Vertical Strawberry Tower Plans – How To Build A Strawberry Tower
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I have strawberry plants – lots of them. My strawberry field takes up a significant amount of space, but strawberries are my favorite berry, so there they will stay. Had I had a little foresight, I would probably have been more inclined to build a strawberry tower. Building a vertical strawberry planter would definitely save valuable garden space. In fact, I think I just convinced myself.
Vertical Strawberry Tower Plans
In looking through a dearth of information regarding the building of a vertical strawberry planter, it seems that although an engineering degree might come in handy, some versions of the structure are DIY friendly for the novice architect.
The basic gist for planting in vertical strawberry towers is to acquire material that is already tall, such as PVC piping or a 6- to 8-foot wood post, or stacking something, like two upended 5-gallon buckets and then poking some holes in the material to plant the berry starts in.
How to Build a Strawberry Tower from PVC
You will need six feet of 4 inch PVC schedule 40 pipe when building a vertical strawberry tower with PVC. The easiest way of cutting holes is using a hole saw drill bit. Cut 2 ½ inch holes down one side, 1 foot apart, but leaving the last 12 inches uncut. The last foot will be sunk into the ground.
Turn the pipe by a third and cut another row of holes, offset from the first row by 4 inches. Turn the pipe the final third and cut another row of offset cuts as before. The idea here is to alternate the holes around the pipe, creating a spiral.
You can paint the PVC if you like, but there is no need, as soon enough the foliage from the growing plants will cover the pipe. At this juncture you really just need to use a pole digger or a whole lot of muscle to dig a nice deep hole to set the pipe into, then fill with soil amended with compost or time release fertilizer and plant the berry starts.
Building a Vertical Strawberry Tower with Buckets
To build a strawberry tower out of buckets, you will need:
- Two 5-gallon buckets (up to four buckets, if desired)
- 30” x 36” length of lining material (burlap, weed cloth or garden cover)
- Potting soil mix with compost or time release fertilizer
- 30 strawberry starts
- ¼-inch soaker hose and ¼-inch spaghetti tubing for drip irrigation.
Remove the handles from the buckets with pliers. Measure ½ inch from the bottom of the first bucket and mark this around the bucket using a tape measure as your guide. Do the same thing to the second bucket but mark the line 1 to 1 ½ inch up from the bottom so it will be shorter than the first bucket.
Use a hacksaw, and maybe a pair of helping hands to hold the bucket steady, and cut both buckets where you made your marks. This should cut the bottoms out of the buckets. Sand the edges smooth and test to be sure the buckets nest into each other. If not, you may need to sand the shorter down. Once they nest together snuggly, take them apart.
Make five to six marks 4 inches apart and stagger the marks so they are scattered along the sides of the buckets. These will be your planting spaces. Don’t mark too close to the bottom since the buckets will be nested together. Have someone hold the bucket steady on its side and with a 2-inch hole bit, drill holes in the sides of the bucket at your marks. Do the same with the second bucket, then sand the edges.
Fit the buckets together, place them in a sunny area and line them with your fabric, burlap, garden cover, or what have you. If you plan to use a drip line, now is the time to install it; otherwise, fill the buckets with potting soil amended with 1/3 compost or time release fertilizer. You may want to use clips or clothespins to hold the fabric in place while you fill with soil.
Now you are ready for planting in your vertical strawberry towers.
How to Build a Strawberry Tower with Soda Bottles
Building a strawberry tower using plastic 2-liter soda bottles is a cheap and sustainable system. Again, you can install a drip line using 10 feet of ¾ inch or 1 inch hose or irrigation tubing, 4 feet of plastic spaghetti tubing, and four irrigation emitters. Otherwise, you need:
- An 8-foot-tall post (4×4)
- 16 2-liter plastic bottles
- ¾ to 1 inch screws
- Four 3-gallon pots
- Growing medium
- Spray paint
Cut the bottom of the soda bottles halfway through to create a “lip” from which to hang the bottle and punch a hole through the lip. Paint the bottle to reduce direct sunlight penetration. Set the pole 2 feet into the ground and pack the soil down around it. Place one screw per side of the pole for each of four levels of bottles.
