The Ugly Lettuce Monolith

Scroll down to the bottom is you just want to see the supplies list.

I spent much of Saturday working on this monolith. Pretty ugly, right? It will get better, though. (Hopefully.) The reason for my creating this hideous, compost bin looking thing is actually experimentation in both vertical gardening and a bit of lasagna gardening. I’ve tried lasagna gardening before and had pretty good success. Lasagna gardening is basically planting over compost. You layer your items that you want to compost with a bit of soil and plant right into that. My first experience was prompted by necessity. I needed to get my cool season veggies in and I still had tomatoes in their spot. The compost

bins were already full and I didn’t feel like making a run to the dump. So I pulled out the tomatoes, dug out the bed and then tossed in the chopped of plants followed by garden soil and some manure. I immediately planted directly on top.¬† It worked! I did a bit of reading after that and found that planting on layered compost is actually a ‘thing’ and has been written about several times.

My new experiment combines the principles of composting/lasagna gardening with vertical gardening. A few weeks back I saw this post on how to grow a vertical lettuce garden on Pinterest. I looked simple enough so I decided to give it a try. Well, it isn’t easy. Especially if you are setting it up by yourself (OK, I must admit the dog did try to help a little. That only set me back further). I could have used an extra pair of hands. But I didn’t want to wait for that so I improvised. A few changes I made to the original design where I placed the lettuce monolith right on the ground and actually dug it in a few inches for stability. I had noticed in one of the photos on the original blog, it was propped up with a piece of wood. I also pounded in a few pieces of rebar to make sure the dog doesn’t tip it over. The second change I made was substituting bark for gravel down the drainage tube. I didn’t want to have to sift the gravel out of the composted soil at the end of the season¬† and I figured bark would give me the same drainage properties for at least one season. You use very little. I think I stuffed about 1/4 of a 2 cu. ft. bag down the tube.

I used 4 ft. fencing with 2″ x 3″ holes. The diameter of the monolith is about 2.5 feet. It holds a surprising amount of green material, dried leaves and soil and took me about 2 hours to fill. I’m sure it would have gone faster if I had already raked the leaves and piled up the green waste, but I was sort of cleaning and building. I’ve already decided that I want strawberries on the side that gets the most light and will do various types of lettuce the rest of the way. I may leave the back empty since it gets virtually no direct light. What will be planted on the top is yet to be decided.

What you need to build it:

4-Foot Weed Barrier Fabric

2 Inch x 4 Inch Mesh 14 Gauge Galvanized Welded Wire Fence,

2 CUFT Medium Bark

4 foot piece of 3″ wide PVC or Flex-Drain Drain Pipe, Perforated, 4-Inch by 8-Feet

Twist Tie

Espoma PLA1 Organic Planting Mix, 1 Cubic Feet

Leaves to be composted.

Farmers Market Cut and Come Again Lettuce Blend Seeds 2000 Seeds

Alpine Strawberry plants

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15 comments for “The Ugly Lettuce Monolith

  1. at 1:06 am

    I think this is just what I need! I am limited on space and tho it may take a bit tto get it set up,I realy think this will work great, in my very small back yard.The strawberry idea is so much better than on the ground. Thanks for sharing. Susie

    • Kat
      at 10:15 am

      Hi Susie,
      I’d love to know if you try it. Thanks for visiting. You do get quite a bit of production in a small space.

  2. at 2:35 am

    I’d like to print this page but I cannot find where to do so without getting all the sidebar items too.

    • Kat
      at 10:13 am

      Hi Ian,
      I’ve sent you an email with a word document of the text portion only.

      • at 3:55 pm

        Can you do a video of the verticle lettuce planter?

        • Kat
          at 5:41 am

          Perhaps in the future. It is really pretty easy construction. At the moment, however, I am not growing any lettuce and probably won’t be until next spring due to the drought in California.

  3. Min
    at 11:36 pm

    Great idea!

    How did you find the watering in the hot weather? I’d love to try it, but I’m slightly concerned as I’m in zone 10.

    Thanks

    • Kat
      at 10:37 am

      Hi Min,
      I’m coastal so we don’t get really, really hot but often, but the few occasions we did I just gave it an extra watering. It’s really like a big pot so it holds a great deal of moister depending on how much planting mix vs. composting materials you layer. But in zone 10 it’s probably best to do lettuce very early spring and in the late fall as warm weather will cause it to bolt.

  4. Min
    at 4:22 pm

    Thanks. So you found the bark chips in the centre distributed the moisture evenly? Great idea, btw.
    Min

  5. jennifer
    at 12:34 am

    what do u do with this to set up for next use? I am a super beginner so please pardon my questions…Once you have done this the first time, lettuce has grown, bolted…and you are done, then what? You remove the plants? That leaves holes in the mesh…how do you prep it for the next planting? Do you remove the soil to layer it again? And I have no compost. What would you do instead without compost? I do have access to pasture cow manure.

    • Kat
      at 4:09 am

      Hi Jennifer,
      After the first crop of lettuce, I added a bit more leaves and a bit more garden soil to the top as the soil level sinks as it breaks down the leaves. After the second crop, I start the entire setup process over. I dumped the contents and spread it around the garden. I found after two crops the weed barrier gets a little saggy and needs to be replaced. Instead of using compost you can also use a purchased potting soil. That works too. If you want to add manure, it should be composted for six months to a year before using it as it can burn plants if you don’t and you only want to use a little (a couple shovel fulls for the entire tower). Manure does add nitrogen but it also has a high salt content.

  6. Brenda
    at 8:05 pm

    Did you start the seeds inside and transplant? If not, how did you plant the seeds in the tower so they sprout through an opening?

    • Kat
      at 8:16 pm

      Hi Brenda. Thanks for stopping by. I did start the seeds in empty 6packs I had and then transplanted them into the tower. I cut and X into the weed barrier, used a dowel to make space in the dirt. I then poked the plant in and closed the dirt and weed barrier around it. A little soil fell out when I first watered, but not enough to even worry about. The plants rooted in fairly quickly and held firm.

  7. at 8:11 pm

    I live in New England – cold winters. I am wondering if a vertical garden with perenials would survive winters. Anyone have experience with that?

    • Kat
      at 11:44 am

      Hi Jerry, Anything that would freeze if it were in a pot would probably freeze if it were done this way as well.

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