Strawberries + Tornado = Strawbnado!
Want to maximize how much you can grow in a small space?
If so, you’ve got to consider going vertical. Here’s a simple description and materials list for a very productive and fun space-maximizing element in your home garden. This version of the design fits 72 plants (yep 72!) into less than 4 square feet. It also puts your strawberries, tomatoes, or other browsable fruits up out of range of voracious little children – our number one garden pest around here!
What you need:
- (1) piece of concrete wire remesh
- a roll of bailing wire
- wire clippers
- 4×4″ post or other stout anchor (trellis posts, gazebo posts, etc.)
- 2.5″ hole saw
- cordless drill
- (1) piece corrugated 4″ drain pipe (could be larger too)
How does it go together?
- First bend the wire remesh into a cylinder and link the ends or using bailing wire to secure them to one another. This creates the “frame” around which you will roll the corrugated drain pipe.
- Begin rolling the drain pipe around the wire frame and securing snugly with twisted bailing wire (use some wire clippers to help twist the wire and gain extra tension). Angle the corrupated pipe downward at whatever angle gives you the desired amount of space between each loop of pipe. Secure with bailing wire as you go.
- Once corrugated pipe is secured around the wire frame, its time to start cutting holes where your plants will go. I spaced mine 6-8″ on center, but depending on what you want to grow you can change it! Use the hole saw and cordless drill to make your holes.
- At this point you should have something that looks a bit like this:
Next up we anchor the Strawbnado. In this instance I lag bolted a spare 4×4″ post onto the side of an existing garden bed and slide the empty Strawbnado over the top and centered and secured it with some more bailing wire and a few screws.
Planting Your Strawbnado
Now its time to start filling your Strawbnado (or whatever you want to call it – I’m currently planting out the StrawbNado’s shadier cousin called the MintNado!) with your desired planting medium. Depending on what you are planting and where you are planting it you will want to adjust how well the medium drains/retains moisture. If its going to get full sun you’ll want a more moisture retentive mix, if part shade something that drains a bit quicker.
WARNING: Filling this with soil can be a bit tedious, but once you’re done you’re done for good! Wear gloves as the cut corrugated edges can be a bit rough on hands.
Use plants that have been grown in standard six packs or something smaller. Tomatoes in 3/4″ plugs work great as they fit very easily. 2×2″ starts will fit, but you’ll have to finesse them a bit.
Watering Your Strawbnado
You can do it however you like – by hand, manual drip or an automated system. I chose to go with manual drip as it works for my small garden in its current state.
The Strawbnado has a length of 1/2″ drip tubing running up the center of the wire frame that I pipe clamped to the 4×4″ center post. Once in place, I used a 1/2″ drip punch, some 2 gph emitters and some 1/4″ black poly tubing to run a line to each of the top 15-20 or so plants. The rest of the system down below just uses the water that runs down through the pipe.
There it is! Full of strawberries, wonderberries, and Super Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes.
If you have a fast draining soil mix (or even if you don’t, as all water finds its way to the bottom eventually) you may want to have it drop into a water feature if you have one.
More Ideas To Try
The Filtrado: Continuing with the water feature idea above, if filled with a gravely/sandy mix and planted in part shade with a water-loving plant (any of the mints, watercress, gotu kola, Vietnamese Coriander etc.) this could be used as a biological filter for a garden water feature. This is something I am keen to do if I ever get the chance to have a water element in my garden. By using a small pump, nutrient rich water could be taken from the bottom of the water feature and emptied into the top of the Filtrado (filter + tornado?? too far?) and be cleaned as it trickled down, exiting out the bottom clean and oygenated.
White Paint: If you’re planning on putting one of these in full sun, it would probably pay to paint the black corrugated drain pipe white to help mitigate heat gain that could fry the roots of whatever you have planted. I’d recommend planting in part-sun/bright shade if you just have black pipe.
What else could you do with waste corrugated drain pipe filled with plants? Its so flexible, the possibilities seem endless for covering unused surfaces and filling underutilzed spaces with food, flowers and green. Got a south facing wall that gets really hot? Run a few lines of corrugated pipe along the wall and grow some indeterminate cherry tomatoes. They’ll cascade down, provide you with tons of fruit, and help shade the wall and cool the interior of the structure.
More pics of the MintNado and producing Strawbnado to come!