Install irrigation system at this juncture. Tie the bottles onto the screws. Install the spaghetti tubing on top of the pole with one emitter on either side of the pole. Install the one inch pipe pieces on the necks of each bottle.
Place the four 3-gallon pots filled with growing media on the ground. The 3-gallon pots are optional and serve to absorb excess water, fertilizer and salt so any crops planted in them should tolerate moderate to high salinity. At this point, you are ready to plant the strawberry starts.
There are other more complex versions of PVC pipe vertical strawberry tower plans, many of them really neat. However, I am a gardener and not much of a handy woman. If you are or have a partner who is, have a look at some of the interesting ideas on the Internet.
How to Build a Strawberry TowerStanding tall among low growing vegetables, this Strawberry Tower is both decorative and functional.
Photo/Illustration: Michael Gertley Photo/Illustration: Michael Gertley
When June arrives, fresh ripe strawberries are the prize of the garden. Unfortunately, slugs find them just as tempting and often get to them first. This Strawberry Tower, however, keeps the berries well above the ground and reduces the damage done by these persistent marauders. At the same time, it’s an attractive garden centerpiece that saves valuable space. By utilizing its vertical growing area, the tower can accommodate up to 90 strawberry plants. If grown in traditional rows, this number of plants would consume 60 ft. of row space. Also, traditional rows often become choked with runners and young plants, whereas on the tower, runners can be easily snipped off as they appear.
If 90 strawberry plants are too many for your family’s needs, consider growing them on two sides of the tower and planting the alternate sides with flowering annuals such as alyssum, lobelia, pansies, and petunias. By midsummer your tower will cascade with a lush display of fruits and flowers.
When we sat down to design the Strawberry Tower, we originally intended to use a separate finial at the top. But during one of our frequent trips to the lumberyard, we noticed a gothic-style cedar fence post that promised to simplify the construction of our project as well as lower its cost.
The tower is constructed by attaching four L-shaped frame sections to a center post with hardwood dowels. Since the frame sections extend directly out from the four corners, we had to create flat surfaces to accept the ends of the frames. With the frame constructed, it’s just a matter of adding a series of progressively smaller soil-retaining boards to hold in the dirt. Once you set up your table saw to make the compound cuts necessary on the retaining boards, trimming and installing the boards goes rather quickly. The retaining boards also lock the entire frame together, making a sturdy structure that should last for years.
Trim all of the boards to size. It’s a good idea to trim the soil-retaining boards (E thru N) about 1⁄8 in. to 1⁄4 in. full so they can be custom-fitted to the frame during assembly. Trim the overall length of the center post (A) to 6 ft.Photo/Illustration: Jan Gertley
Begin by creating the flat surfaces along the edges of the post where the four frames attach (see the top illustration at right). Use a backsaw to make 1⁄2-in.-deep cuts at one end of each of the flat surface joints. These would total four small cuts 3 1⁄2 in. from the bottom of the post and four cuts 2 in. below the base of the finial. Set the adjustable base of your sabersaw to 45°, then starting at the bottom of the post, trim the four corners until you reach the cuts made with the backsaw. Follow the same procedure
to create the flat surfaces below the finial, starting your cuts about 14 in. below the cuts made with the backsaw. The illustration at right shows what these surfaces should look like when you’re finished. Each flat surface should be about 3⁄4 in. wide and 1⁄2 in. deep.
To construct the four L-shaped sections that attach to the center post, cut all of the side frame boards (C). Attach one bottom frame board (B) to each side frame board with a pair of dowels, as shown in the illustration at left. Use a doweling jig to accurately place the holes for each dowel pin. When all four frame sections are complete, attach them to the center post. Use a doweling jig to drill two holes in each end of the frame sections, then use four dowel centers to locate the position of the holes on the center post (dowel centers slip into the holes in the frame and have a point on the opposite end, which leaves a mark on the post when the frame is pushed into place).Drill the matching holes in the center post and install the four frame sections using four dowel pins for each frame. Allow the joints to dry at least 24 hours.
