A vegetable garden doesn’t have to be purely functional — it can be beautiful, too! Vertical gardening is all the rage right now, and it’s one of the best ways to add unique character and charm to your vegetable garden.
Antique Ladder Hanging Planter
Antique ladders have become popular pieces of interior décor, used by savvy designers to create everything from rustic bookshelves to shabby-chic bathroom towel racks. Because it’s such a popular trend, I wanted to use an antique ladder to create a cute and functional vertical garden. But due to their popularity, real antique ladders can be difficult to come by, so I decided to build one.
This replica antique ladder planter is easy to build — and inexpensive. It looks adorable sitting on the front porch or leaning against an old garden shed or fence. If you’re lucky enough to own an antique ladder, you can definitely use it instead of building your own.
For this project, I used simple metal buckets that I found at a local department store, and hung them from the ladder using large S hooks. To make your ladder planter look even more authentic, you could comb local antique shops for buckets or basket planters to hang on it instead.
It won’t take long for the wood to age, making the ladder look more authentic. However, if you prefer to speed up the process, you can use simple painting and distressing techniques to make the ladder look like it’s been sitting in your garden for years.
Illustration by Christopher R. Mills.
Tools & Materials:
- 2-by-4 boards, 8 feet long (2)
- 1-inch wooden dowels, 4 feet long (3)
- Wood glue
- #8 screws, 2 inches long (10)
- Hanging planters*
- 2-3/4-inch S hooks — if your planters don’t have built-in hooks (14)
- 1-inch chisel bit
- 1/8-inch drill bit
- Miter saw
- Eye and ear protection
- Work gloves
- Tape measure
- Hammer or rubber mallet
- Wood clamps
*The maximum width of the hanging planters should be 17 inches. I used three large buckets (5-1/8 inches tall by 14-5/8 inches wide) and four small buckets (5-1/8 inches tall by 5-1/8 inches wide).
- Sides: 2-by-4 wooden boards cut to 6 feet (2)
- Rungs: Wooden dowels cut to 20 inches (5)
Step 1: Lay the 6-foot boards on a flat surface. Stretch the tape measure along the length of the 4-inch surface of one board, then make a mark every foot along the entire length of the board (five marks total). Repeat with the second 6-foot board.
Step 2: At each mark on the board, use the 1-inch chisel bit to bore a 1-inch-deep hole into the center of the board. Repeat with the other board.
Step 3: Put wood glue into each of the rung holes on both of the 6-foot boards.
Step 4: Press one end of a wooden dowel into each of the holes on one of the 6-foot boards. Use a hammer or rubber mallet to drive the dowels all the way into the holes. Lay the other 6-foot board, holes facing down, over the top of the dowels. Line up the rung holes on the second board with the dowels, press the ends of the dowels into the holes, and use the hammer or mallet to tap them the rest of the way in.
Step 5: Carefully lay the ladder down flat, and then clamp the two sides together on the outside of the legs using wood clamps. Tighten the wood clamps to press the dowels all the way into each of the rung holes, ensuring a tight fit.
Step 6: Predrill pilot holes through each leg of the ladder into the ends of each of the dowels. Then drive a screw into each of the pilot holes to reinforce the ladder rungs. Allow the glue to dry completely before moving the ladder.
Step 7: Drill drainage holes into the bottom of each hanging planter, if they don’t already have them. Then use the S hooks to hang the planters, ensuring that each planter or set of planters is centered on the ladder rungs.
This project is reprinted with permission from Vertical Vegetables: Simple Projects that Deliver More Yield in Less Space by Amy Andrychowicz, published by Cool Springs Press, 2018.