Ugly Lettuce Monolith Gets Better

organic lettuce planted in a vertical tower The ugly lettuce monolith is not quite as ugly anymore. Amazing how a little bit of greenery makes everything look better. Last weekend I constructed the tower and filled it with things to be composted, composted material and top soil. This week I planted it and here is what I learned.

1. The wire I used had 2″ x 3″ openings. This was adequate for the 6 pack starts to fit through. The problem was moving around the soil inside to make enough room for the root ball. I had planned on starting my own, but I got busy and impatient and picked up some 6-packs of strawberries and lettuce at work. At first I used a small stake to poke open the weed barrier, but it didn’t make a nice opening inside. I then improvised with the stake part of a ceramic mushroom that had a pointed (but rounded) end. This worked out pretty well, but the further down I got, the more compacted the soil/compost had become and as I made the holes dirt would want to sift back down to fill them. One solution might be to plant as you fill. Another would be to use smaller starts.

2. I had watered it last week when I constructed it and some areas were still slightly damp. There were, however, dry pockets. So I’m not completely sure that just watering down the center will get enough moisture to the outer layers. Today I’m running the water very slowly and moving the hose to different parts trying to make sure it gets watered in well.

3. I found that if I wanted to plant something in the top level, I couldn’t go all the way up the side because there would be too much root competition. This leaves a rather unattractive section of weed cloth visible. So to cover that up, I’m going to plant nasturtium seeds on top and hope they drape over enough to cover, but not so much they engulf the entire thing.

4. So far there are four 6-packs planted. One each of strawberries ‘Eversweet,’ Migionette’ and ‘Sequoia.” The lettuces are a mixed salad leaf lettuce and ‘Freckles’ which is green with adorable red freckles. I planted each plant with one vertical opening between each plant and two openings horizontally. In some areas I alternated rows. This covered about half the cylinder.

4. The dog really enjoyed the part where I was crouched down low planting the bottom. He took this opportunity to slime me with doggy kisses. He is actually part of the reason for this experiment as he likes to dig holes to hide his bones. As long as he doesn’t decide to jump on the monolith (or pee on it.) I should be getting a nice amount of berries and salad.

5. To finish it off, I’m going to run a ring of Diatomaceous Earth
around the base. I figure why not? Keep the night foraging nasties from creeping up the sides. If you haven’t used diatomaceous earth in your garden, I highly recommend it. I find it the perfect solution to protecting seedlings from snails, earwigs and cutworms. I sprinkle a ring around my plantings (either individual plants or groupings) after planting or as soon as I notice seedlings coming up. This creates an effective barrier against chewing insects that lasts about 2-3 weeks (heavy rain will wash it out) and my seedlings are safe without the use of chemicals.


Here’s an update on how things are growing. This was taken early May and you can see that everything has filled in nicely. I haven’t been as diligent about putting down the the diatomaceus earth and there has been some nibbling. The strawberries have been growing well, but I’ve only had two. It seems my dog likes strawberries as much as I do.  At first I thought it was birds, but then one morning I found him nosing around between the lettuce leaves looking for ripe berries.


The cucumbers have been planted on top but without some really warm weather, they are just sort of sitting there. The amount of salad I have been getting, however, is truly amazing. Which translates into more than I really want to eat. Half a monolith could easily provide salad for two people several times a week.


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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4 comments for “Ugly Lettuce Monolith Gets Better

  1. at 9:30 am

    The diatomaceous earth is a great idea! This sure looks fun! I have grown potatoes this way before, but not coming out the sides, I just use it to grow them above the ground. I work at a nursery too, in Red Bluff, CA. We seem to have lots in common!

    • Kat
      at 6:31 am

      I’m going to set up the potato monolith next! Nice to meet a fellow nursery person.

  2. at 8:08 pm

    It’s not ugly at all. And you’ll think it’s pretty rad when you are chomping on many fresh salads. Love it!

    • Kat
      at 9:59 am

      Thanks Stevie. It’s actually filled in a bit more and I’m starting to like it. I think once the cucumbers can go out and cascade over the side I might like it even more.

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