Next, install the four bottom trim boards (D), as shown in the illustration at right. Notice that the ends of these boards have a 45° bevel (see illustration below). Attach these boards at the bottom of the tower frame with two wood screws (R) at either end. Drive each screw through the bottom trim board, then into the bottom frame board. Always predrill each screw hole to prevent the wood from splitting, especially when they are being installed near an edge.Photo/Illustration: Jan Gertley
Prepare the 10 soil-retaining boards (E thru N) for installation by making compound cuts. Once your table saw is set up for the first compound cut, the rest will go faster than you might expect. First, set the miter gauge to 60°, then tilt the sawblade to 35°. These settings will produce the chamfer along each of the miter cuts. To produce both compound cuts on each soil-retaining board, position the miter gauge to the left of the sawblade, but reposition it to the opposite 60° mark for the second cut. Try cutting a couple of test pieces until you’re comfortable with making the two cuts. Because the frame may not be perfectly symmetrical, it’s best to cut each of the retainer boards a bit full. If necessary, you can trim the boards after testing them in the frame.
Install each set of retainer boards 5 in. above the previous set (as measured along the edge of the side frame board). We found it helpful to pencil the position of each set of retainer boards, including the 35° angle they form in the frame. Use two wood screws (R) to attach each end of the soil-retainer boards.Photo/Illustration: Jan Gertley
After the retainer boards are in, install the top trim boards (O) (see the illustration at right). These boards are cut with simple 45° miters and give the frame a finished look. Secure each one with two 4d galvanized finishing nails (Q). Drive these nails through the trim boards near each mitered edge, then
into the top of the side frame boards. For added stability, we also hammered in four nails near the edge of each miter joint to lock them together.
Finish the tower, if desired. If you make the tower out of a rot-resistant wood such as cedar or redwood, it’s not necessary to add a preservative or finish to the final structure. However, we wanted to extend the life of our tower, so we applied an oil-based semitransparent stain. If you do apply a stain or preservative, read the label carefully to make sure it is nontoxic when cured. Let the tower sit out in the weather for at least two or three weeks.
Photo/Illustration: Michael Gertley
A fter placing the new Strawberry Tower in the garden or other chosen site, fill it with soil. Remove one of the soil-retaining boards about halfway up the tower so you can fill up the bulk of the space using a shovel (see the photo at right). Fill the upper half of the tower using a small scoop or trowel. After watering the soil thoroughly, you can begin planting your strawberries. Throughout the summer, check the soil's moisture daily. The soil in the upper tiers will dry out more quickly than the soil in the tiers at the base of the tower.
How to build a strawberry tower
A strawberry tower is a great way to grow fresh fruit in a limited space, such as on a deck or patio. Here, Master Gardener Charlene Landreau shows how to build a tower out of cheap (or free!) 5-gallon plastic buckets.
*Always use hand and basic eye protection, and follow safety precautions when using tools* http://groups.ucanr.org/ehs/MG/
• Two 5-gallon buckets
• 30&rdquor x 36&rdquor length of lining material (burlap, weed cloth, or garden cover such as Reemay)
• Potting soil mixed with either finished compost or time-release fertilizer pellets
• 1 can of spray paint (optional)
• Approximately 30 strawberry runners, starts, or plants
• 1/4&rdquor soaker hose and a length of 1/4&rdquor spaghetti tubing if using drip irrigation
While this can be a one-person project if you are handy, you might find it useful to have a helper hold things steady while you work.
• 1 or 2 pair of pliers
• Cloth or other flexible tape measure
• Marking pen
• Safety goggles
• Hand drill
• A 2&rdquor diameter hole bit
• Several clothespins
Step 1: Cut the buckets
Using the pliers, remove the metal handles from each bucket. It is easier if you use one pair of pliers in each hand to twist the handle out of its socket. Have your helper hold the bucket still while you do this, or hold it steady with your knees.
Measure up 1/2" from the bottom of bucket one, and use the marker to mark the spot in several spots around the circumference of the bucket. Lay the tape measure along the marks and follow it with the marker to draw a line all the way around. This will be your sawing guide.
