Vertical Garden | Permaculture Thailand

Goin’ Vertical !

So we’ve been rampin’ up the urban projects here at the Rak community, to show our wonderful students just how darn simple it is to build super rad, super producing gardens in very small spaces! Heaps of kids have been passing through our courses and been wanting to know what they can do in an urban setting to start implementing their knowledge practically! So myself (Na) and Molly sat down, and started sketchin’ up some designs that anybody in the world can build that can produce a serious amount of food. This course we build 3 vertical systems, but I’m gonna be a-talkin’ about Molly and Na’s UPCYCLED Pumpless Vertical Garden. We came up with this little initial draft sketch based on these links:

vertical garden sketch

vertical garden design

The idea is based off some vertical garden hydroponic systems we saw online – though we got thinkin’, what if you don’t have a pump available and you don’t want to spend the money buying expensive materials, can you still replicate a hydroponic system, or near enough? A vertical hydroponic system usually works by having water drain to the bottom to an overflow type structure in which a submerged pump pumps the water back to the top or the system. Instead, we planted water hungry plants at the bottom of our system that will drink the SHIZ out of the excess water! And, just in case, there is an overflow that spills over into a pipe that flows the water out onto our banana circle (which we talked about in our last post!) We’re closing the loops in our system one design at a time!

Here’s what we used:

-Plastic water bottles (You will need 1 at the top of each tower to feed water through, the rest are for planting. For example, we used 6 bottles: 2 were water feeders, 4 were planters.)

-Electric drill with small and larger bits
-Exacto knife
-Dark spray paint, house paint, acrylic paint
-Some Rope
-Herb seeds/cuttings
-Compost Tea
-Small Stones/Pebbles
-4 inch PVC pipe

vertical garden MOLLYNA

Cut holes in the pipe to place your plants. We painfully cut circular holes by puncturing holes with the drill. If you have access to a powered hand saw, it’d make your life heaps easier! Then cut pipe to desired length and attach pipe ends to close the pipe! Eaaassyyy.




Paint half of the bottle black! Since we only have 4 bottle planters, 4 we only painted 4 of the bottles. From the cap down to approximately half way down the bottle, we painted the bottle black as the roots of our plants prefer darker environments, as this simulates the roots themselves being underground. ! And feel free, whilst your in your painting zone, to decorate the pipe planter and the rest of the bottles with super rad patterns!


Start cutting and drilling the bottles (once the paint has dried)!
– We used 6 bottles. In every bottle cap, we drilled 3 tiny tiny holes for the water to drain through. Simple.
– Next, we cut a square-ish hole in the 4 bottles we painted in the non-painted part! These four bottles will be our planters.
– On the bottom of the 4 bottles we cut squares in, we cut holes the size of each bottle cap so that we can shove each bottle inside the other!
– Finally, with the two bottles at the top of our stack, we cut the ends of completely!

STEP SEE (that’s thai for four!):
Since we’ll be hanging both the bottles and the pipe, we need to cut and drill holes so that we can tie rope through. We drilled a hole at the end of each pipe, big enough to fit the rope through. Then with each of our ‘feeder’ bottles (the 2 non-painted ones) we cut four holes on the bottom of the bottles.


STEP FEM (it’s danish):
Attach the bottles together! Take of the lids of the bottles, and screw each head into the bottom hole that was cut. Start with the feeder bottle, screw that into a planter bottle, and once the two bottles are attached, you can screw on the lid! Then, with the two bottles attached, screw on the next. And we have one bottle stack completed!If you wish, you can seal the bottles once attach with silicon to strengthen the bond. We did!

STEP SEX (it’s new-zealand-er-ish):
TIE UP THE DEVICE!  Find a nice sunny spot inside that would be suitable for the types of plants that you want to have (we chose ‘erbsss). Ok, so rather than putting in the soil and gravel and plants first, we found a place to hang our system then put in those elements. But I suppose it doesn’t really matter which order you do it in. First, tie up the pipe. Nice one. Then the bottles! We are hanging the bottles UPSIDE DOWN, so flip around the structure, tie some knots together, and tie the bottles upside down, leaving a small distance between the bottom bottle and the pipe as you don’t want them to be touching. Maybe 6 inches or so. It should look like THIS:


Next add your soil and gravel! In the pipe (which is 4 inches wide) we places about two inches of gravel at the bottom, then, in each hole, place a cut up plastic bottle that fit the hole too size, and inside that plastic bottle we filled it up with soil! With the upside down planter bottles, we filled up the soil to the black paint was no more!


And lastly, pour some water through (we added bio-tea in our mix to ramp up those microbes) and watch the water slowly drip through! This is what ours turned out like:

vertical garden final

Our finished vertical garden!

We planted in the bottom pipe water loving plants, mint and butterfly pea (a delicious flower the thai’s love for tea-brewin’) and in the planters, lemon balm, basil, cumin, and something else. Ambitious perhaps, but over the next few weeks we will have a pimpin’ vertical garden right above our kitchen sink! All materials, ALL, were found on site, we bought nothing at all! It took us 3 hours with several hands on deck to make our pumpless, up cycled, vertical garden, and it turn out wonderfully.

Thanks for reading. Keep on Rakin’ super-friends.

Molly, Na, and the Rak Community.