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Monday, May 8, 2023

Growing Lettuce Vertically


This photo was taken 10 days ago. I now have 4 shelves of salad greens on my outdoor shelves. The shelving unit is actually the innards of this portable greenhouse, bought in February 2016. 

For growing salad greens on the shelves this spring and summer, I slid the plastic zip-up cover off of the shelf frame, and set the cover aside until fall rolls around. Because tall, narrow, and somewhat lightweight things tend to not stay upright in our gusty winds, here, I've secured this to the siding of our house with large hooks and bungie cords at the top and bottom of the unit. I did need to replace the bungie cords this season as the previous ones wore out. It's pretty secure against winds.

I'm growing the greens in the bottom halves of 1-gallon plastic milk jugs, the same "pots" I used indoors under lights this winter growing radish greens. I reused the soil from the radishes, stirring in fresh organic fertilizer specifically for greens to boost the nutrients for my little lettuce "patch".

I can add one more shelf of 2 rows of salad pots, when I have more empty milk jugs. That will give me 40 pots of lettuce, spinach, and parsley. 

I have staggered the seed starting dates, so that we will have a continuous supply of fresh salads through spring and into summer. The lettuce in this photo should be ready for the salad bowl in about a week. I will begin more heat-tolerant greens in early June so we don't lose our salads altogether when the weather warms up in July and August.

Although 3 rows of pots will fit on these shelves, I've only set up 2 rows, as the back part of the shelves doesn't receive the amount of light needed. As it is, I rotate the pots from front to back and back to front once per week, to ensure all of the plants are getting enough sun. 

Growing my lettuce vertically on shelves leaves the garden bed space free for larger plants, as well as keeps my lettuce out of the pathway of hungry slugs. In addition, growing vertically in this way has a much smaller footprint than growing 40 pots laid out side by side on the deck floor. 

Besides, I like the look of my vertical lettuce patch on shelves. There's something visually appealing about the tidy little rows of pots lined up on shelves, one shelf above another.


  1. Looks great! And smart thinking to stagger planting for fresh eating over a much longer period!

    1. Thanks, Cat. We're looking forward to garden fresh salads. I'm guessing your salad season began weeks ago. I'm jealous!

  2. That looks yummy. What a smart idea. I agree with you, it's visually appealing as well as practical. I liked hearing about your techniques to manage this with your winds--we are also in a windy area and that can create problems.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Thank you. The bungie cords have rally worked. When I first set up the greenhouse, within 2 days it blew over. That's when I used the cords and hooks to secure it, and it has never blown over or even budged since then. Bungie cords -- thumbs up!

  3. I live in a place that was named for its winds. Lot's of windy places around this country.
    I like your plantings, also. Besides convenience, it looks like a good way to avoid the slugs.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I had no idea so many regions deal with winds on a regular basis! I do like a nice windy fall day, just for the excitement of it. But winds present challenges at times.
      Yep, I try to stay a step ahead of the slugs. Even so, I do find slugs on the deck from time to time. So I'll have to be watchful with the lettuce, even on shelves.


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