The line should be high enough on the bucket so that when you saw through, it just cuts the bottom off and not much more.
Do the exactly same thing to bucket two, but mark your line 1 inch to 1 1/2 inch up from the bottom, so that bucket two will be 1/2 to 1 inch shorter than bucket one.
Lay bucket one on its side on a raised surface, hold it still with either your helper or your other hand, and use the hacksaw to cut the bottom off the bucket along the marker line you drew. Do the same to bucket two.
Use the sandpaper to sand the edges smooth and remove any hanging threads of plastic that remain.
Test your buckets by standing the shorter one bottom up and then inserting the longer one into the first. Because the buckets are designed to nest into each other, and since you cut one shorter and therefore slightly wider, they should go together easily and tightly with just a small twist. If you are having trouble because they seem too tight, you may have to sand or file the shorter one down a little more until you get it wide enough to accommodate the longer bucket. Once you determine that they will twist together snugly, take the buckets apart. Now you are ready to drill the 2&rdquor holes in the sides.
Step 2: Drill the holes
You may want to mark where you will place the holes with your marker before drilling. Make the holes approx. 4&rdquor apart, and stagger them so the spacing seems random. Start the top row just under the thick rim of the bucket. Mark 5 or 6 holes in this top row, 4&rdquor apart. They don’t have to be in a straight line, a little variation is better. The second row will have only 4 or 5 holes, approx 4&rdquor from the top row, but with staggered placement (not directly below the top holes, but off-set between them). You may have room for 2 holes at the bottom, also in off-set placement. Don’t mark too close to the very bottom. Remember you will be tucking the buckets together in the bottom one inch.
Have your helper hold bucket one steady on its side, or you can lay it down between your legs and hold it that way. Wear your safety goggles for this step to avoid plastic dust in your eyes.
Using your drill with the 2&rdquor hole bit attached, drill holes in the side of the bucket at your marks.
Do the same with bucket two. After drilling use sandpaper again to smooth down the edges of the holes and remove any hanging plastic threads.
Step 3: Paint the tower
If you are planning to spray paint your tower, now is the time to do it. Keeping the buckets separated spray paint the outside surface with any desired color. Be sure to select a spray paint that is made for plastic or PVC so it will adhere to the bucket.
Step 4: Assemble and line the tower
When the paint is completely dry (see directions on the paint can) you can fit your two buckets together into the final tower. Slide one bucket bottom into the other and twist them together until they are snug. Be sure they are as straight as you can get them so your tower doesn’t lean to one side. Place your bucket in a sunny spot near a convenient water source.
Line the tower with burlap, weed block cloth, or garden cover material. This will keep the soil from falling out of the holes. Cut a piece of the material the same height as your tower and approx. 36&rdquor wide. The width should be a little wider than the inside circumference of the tower. Place the material inside the tower against the inside wall. Hold it in place with clothespins while you work. A helper comes in handy at this step. Overlap the edge of the lining where the ends meet.
If you are planning to hand-water your strawberries, you can begin to fill the tower with soil at this point. If you are going to use a drip line, see the next step.
Step 5: Connect the drip irrigation
If you are planning to use a drip irrigation line to keep your strawberries watered, run a length of 1/4&rdquor spaghetti tubing to the tower and attach one or two 1/4&rdquor soaker hoses to the line (use a tee connector if you want two soaker lines). You can run the soaker hoses(s) up from the bottom through one of the holes. If you run the hoses(s) down from the top of the tower, secure the end of the hoses(s) at ground level so they stay in place. The hoses should run vertically through the center of the tower to ensure all the plants get water. Use a helper to hold the hoses in place while you fill the tower with soil.
Step 6: Fill the tower with soil
Potting soil with amendment added is the best medium for your tower. Potting soil has excellent drainage, which is critical in a vertical planting like this. But potting soil has minimal nutrients, and they will be used up right away by your plants. So combine the potting soil with about 1/3 finished compost, or mix time-release fertilizer granules into the potting soil in the ratio recommended on the package. These granules will release a balanced fertilizer over a 3 month period. Finished compost will do the same. Strawberries require nutrients to grow and give a good yield of fruit. Do not skip this step!
