-No Waste Wednesday-How We Grow Food in a Vertical Garden Using Milk Cartons On A Fence

What Did We Do?

Not being happy with the amount of plastic that was going to landfill, we wanted to come up with a solution to help reduce that. When researching I came across plastic milk cartons being used on the window sills for herbs, just the bottoms used with drainage holes. I thought why not use them outside for herbs instead, but being in Scotland where it is wet and windy I didn’t want them sitting on the ground or being blown all over the garden on a windy day, so I decided to have them up on the fence.

Winter Planting- Red Pak Choi & White Pak Choi

How Did We Do It?

First we started asking neighbours to save these 4ltr milk cartons for us, as we are Vegan we don’t use them nor did we have anything else big enough to use with a handle. Our neighbours over the last year have sent over more than 80 bottles for us. Not only do we use these milk cartons for our Vertical Garden, we use them as scoops and seed collectors.

After collecting enough to get started we washed them out, removed the labels and cut them to the shape we required, leaving the handles on, but removing the lid section and adding drainage holes to the bottom.

Next I got some curtain poles that I had that were never used and screwed them onto the fence. We started with just 2, since then, we have just added a further one and once we have enough milk cartons the last one of this section will be going up.

How it started
Screws in front & back of the cartons. Not fully pulled in to the fence so the cartons don’t rip

Once the cartons were threaded onto the curtain poles using the handles, I lifted them very slightly with my hand at the bottom and screwed in a screw to the fence (where the red dots are) this was done just to take the whole weight off the curtain pole when the soil and water was in them. This method has worked great and there have been no problems. The first ones have been in place since April 2020

What Did We Plant?

We started off planting herbs in them, once they grew too big, we then removed them and planted them out into the garden around the fruit trees and into other Kitchen Courtyard Herb Garden areas. The coriander grew huge in these cartons over 30cm before I moved them out. Parsley was left in over winter and thrived again the following year before I moved them out.

Coriander
Coriander thrived in here

After the herbs were all done, I planted them out with lettuce, which was amazing, not only does the rain water them well, the drainage holes keep them from being water logged and drips slowly onto the raised bed layer below, which reduces my need to be out there constantly watering them. When we had that dry spell over the summer I used the water from the water butt to just top them up with water.

We ate these as “cut & come again” removing the bottom leaves to eat as we wanted them.
When we first started April 2020. Took a while to collect all the milk cartons

For the winter we have just planted White Pak Choi Red Pak Choi and Tat Soi which have thrived in here too.

The last row that will be going up before we head into winter will have all the strawberry runners we have got from our strawberries this year. They will stay in there over winter and we will move them under the fruit fruits for ground coverage in the spring.

Winter Planting- Red Pak Choi
Winter Planting- Tat Soi
Winter Planting- White Pak Choi

Where We Are Now

Added the 3rd row in August 2021 with the Pak Choi & Tat Soi in for the winter. We now have 66 milk cartons, 22 on each row. Hoping to get that 3rd row in soon to add the strawberry runners from the year.

Clayton busy watering after planting in Aug 2021
September 2021
October 2021

This space has been under development since we moved in, it’s come a long way.

Read more about this area of our garden in the blog post: Building a Kitchen Courtyard Herb Garden in a Small Space in Scotland (Year 1)

This covers Permaculture Design principle No7. Produce no waste. We aim to reduce as much as we can to produce no waste from what we are consuming. Starting by reducing.

Top 5 Reasons To Try This

1. Vertical Garden looks visually pleasing (I think) especially on the black fence that holds the heat keeping the cartons warmer for longer.

2. Makes great use of space you already have.

3. So easy to get started right away. Our kids love this area & watering those cartons. Ideal community project too.

4. Keeps slugs away as they are high up they don’t seem to bother with them.

5. As always the best reason. It’s free. It’s being reused-recycled-repurposed.

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This blog is from the No Waste Wednesday Blogs

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Published by buildingafoodforestscotland

Building a Food Forest -Scotland Edwardian 1903 Home & Garden in Scotland Planting With Permaculture Design

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