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The Flower Show

How to Build a Vertical Garden Wall

March 30, 2023

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leaf icon plants


This post was created with input from our partners at STIHL and a national spokesperson for STIHL, licensed contractor and designer, Sara Bendrick

Pocket vertical garden bags are one of the best methods for a green wall because they are simple and effective. Once your vertical garden wall is built, you can enjoy this beautiful backdrop for years to come and add or remove plants as needed to keep it looking fresh. 

While this system is set for drip irrigation, you can also hand water if you don’t have an irrigation system to tie into. Because these pockets hold only a little soil, the plants can dry out more rapidly than when they are in the ground, so make sure you can hand water two or three times a week or so during the warmer seasons. Also, expect to edit and change out plants as needed for the different seasons because some plants will outgrow the pockets. 

Follow along with this step-by-step tutorial to get started and build your very own vertical garden wall!  

Level:  Beginner–Intermediate 
Cost:  $$$ 
Time Commitment:  1-2 days 
Professionals Needed:  None 
Dimensions:  11' × 9" 


Tools Needed: 

  • String line 
  • Wheelbarrow 
  • Auger or Shovel 
  • Circular saw 
  • 3' - 6' level 
  • Drill and ½" × 10" drill bit 
  • Garden gloves 
  • Trowel 
  • Level 
  • Hand Tools 

Wall Materials Needed: 

  • Two 6" × 6" metal post bases 
  • Two 2" × 6" × 12' cedar boards with detail cuts on ends 1" from the bottom, 1½" from the top and 8" in from the edge 
  • Four 2" × 4" × 10' cedar boards cut to 9’ each 
  • Two 6" × 6" × 8' cedar pressure-treated boards 
  • One 2" × 6" × 12' cut to make two 5' pieces 
  • One 2" × 4" × 12' cut to make two 5' pieces 
  • Four 4½" × 10" lag bolts 
  • Four 4½" × 1½" diameter washers 
  • Sixteen 50-lb bags of concrete 
  • One 1-lb box of 2½" screws 

Planter Materials Needed: 

  • Three 5-pocket fabric garden pockets (we recommend WoollyPockets) 
  • 12 fasteners (provided in the kit) 
  • Four 2-cubic-foot bags of potting soil 
  • Fifteen 1-gallon plants 
  • ¼" spaghetti drip tubing (optional) 
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Let's Get Started Building! 

Build the structure and attach the bags:  This support structure is simple and sleek; built out of 6" × 6" posts and 2" × 6" and 2" × 4" stringers, it offers the perfect area to attach garden pockets. Read on to learn how this was built. 

Set the brackets:  Dig two 30" deep 18"× 18" holes; mix and pour concrete. Call 811 before you dig. Set the post bases while the concrete is wet and use a string line to make sure the posts are in line with each other. Wait 24 hours and then set your 6"×6" posts in the bases with 2.5" screws. Using a STIHL auger can help you make quick work of digging by creating holes consistently and efficiently. 

Build the frame:  Cut the 8' posts down to 7' with a circular saw and then attach the two 2"x6"x12' boards to the top with the lag bolts and washers. Use a drill bit first to predrill your holes. Start attaching one side, then use a level before attaching the other side. 

Attach the runners:  Attach the 9' boards between the 6"×6" posts. The first runner starts 18" down from the top and is attached with 2½" screws toenailed in from the top and the bottom. The next row starts 11" below the first so that the pockets will overlap when installed (they will be 13" from grommet to grommet). Repeat to attach the other two runners. 

Add support:  Since these pockets will be heavy when filled with soil, they can start pulling the runners down. To prevent sagging, add four support boards: two 2"x6"x5' boards spaced about 3" in from the post and two 2"x4"x5' boards spaced about 2' apart on the inside, running perpendicular across the back. These support boards attach to the pressure-treated runner that is attached to the fence (or attached to the structure if you aren’t placing it against a fence). Secure each runner to the support boards with 2½" screws. 

Attach the pockets:  The grommets are spaced every 22" on the bags. Measure 1" down from the top of the first runner and predrill the holes, then add the screws and attach the grommets. You can build a similar structure or create something unique of your own. We used three five-pocket units that hold about 2 cubic feet of soil and are 15" tall and 112" wide. You can customize your wall to the pocket sizes or buy individual pockets as needed to fit the space. Hang the bag by slipping the grommets onto the screws. 

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Select and Lay Out the Plants 

Your plant selection will vary greatly depending on whether you have full sun, partial sun, or no sun. It is best to choose a variety of plants that grow upright and cascade down so you can cover the bags above and the bags below. You can choose plants of all sizes. This style of gardening requires regular pruning as it grows in. Place the plants in the pockets to find a layout that you like and adjust as needed. 

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Step 1: Add the Soil 

Fill the pockets about halfway with potting soil. 

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Step 2: Plant the Plants 

Fit the plants into the pockets. We used three plants per pocket, which makes the wall very full because the plants grow in quickly and robustly. All vertical walls are going to need maintenance, pruning, and removal of plants as they grow. Keep the soil level about 2" below the lip of the pocket after all the plants are installed. STIHL offers a great line of hand tools, including pruners and pruning saws, that can make quick work of plant maintenance. 

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Step 3: Run the Irrigation (Optional) 

These pockets have a sleeve sewn into the top of the bags for spaghetti drip tubing to run through. Having this option in a vertical garden is great because the pockets can dry out and heat up a lot quicker than plants in the ground. If you have an irrigation system already, you can connect your drip lines to this with some adaptations. There are also kits that you can purchase that hook up to a hose bib for easier installation. 

We hope you enjoy this beautiful backdrop for years to come! Add and remove plants as needed to keep your vertical garden wall looking fresh. 

*Reprinted with permission from Big Impact Landscaping by Sara Bendrick, Page Street Publishing Co. 2017. Photo credit: Joe Dodd. 

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