Slowly add your soil mix into the tower, gently patting it down as you go, to minimize the settling that will occur after you water the first time. As you fill the tower, the soil will hold the lining in place and you can remove any clips or pins that were used. Fill the tower right up to the top because it will settle some after a short time, and you will want to plant 3 or 4 plants at the top of the soil. If you are using a drip line, keep it vertical and centrally situated as you go.
Step 7: Plant your strawberries
Your tower is now full of soil and ready to be planted.
Using a sharp pair of scissors or a pocket knife, make a slit in the lining at each of the holes.
Reach through with your fingers and make a small hole in the soil, deep enough to hold the root portion of your plant, and place one strawberry plant or runner through the slit and into the soil.
Firm the soil into place around the plant. Do this for each hole, and then at the top of the tower plant 3 or 4 of the remaining strawberry plants to finish it off. You can wait a couple of days before planting these top few. Wait for the soil to settle, then add more soil up to the rim of the tower before planting the top.
Once you have planted all the holes, give your tower a good watering. If using drip irrigation, run the system until the tower is moist throughout but not soaking wet. If by hand, water gently from the top of the tower, and use a narrow-spouted watering can to water directly into each of the holes where each plant is located.
A printable version of these instructions (downloads as PDF) is here.
For more information about growing strawberries, see the UC Garden Web.
2. Hanging Berry Basket
A hanging basket planter is another very popular way to grow strawberries. The trailing nature of the runners makes strawberry plants a perfect pairing with an elevated planter.
Fill a hanging basket entirely with strawberry plants, or intersperse them with ornamentals for a double-duty hanging basket. As this idea catches on, more and more nurseries are offering pre-planted hanging baskets of strawberries!
“Add a strawberry plant with red flowers to a hanging basket rather than a flowering annual.”Gardening Your Front Yard: Projects and Ideas for Big and Small Spaces, by Tara Nolan
How to Make a Vertical Strawberry Planter:
Decide on the width of your tower. We made ours about 18 inches across and 3 feet tall.
We counted the number of columns to keep each tower the same size. See the red highlight in the photo below to show what I mean by column.
When you have decided how many columns wide to make your planter, go one column past and then cut the fencing from the roll using wire cutters. Arrows in the photo below will show how the wire should be exposed on one side of the fencing.
Create a cylinder with the fencing and bend the exposed horizontal wires over the joined edges of the tower. This will hold your vertical strawberry tower together and create the form.
Now you’re going to line the inside of your strawberry tower.
If you’re using landscaping fabric:
Measure it to be slightly larger than the tower. Fit it around the inside of the fencing. I found it easiest to hold the fabric along the top of the fencing using clips (find 10 more uses for these dollar store clips) or clothespins.
Next, fill the tower about 30% full with potting or garden soil. Take a box cutter and make slits in varying places, keeping about 2-3 inches between slits.
Gently wiggle a strawberry plant into the slit from the outside. You’ll be inserting the root into the slit so that the rest of the plant is positioned outside of the tower.
Water the soil from the top of the tower, and then fill another 30% of the tower with soil. Continue to add more strawberry plants and soil until you’ve reached the top of the tower.
If you fill the whole thing with soil and then make the slits in the fabric, the weight of the dirt will make it really hard to get everything planted.
I also added two to three more plants to the open top of the vertical strawberry planter.
If you’re using straw:
Add a few handfuls of straw to the inside of the tower. Use your hands to push the straw to the sides of the strawberry planter, creating an empty hole in the center. Add your soil to that hole.
From the outside of the planter, use 2-3 fingers to create a hole in the straw and gently add your strawberry plant into the space.
Water the soil from the top of the tower, and then fill another 30% of the tower with straw and soil. Continue to add more strawberry plants and soil until you’ve reached the top of the tower. I added two to three more plants to the open top of the strawberry planter.
Grow Up! Make a Vertical Strawberry Tower
Grow strawberries vertically with a PVC tower.
