17 Plants on One Square Foot of Land

Can you manage to find 12 square inches in which to garden? Look what you can do!

Need to stretch your gardening space? We’ve all heard about going vertical, but here’s another way to take your garden to new heights. This tower garden uses less than one square foot of ground space and supports seventeen plants. I did this experimentally last year, planting basil and bok choy. The basil got a bit leggy after several months, but I think that’s my fault for being a little lax in caring for the tower. The bok choy worked beautifully.

You’ll need: 

  • 8″ pvc pipe* (mine is just shy of 4′ in length and was scrounged from a construction site trash pile)
  • 1-1/2″ hole saw
  • potting soil
  • seedlings (greens work well)

Aim for four rows of four holes, equally spaced around the pipe. Stagger the holes to allow more space for each plant. Note that I did not do ANY measuring, but my holes are about 7″ apart. Two rows start about 7″ from the top of the pipe; the other two rows start about 3″ from the top of the pipe. The bottom of the pipe will have roughly 12″ of solid pipe.

Dig a 12″ deep hole and bury the bottom of the pipe. Fill the inside of the pipe with potting soil up to the bottom of the first holes. Slide a seedling into the holes, and add potting soil to reach the next set of holes. Continue in this manner until each hole is planted. Add one more plant in the top of the tower.

If your seedlings are really well rooted, you shouldn’t have a problem with them staying put. Mine were not, so I wrapped the roots in a square of newspaper before sliding them into the hole. The newspaper made it easier to work with the seedlings and helped prevent the loose soil from escaping.


The photo at the top of this post was taken about two weeks after the tower was completed. During a rainstorm. Through a window. No, I won’t win any photography prizes with these images, but I think you get the gist.

One thing I’d do differently: I’d add a length of 2″ pvc, drilled with holes to the center of the tower for easier, more efficient watering. If you try it, I’d love to hear how it works for you.

*Yes, it’s plastic, but it was diverted from the landfill. Is pvc safe to plant in for health reasons? I dunno. I don’t know if pvc will leach chemicals into the soil, or if the plants will uptake them if they do. Certainly, given the choice between a bunch of pvc towers to garden in or a large, flat piece of sunny space, I’d choose the sunny space. But until I have that, I’ll continue experimenting! 

This article has 29 comments

  1. Rachel McLain Browne
    Friday 18 May 2012, 3:04 pm

    Love the idea, but don’t think PVC would be a good choice at all if for no other reason than the amount of toxins produced when it is made.

  2. Suzanne Bedard Brown
    Friday 18 May 2012, 3:04 pm

    I did this in my yard. I used 6″ PVC in 5 lengths. Buried about 1 1/2 feet, so about 4′ is out of the ground It works fabulous. I have lettuce and spinach in 2 and I tried broccol in the other. I agree about putting a smaller pipe in the middle for watering. I like that critters can’t get at the plants and the plant stay nice an clean. I also did some with tristar strawberries.

  3. Suzanne Bedard Brown
    Friday 18 May 2012, 3:04 pm

    You need to make sure you use pvc that’s used for water pipes, as opposed to piping for other things like septic, etc.

  4. This is fantastic!

  5. very reminiscent of strawberry towers. I like the idea!

  6. Tina Crawford-Shellkopf
    Friday 18 May 2012, 9:21 pm

    Did you see the one on t.v. that is over $500.00?

  7. Attainable Sustainable
    Friday 18 May 2012, 9:21 pm

    Tina Crawford-Shellkopf, I did not. But I wouldn’t even be *tempted to fork over that much! This was pretty much free, other than the soil and seeds. ;)

  8. Love this idea. :)

  9. What a wonderful idea!! Love that you experimented with it and took photos. I like that Suzanne tried some other plants, and as for Rachel’s comment, that’s a good point. Maybe it would be best to find PVC pipe that’s at a yard sale or some a friend is giving away instead of buying it new. 

  10. So clever! Your projects always are so clever…but always make me realize how UN-handy I am. I’d love to know the final outcome!

  11. I have no place to “plant” the pipe. I’m wondering if there’s a way to stabalize it standing freely.

    • Jean, I’d try situating it in a 5-gallon bucket. If I were going to do this, I’d center the pipe in the bucket and fill to the rim of the bucket – both inside and outside the pipe – with small heavy rocks. Pea gravel, maybe? I’d love to know if you try it!

    • I did one on my porch in a large pot. You just need to weight it down with rocks on the bottom

  12. make sure you get pipe that’s used for water so that you have anything toxic leaching into the plants.

  13. [...] PVC Garden Tower: Drill holes in a PVC tube and you have a strawberry [...]

  14. I’d like to think that using these pipes would make my slugs and squash bugs miserable. I’m certainly going to try!!!

  15. I wonder if you could make this a hanging planter by putting an end cap on the bottom, maybe with a hole in the bottom, similar to those upside down hanging tomato pots

  16. I have a couple of old upright laundry baskets with 44 holes on each of the 4 sides. I want to cut larger holes evenly spaced so I can use it as a garden. I’m going to insert something for the center so I can add compost to the baskets. Since I have all the other holes to deal with I’m going to use some type of fabric to hold it in place and just cut a slit in it when I plant the plants (I’m thinking strawberries). I will make several holes in the bottom of the baskets as well for drainage. I may have to use something a bit more substantial to fill the extra holes. Going to use regular potting soil mixed with water holding pellets so I don’t have to water as often. I hope laundry baskets do not leach chemicals onto the plants but I think they should be fine since the plastic looks like some of my drinking cups so I should be ok. Any ideas on what to use for the center portion? I was thinking PVC pipes but after reading your readers comments I’m not sure if I want that. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Perforated drainage pipe is the only thing I can think of, but it’s still plastic. 

      • Thanks, I’ve read so much about PVC and it runs 50-50 to it’s leaking chemicals or not. I guess I’ll try it on my laundry hamper concoction. I’ll send pictures when I’m done. I also want to coil a soaker hose around the composting section. Hopefully my brain can work it all out. lol

    • You could use a layer of straw to line the inside of your baskets.

  17. […] 17 plants on one square foot of land- Attainable Sustainable […]

  18. Some pros cons & speculations!
    About PVC leaching toxic chemicals; our water lines were lead pipe. We have converted most of our water supply lines to schedule 40 pvc in the United States. There are not any law suits on tv, yet, about people growing a 3rd eye or a second nose, that are connected to pvc. [but ya never know].
    Drain lines [lateral lines] are 4″ diam. and generally have holes to let water drain into the ground. [I'd suggest new for these; also called sewage lines]
    At 4″ size you can only fit 4-6 towers, though.
    Also the pvc may help the plants survive a frost or 2.
    I’m gonna give this an honest try, with tomatoes, spinach and cucumbers to vine, because I will put some lattice over the top to ward off some of the Texas sun.

  19. Tracie, why don’t you try coffee filters for your ‘fabric’ to help hold the dirt in place. They are inexpensive and they are porous to allow the plants to get water. Also, they are already cut out….might be easier to scale down to the size you need. Good luck!

Leave a Reply