How to Garden – Build a Cardboard Grow Column

How to Garden – Build a Cardboard Grow Column

If you’ve been wondering how to garden in a small space, consider how to build a cardboard grow column. These columns allow you to plant up in a raised bed type garden, but are inexpensive and easy to build. The best part about a grow column? You can recycle materials that would otherwise be in a landfill and use them to grow food for your family and save money at the store.

How to Garden in Small Spaces


Small space gardens can be a challenge for any gardener. Grow columns are easily made from items like chicken wire, cardboard and PVC pipe, and can help solve space issues in a small garden, while still allowing people the opportunity to grow a variety of different vegetables.

Why a Cardboard Grow Column and Not Something Else?

One of the best ways to utilize small space gardens is by taking advantage of vertical space. A cardboard grow column is inexpensive to build, is a project that takes 60 minutes to complete, and offers room to grow strawberries, tomatoes, beans and foods such as lettuce. A grow column can also be used for several different types of crops for a single person as well. Have a larger family? Make a grow column for each family member and let that person plant his or her favorites.

While raised bed gardens are a good alternative to traditional gardening, they still take up some yard space. However, if you live in an apartment with only a patio, a column-type garden can be a great addition to any container plants you already have in place.

Items Needed

  • 1-inch chicken wire, 45 inches wide or more
  • Scrap cardboard
  • 4-inch diameter PVC plumbing pipe
  • Plastic zip ties
  • 1 bag sand
  • 2 to 3 bags soil
  • Landscaping rocks
  • Utility knife


Create a 15-inch round diameter with the chicken wire. The chicken wire should be 3 or 4 feet high, so you can easily access all of the plants on the column. Wrap the chicken wire around the initial 15-inch round until the entire width of the wire is used. Secure with plastic zip ties.

Dig a 4-inch round and 2-inch deep hole. If you plan to place the grow column on a patio, it is not necessary to dig a hole. If placing the column on the ground, set the PVC pipe down into the hole and back-fill with dirt to add some stability. Fill the center of the PVC pipe with a mixture of rocks and sand. A specific ratio is not required as this is to add stability to the column.

Line the inside of the chicken wire with pieces of cardboard. Corrugated cardboard works best to cut the slits for the plants, but recycle whatever you have on hand for this project. Fill the space between the cardboard and the PVC pipe with potting soil or your own mixture of nutrient rich dirt.

Cut small slits in the cardboard from the outside. Cut a big enough hole to place one small plant in the opening. Stagger the plants 3 to 4 inches apart. As you plant, consider how large the type of plant grows and whether it will need room to vine and plan accordingly. Start at the bottom of the column and plant your way around and up.

The cardboard will disintegrate over time and the chicken wire may rust. Replace the wire and cardboard on your column every year or two. The sand and gravel-filled PVC pipe can be reused indefinitely. One grow column should provide enough produce for one person.

It is best to use seedlings to help you properly space plants within the column. Start at the bottom and work your way up. Use the utility knife to cut a small hole where you’d like to plant the seedling. Insert through the hole into the dirt, pack the dirt around the seedling and work your way up. Allow enough room between plants for them to branch out as they grow.

Image Credit: MorgueFile mrmac04

Crabby Housewife

AuthorCrabby Housewife

Lori is a full-time housewife and writer, living in the Midwest with her husband of 27 years - they have two daughters. They have a house full of pets and her house is never quite perfect.