When the time comes to plan the garden, my younger niece is only interested in one crop. Sure, she'll grudgingly help plant tomatoes. Cucumbers? Ho hum. Not even cantaloupe sparked her interest. Bring on the strawberries!
We’ve planted just half a dozen plants along the garden fence line the last few years, but in the spirit of planting vertically and trying to satisfy her appetite for the sweet berry, this year we are trying our hand at a strawberry tower. After some asking around, some research, and a lot of discussion, eighteen strawberry plants are not just growing, but flourishing using just a square foot of yard space.
Our “tower” is a six foot length of 4” PVC schedule 40 pipe. Using a hole saw drill bit, we cut 2 ½” holes down one side spaced at about twelve inches, leaving the last foot uncut to sink into the ground. Turning the pipe by a third, another row of holes were cut, offset four inches from the first row. Finally, another one third turn and another offset row of holes were cut. The nieces were then set loose with some cans of spray paint found in the garage to give our whiffle ball tower a bit of artistic flair. They considered several motifs before settling on what might best be described as "postmodern camouflage.” What can I tell you? I don’t know art, but I know what I like. Once the paint dried, a few minutes spent with a post hole digger and our work of art stood tall and proud out by the garden.
Not so tough. But would it support life? Our biggest concern was moisture retention. We were prepared to mount a hose bib for automatic watering, but hoped that wouldn’t be necessary. Packing soil into the pipe didn’t seem practical, but a blend of peat and perlite as our planting medium ended up fitting the bill nicely and should help keep things appropriately soggy. When planting the strawberries, one tower veteran recommended using newspaper to cover the holes until we could get the plants in place. We took a more free-form route, though, enlisting the berry-loving niece to cover the holes one at a time with her hand, pouring the peat/perlite blend to that level, adding a plant then moving on to the next. With all holes filled and two last plants occupying the opening at the top of the pipe, we were good to go.
How’d we do? Water was definitely the top concern for us, but so far we are faring well. Taking the hose to it every few days seems to be doing the job and the plants have remained healthy and hearty. The tower is also yielding fruit steadily, although when I went to take a few pictures, none were to be found. Come to think of it, the berry-loving niece had a curiously satisfied smirk on her face that day.
How to grow strawberries in a vertical garden
The first step is to choose a vertical strawberry planter.
There are many clever vertical planter designs including stackable and hanging planters that are ideal for growing strawberries and only take up minimal space.
This 5-tier strawberry and herb planter can fit 20 plants and there’s no assembly required – each pot fits on top of the pot below.
If you plant 20 strawberry plants you’ll have an abundance of strawberries but you can also alternate the strawberry plants with some culinary herbs or fast growing salad greens.
Vertical hanging planters like this one can be easily attached to a sunny wall in a courtyard or balcony.
It’s made from waterproof material that protects the wall from water damage and the leak-proof design prevents water dripping on the ground underneath.
If you enjoy doing DIY projects you could also make your own vertical planter from old PVC pipe or rain gutters secured to a fence.
Once you have your planter set up, it’s time to get planting.
The best time of year to plant strawberries is early spring, once the threat of frost has passed.
Use a high quality organic potting mix to fill up your planter and place the crown of the plant just at top of the soil, so it doesn’t rot or dry out.
Strawberry plants have shallow root systems, so you’ll need to water your plants regularly, especially during hot weather.
The strawberries will be ready for harvesting about 4 to 6 weeks after the plants flower.
Wait until the berries are fully red before picking. It’s always a good idea to do a taste test before you start harvesting.
Strawberries are perennials, so they’ll come back year after year, but they do best in the first 2 to 5 years, so you may have to replace your plants after that.
As well as regular strawberries, you can also use these vertical garden systems to grow white strawberries, also known as pineberries.
They have similar growing requirements as red strawberries but they produce small white berries with red seeds.
White strawberries taste like a combination of strawberry and pineapple, which is how they get the name pineberries.
So there are my tips for growing vertical strawberries.
With the right planter and a nice sunny spot, you can grow beautiful fresh strawberries in even the smallest spaces.
Here’s a quick video that shows how to make an easy vertical strawberry planter.