdoor vertical garden to help you reach those hard-to-reach parts. Use a reservoir-based system for an indoor home garden.


Vertical plantings use complete organic fertilizer and finished compost. This helps to lighten your soil and support growth.

Over the entire growing period, the organic fertilizer slowly releases essential nutrients to the plants. That way, you eliminate the hassle of refeeding the plants as they grow. However, you should frequently test your soil to ensure you have the right nutrient levels.


Lighting is also essential for plant growth, whether you are growing your plants indoors or outdoors. However, different types of plants require different amounts of light.

For example, most plants require between 6 and 8 hours of light a day.8 However, others, like the leafy vegetables, are okay with partial shade, especially when temperatures change in the afternoon.

If you are dealing with indoor vertical gardens with insufficient light, you might need to include artificial lighting. In such cases, LED or fluorescent lights come in handy.

Containers and Frames

In vertical gardens, containers and frames hold plants. As such, you must consider the plant’s needs before picking the ideal container or frame.

Plants have different requirements when it comes to soil depth. Therefore, picking deep containers for those vegetables with long roots is crucial.

The material of the container also matters. For example, some plastic containers may crumble over time, especially after prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. So, pick those that resist environmental elements like sun, wind, and rain.

Durable frames extend your garden lifespan. You don’t want to create something that does not serve your needs in the long term.

DIY Vertical Gardening Ideas

Creating DIY structures for vertical gardening is easy. You can simply repurpose and recycle materials from your yard.  This promotes zero environmental waste even as it replenishes your kitchen with fresh vegetables.

Anyone can try many DIY ideas for vertical gardening for beginners. They include:

Pallet Vertical Garden

You can transform a pallet into a perfect vertical garden. Building it involves repurposing wooden pallets into vertical planters.17

Create a unique design DIY Pallet structure. Then, place the pallet anywhere, on a patio or porch.

Photo of a pallet garden with flowering plants installed by the terrace.

(Image: Stephanie Booth28-)

You need pots or baskets for planting your vegetables.

Beautifully label each shelf to make it easy to identify the specific vegetables. Salad greens, sage, rosemary, peppermint, basil, thyme, parsley, and marigolds can do well in a pallet near your kitchen.

Bamboo Trellis

Creating a vertical garden is a simple project. Lash several together to make a rustic tuteur or obelisk if you can access bamboo sticks.9

You can also grab long limbs that you can salvage from your yard or thrift store. Then, train vines like Morning Glories or Black-eyed Susan to create a perfect focal point.

Hanging Basket Garden

Creating hanging baskets in the garden is easy. You only need to grab the same-sized baskets and fill them with soil. Then, suspend them outside using strings attached to a wall or ceiling.

Ladder Planter Vertical Garden

This is created to resemble a ladder. To make a simple ladder, you need gardening tools like a saw, a pocket hole jig and driver, a drill, a finishing nail gun, a speed square, and a sander.

Place a wooden planter box on each rung. Then, make your ladder lean against the wall.10

Vertical Gardens Pros and Cons

Like any other DIY project, vertical gardens have their upsides and downsides. Familiarizing yourself with them allows you to decide whether a vertical garden is the best choice for your gardening needs or not.

Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of DIY vertical gardening you should consider.

Vertical Gardens Pros

  • Consistent Vegetable Production Throughout the Year

The first advantage of having a vertical garden is that it allows you to grow your crops all year round. In other words, you stop being dependent on the weather when it comes to planting your favorite crops. According to Cambridge HOK, vertical gardens help guarantee fresh vegetables, regardless of the season or the gardening zones.11

Traditionally, normal farms require fertile land and conducive weather to grow vegetables. This is not the case for vertical gardens. They can be built anywhere, no matter the type of climate.

Vertical gardening pros and cons demonstrated by a list on a graphic showing a vertical tomato garden.

In other words, a vertical garden eliminates the effects of Mother Nature. Through this kind of gardening, seasonal planting will be a thing of the past. Since vertical farming is done in a managed or controlled environment, you get consistent produce, which gives you peace of mind the entire year.

  • Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Vertical gardens also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As the production of vegetables and other crops increases in urban areas, fewer products are sourced from rural areas.

As a result, transportation needs are reduced, which, in turn, lowers the use of fossil fuels like diesel and petroleum. It reduces carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels from trucks, trains, and ships.

  • Minimizes Usage of Water

Water is a vital factor for growing plants. However, vertical gardens reduce the amount of water you need for your plants.

Vertical farming mainly uses hydroponic systems. These systems are famous for reducing water usage.

Water in such systems is usually retained and does not run off or drain into the environment. It is then reused to water the plants, minimizing wastage.

  • Zero Use Pesticides and Other Chemicals

With vertical gardens, you do not incur the cost of spraying pesticides and herbicides on the plants. This is because plants do not make contact with infected soil. Usually, the soil in uncontrolled environments contains microorganisms like fungi and bacteria that easily infect your plants.

However, the controlled environments in indoor vertical gardens eliminate this danger. Plants here are not infected with diseases, which ensures healthy plants that do not require pesticides or herbicides.

  • Better Use of Limited Space

Vertical gardening works in tiny spaces and can be done anywhere. For instance, you can grow your plants in apartments, backyards, or commercial buildings. This is because the garden expands upwards, making better use of limited spaces.

As a result, you can enjoy fresh vegetables and crops from your garden, whether you live in an apartment or your own compound. Apartment gardening is one of the best ways to grow plants in small spaces, especially indoors or on balconies.12 People with a small backyard can also grow and enjoy fresh produce from their backyard vegetable garden.

The greatest advantage of vertical gardening is increased productivity in minimal spaces. Usually, a one-acre vertical farm can yield crops 10 to 20 times more compared to a traditional farm of the same size.18 However, this depends on the type of crop.

A research horticulturist, James Atland, based in the Application Technology Research Unit in Wooster, OH, confirms this.

Vertical Gardens Cons

Even with all those upsides, vertical gardens also have their downsides. If you want to venture into vertical gardening, here are some disadvantages you should consider:

  • Vertical Gardening Can Be Expensive

Vertical gardening can be more work-intensive than growing plants in traditional gardens. For example, just creating a structure from scratch takes considerable time. It also requires investing in the right gardening supplies.

You can decide to go with pre-made structures. However, you still need to factor in their purchase cost, which can easily exceed $100.

  • Limits the Plant Selection

The structure of your vertical garden determines the type of plants you grow. This means that some plants cannot do well in certain structures.

Some heavier plants require larger or heavy-duty structures, which translates to higher purchase costs. If you buy a smaller structure, it might not support the plants you intend to grow.

A good example of this is container gardening. It limits the type of plants you can grow due to size. For instance, it works well for plants with shallow roots. Those with deep roots might lack enough space to flourish.

  • Increased Maintenance and Upkeep

Maintenance and care requirements are high with vertical gardening. For example, while a traditional garden uses natural elements like rainwater, plants in vertical gardens are not exposed to such.

Therefore, if you have a vertical indoor garden, you must spend time or invest in a watering system. There is increased care, too. You must ensure that the watering system does not leak, as it can result in mold damage.

Also, vertical gardens need increased fertilizer. This ensures that the plants have everything they need to flourish in soil with limited nutrients.

Lastly, many plants also need regular pruning to control the spread of the branches to unwanted spaces. Vertical gardening may also require hand pollination, which can be laborious.

Although there are some drawbacks to vertical gardening methods, the visual results can be stunning and only limited by your own imagination.

Frequently Asked Questions About Vertical Gardening

What Are the Different Layers of a Vertical Garden?

A vertical garden’s primary structural components include a three-layer sandwich of frame, fabric, and plastic sheeting. A no til garden uses layers of organic materials to establish plants.

What Are the Three Types of Vertical Gardens?

A vertical garden can be wall-mounted, free-standing, or balcony-suspended.

What Is the Difference Between Vertical and Horizontal Gardening?

Vertical gardening involves utilizing upright surfaces like walls and other DIY structures like trellises, whereas horizontal gardening entails growing plants only on traditional ground or beds.


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