How We Grow Food in a Vertical Garden Using Milk Cartons On A Fence – 2022 UPDATE

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
Strawberries on the top row

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 130 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. Watch the short video below for full details

Next we got some curtain poles that we had that were never used and screwed them onto the fence. We started with just 2, since then, we have added another 4 with 132 cartons in total in this area.

Screws added where red dots are for stability
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 Do 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 we moved them out. Parsley was left in over winter and thrived again the following year before we moved them out.

Growing Herbs
Coriander In The SPRING

After the herbs are all done, we 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 the need to be out there constantly watering them. When we had that dry spell over the summer we used the water from the water butt to just top them up with water.

Growing Salads
Lettuce In The SUMMER

We ate these as “cut & come again” removing the bottom leaves to eat as we wanted them.

Pak Choi & Tat Soi In The AUTUMN & Over WINTER

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

The last row that went up has 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.

Nov 2021- Winter Planting- Red Pak Choi
Nov 2021-Winter Planting- Tat Soi
Nov 2021-Winter Planting- White Pak Choi
October 2022 – Strawberries on top row

Where We Are Now

We added the 3rd row in August 2021 with the Pak Choi & Tat Soi in for the winter making that 66.

Summer 2022 we added another 3 rows making that 132 cartons. This has taken over 2yrs to collect from neighbours

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

We Have Just Added Another Set – Repurposed 132 In Total

Planting Up Winter Seeds & Two Weeks Growth


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 No6. 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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Published by buildingafoodforestscotland

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

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