I’ve been a fan of tower gardening for a long time. Each year, I create a new tower from old scraps or spare equipment, different from the previous year.
Of course, you can buy a professional hydroponics tower gardening system, but if you want to make your own tower garden, there are plenty of methods to use — and it doesn’t have to be hydroponic, either.
The beauty of tower gardening is you can plant tons of flowers, herbs or vegetables and it takes up only a tiny footprint. Ready to get started?
What is Tower Gardening
Tower gardening is exactly what it sounds like. You grow plants vertically instead of in the traditional horizontal layout. You can have multiple levels and many different designs — as long as it goes up instead of out, there are no rules.
A tower garden can be a complex, multi-level system with all the bells and whistles, or it can be as simple as making a tepee and growing beans up the posts.
A tower garden can be hydroponic or not. None of my towers have been hydroponic because my goal is to do it all without cost or at least minimal cost.
If you’re feeling ambitious, there are plans out there so you can build your own hydroponic tower garden.
You can also use them indoors or out. Some designs lend themselves to being used in the garden, while others are perfect for a spot in the kitchen.
The beauty of this type of system is that, in most cases, the higher levels drip water to the lower levels, so you don’t waste any water.
You can grow almost anything in a tower garden from flowers to herbs to veggies. The only limit is your imagination and what you have on hand to construct it.
There’s no need to spend money on expensive store-bought tower gardens. You can make your own and it’s a lot more fun. The kids love helping with this project, too.
Tower Gardening Ideas
Once you make your first tower garden, you’ll be able to come up with other designs because you’ll figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. So don’t be afraid to jump in and play around.
To get you started, here are a few options.
1 – Terracotta Pot Vertical Planter
This is not only one of my favorite tower garden designs, it’s also one of the easiest to start with. You really don’t need much to build one. You may already have the things you need lying around in your potting shed.
You’ll need five terracotta pots, each one slightly larger than the next. They must be different sizes for this to work. I prefer a 6-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch, and a 14-inch pot.
You’ll need a length of rebar cut to about 36 inches in length to secure the tower in place. You can also use a wooden dowel, but you’ll need to stain or seal it so it doesn’t rot. The rebar is much stronger.
If you’re using the tower indoors, you’ll need a base for the 14-inch pot. It should be something that can hold water. If it’s outside, no base is required.
- Put the largest pot where you are placing the tower. If it’s inside, put it on the base.
- Fill this with your growing medium to about 3 inches from the top.
- Push the rod through the center of the soil. If the tower is outside, push it into the ground a couple of inches. If it’s inside, the base will stop it going any further.
- Place the next-largest pot onto the largest pot by threading the drainage hole over the rebar. Push the pot all the way to the soil in the largest pot. Fill the second-largest pot with your growing medium.
- Repeat the process until you have a tower of five terracotta pots.
- You’ll have a few inches of soil exposed around the edge of the pots. This is where you’ll plant your plants.
This design is great for herbs that like to hang, like strawberries or tomatoes. Flowers look particularly nice with this design.
2 – Strawberry Tower
Similar to the terracotta tower, but the strawberry tower is even easier to build. You can also use gravity to water these pots, so you only need to water the top one.
Use either 5-gallon buckets or the 5-gallon pots you get when you buy a sapling from a nursery.
Drill or cut several 2-inch holes in the bottom of the pots and the sides. The side holes are important because that is where the strawberries will grow out of.
Fill the bottom container with potting mix halfway, and then stack on the next one. You can continue to do this until the height you want is reached.
On the top container, place a plastic water bottle to tip water into the soil.
Cut off the bottom of the water bottle and remove the cap. Place it upside down in the top container, then fill the container with potting mix.
The end of the bottle should stick out from the soil about an inch. The bottle opening is where you’ll water the whole tower.
Simply plant strawberries in the side holes of the tower and at any of the exposed soil.
Keep well watered.
3 – Wire Cylinder Tower
While you can grow anything in tower gardens, flowers look quite stunning if you get it right. Gather some fencing wire or chicken wire and construct your tower as close as possible to where it will end up. Once filled with potting mix, it will be heavy.
Form the fencing wire into a cylinder that fits inside a large plant container. Ensure your wire cylinder fits into the flower pot at least two-thirds of the way down the inside of the pot so that it’s stable. One-third of the wire can stick out of the pot.
Secure the ends together with cable ties to keep it in the cylinder shape.
Line the inside of the wire cylinder with landscape fabric. Leave about four inches of overlap to fold over the top lip of the wire cylinder. Fasten with cable ties.
Now you should have the lined fabric cylinder securely inside the flower pot.
Start filling the cylinder with a potting mix. Fill 1/3 of the cylinder and water lightly. This gives the soil a chance to settle.
Fill to 2/3 full and lightly water again. Finally, fill to about 6 inches from the top.
Fill in the edges of the flower pot with soil, because this can be planted out as well.
Cut a cross shape in the landscaping fabric at various points. I cut every second or third rectangle of the wire.
Don’t cut all the way down to the flower pot. The last line should be about four inches above so the lowest flowers hang over the edge.
Plant flowers into the cuts you made and the edges of the flower pot. Your end goal is to have a complete cylinder shape of color and texture.
You want to use lots of plants with different colors – both in the foliage and the blossoms. You also want to look for foliage that has lots of different textures. This gives the tower some visual interest.
Alternately, you can use just one variety for a big, bold statement.
Keep an eye on the water level of the soil, since it tends to dry out quicker in this set-up.
4 – Potato Tire Tower
Although it’s not pretty, this has to be the most basic tower there is. All you need is three old car tires, soil and seed potatoes.
Place a tire where you want to grow your potatoes and fill with a couple of inches of soil. Place four or five seed potatoes in and cover with soil to the top rim of the tire and water well.
Now, wait for the potatoes to grow. Once they push through the surface, simply place the second tire on the first and add a little more soil.
Each time the potato plant pushes through the soil, add more. When you get to the top of the second tire, either stop there or add a third tire and continue adding soil.
Don’t go higher than three tires because the tower becomes unstable if you make it too tall.
5 – Milk Crate Tower
If you have unused milk crates, you can stack them on top of each other to create a tower structure. This works best for plants that trail and climb.
Place potted plants with drainage holes inside each crate and then secure the crates together with zip ties.
Water the top plant and the excess water will drip down into the lower plants. This can be a messy set-up, so don’t use it indoors.
Other Materials for Tower Gardening
We’ve mentioned a few tower gardening ideas, but there are so many more and the sky is the limit. You could also use:
- PVC pipe – you can drill holes in 3-inch PVC, fill it with soil, and plant seeds
- Wooden boxes – stack them on top of each other
- Wooden pallet – there are lots of ways to use them in the garden
- Recycled plastic bottles
- Galvanized garbage cans
- Old ladders
- Cinder blocks
What Plants Grow in a Tower Garden?
You can grow pretty much anything in a tower garden that you can grow in a container. Consider:
- Bell pepper
You need to ensure your particular tower can take the weight of a larger plant and fruit. Either the tower or the plant itself may need extra support.
Get Your Tower Garden On
Tower gardening is great for smaller spaces, people who don’t have time for large gardens, or for a fun project. You can use them to beautify spaces and grow food — or both.
You can make towers out of different things you already have around the house. Or, if the mood strikes you, you can also buy more expensive hydroponic tower gardens.
Experiment and have fun. What other design can you come up with? If you have success with garden towers we’d love to hear from you.