Vertical lettuce a3Make A Living Salad Wall

(From the book “Gardening on a Shoestring” by Alex Mitchell”, provided courtesy of Quarto Publishing Group)

This is a fantastic way to harvest lots of salad crops from a tiny space. Plastic fruit crates can be got for free from a greengrocer, and crate-lining material can be bought cheaply from any garden center. The latter is invaluable because it stops the compost falling out while still allowing water to get through.

You will need:

  • Weed-suppressing membrane
  • 4 plastic fruit crates
  • Stapler with staples
  • Multipurpose, organic, peat-free compost
  • Perlite or sphagnum moss
  • Scissors
  • 1 supermarket ‘living salad’ or lettuce seedlings
  • Cable ties 16 sticks narrow enough to poke through the holes in the crates; 8 cut slightly longer than the width of the crate, 8 slightly longer than the height.


When to do it:  Spring to autumn

How to do it:
First cut four pieces of weed-suppressing membrane that are big enough to line the sides and bottom of each crate and leave a flap at the bottom that can be folded up to form the front of the finished salad wall. Staple the membrane around the edges and to the bottom of the crate.

Fill your crates with a 50:50 mixture of compost and perlite  or sphagnum moss. Make sure you fill each crate right up into the corners, since any gaps will cause the compost to drop down once you hang it vertically. Now fold up the flap of material to form the front, stapling this down to the edges too. Now make a grid at the front of the crate by poking sticks through the holes in the front of the crate; two sticks running across and two from top to bottom. This grid stops the compost from falling out.

You are now ready to plant. With your scissors, cut 14 equally spaced crosses in the membrane. Gently pull apart the root ball of your living salad to make several sections. Then, holding the largest leaves (not the stem or base) tease the plants apart so you have 14 single lettuce seedlings. Holding one seedling by its largest leaf, make a hole in the compost through one of the crosses with your other hand and drop the root ball into it, then cover with the compost and firm down. Repeat until all the holes are filled.  Place the planted-up crates flat on the ground out of direct sun and water well. Be sure to keep the compost moist over the next few days, since the plants will be very susceptible to drying out. Leave the crates flat on the ground for three or four days so the plants can settle in.

Attach the crates to horizontal railings or trellis by threading cable ties through holes in the back of the crates. Water from above; the water will trickle slowly down through the crates, irrigating all the plants along the way. Harvest as and when you want. Once a plant is finished, simply replace with another.