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Vertical gardening appeals to me for several reasons. My yard is small, the housing development is new and on the outskirts of town, thus overrun by rabbits, and badly infested with numerous noxious weeds (which will take several years to eradicate without chemicals).
Instead of erecting a traditional fence which would block sunshine from my miniscule yard, I elected to try a vertical garden which would also serve as a fence. My inspiration came from the Instructables website, but it seemed much too small and far too unstable.
The method of cutting the horizontal pieces, the rails (as I call them) is known as the French cleat. Although the fence on the Instructables site does not appear to be very tall, I wondered if I could adapt it to fit my purposes. Why not?!
Here we have three 4x6 inch posts, each 10 feet long, set in concrete. The above-ground portion is ~ eight feet. They are set slightly less than eight feet apart.
The next consideration was the number of planter pots and the weight and load tolerance of wood. I needed to decide, should I purchase 2x6 or 2x8 inch lumber for the rails. Trying to find a carpenter who could answer my questions was more difficult than anticipated. I was very fortunate to find a fellow at Home Depot (in the lumber section of course) who was curious about my project to the point of wanting to help. Fortunately, he lived not far from my place. As I later learned, part of his interest stemmed from wanting to do something similar for both his wife and daughter (both of whom also love to garden, also live in this development area and are likewise beset by weeds and rabbits in their similarly small yards).
He had scraps of 2x6 and 2x8 in his garage as well as a table saw which he could set to cut the angles required. And so we experimented. Both sizes of wood were easy for him to cut, but given the span between posts, the likely number of pots and weight of said planters once filled with dirt and even wet dirt to say nothing of the (fairly negligible) weight of plants, we chose the 2x8 and opted for treated lumber (you can see our experiments by the side angle pictures and the better fit with the the 2x8). I purchased the wood and Jake, the fine fellow from Home Depot, cut everything at the angle and depth you see on the below 2x8 image.
Please do not pay attention to the planter pot! This first one was pretty bad, but the second was better, and so on. By the time I finished number 24, they were looking pretty darn good!
The rails are set 26 inches apart and ~30 inches from the ground. At this point I had not thought much about what I would grow, but wanted sufficient space between the rails for sunshine as well as plants which grow a bit tall. I would recommend lag bolts over screws to attach the rails to the posts.
Calculations are my forte, so I measured and made notes and thought about how much weight I could comfortably carry up a ladder. The top rail is close to seven feet above ground. If I have not mentioned, one of the added benefits of this type of garden? The pots are removable. Fill with soil, add seeds or bedding plants, set in place. Remove after the growing season and store inside if possible.
Jake was kind enough to request the dimensions of the planter pots I envisioned/planned. He cut the upper pieces, the tops of the rails, into the lengths I would need to attach to the planned planters. Carpenters are meticulous, as you might guess, and Jake not only numbered the rails, but also the corresponding upper pieces, the part of the 2x8 which attaches to the planter.
Included in the photographs is the view my neighbours see, but is also a good image of how the planters sit on the rail as well as the upper part of the 2x8s cut into shorter pieces.
A word (or twenty) of thanks to Jake who refused payment for his time and carpentry expertise. The man simply would not take my money and considered a nice bottle of wine sufficient recompense.
One of the photos includes half of my organic fence. The shallowest planter pots, the three on the top rail, are 24 inches long and 8 inches deep perfect for pea vines and beans. I used 1 inch cedar planks for all.
The middle rail contains four pots, all 18 inches long, two made with 1x8 inch cedar, two with 1x10. Advice varies from one web site to another, and I could not find a definitive answer as to whether to line the insides with plastic before adding soil. I chose to simply drill drainage holes and staple screen material over the holes. The bottom rail holds five pots, the heaviest ones, two are 18 inches long, made with 1X10 cedar, and three are 12 inches long, made with 1x12 cedar.