How to Grow in a Greenstalk Vertical Planter

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Whether you’re limited on space or just want to add a lot of crops for little extra work, the Greenstalk Vertical Planter is the first container gardening option I’d recommend.

When the makers of the Greenstalk Vertical Planter sent me their product to test and try out, I was excited but really didn’t have high expectations. After all, I already have a 2500+ square foot vegetable garden (and counting) so was a Greenstalk necessary? I’d find out! Because I love expanding my garden (with little labor) and growing in new ways, I thought this would be a fun product to try.

Within just a few weeks of planting, any expectations I had were completely surpassed. I was blown away by how productive the Greenstalk is with such little effort compared to my in-ground and raised bed gardens.

I now get to grow all of my leafy greens and many herbs, and more veggies right outside my kitchen door. It’s truly been such a great addition to my garden.

Greenstalk vertical planter full of plants

If you’re interested in this unique vertical container option, this podcast episode and blog post gives you all the details you need to know. I recently sat down with Ashley Skeen. Her father is the inventor of the Greenstalk Vertical Planter. You can listen to our conversation below or keep reading for the highlights.

Then, if you’re interested in your own, use my affiliate code JILL10 here to get $10 off your own Greenstalk Vertical Planter with a purchase of $75 or more.

*links in this post contain affiliate links; if you click through and make a purchase, this site earns a commission at no extra cost to you.

What is a Greenstalk Vertical Planter?

The Greenstalk is a soil-based vertical garden. It’s a patented product because of the self-watering system that irrigates each tier evenly, from the top down.

How does it work? Fill the top reservoir with water. There are holes in the top that slow drip to the very top tier, but there’s also a large hole in the middle that “tornadoes” through to the bottom. It takes about 1 minute to water from top to bottom. Each tier contains a disc that collects water and evenly distributes water to each tier.

Greenstalk vertical planter with lettuce plants

The work and labor saved in growing with the Greenstalk is unbelievable, but the amount of production is what truly will have you in love with the Greenstalk.

How much soil does it take?

This is one of the most deceiving parts about the Greenstalk. You don’t realize how much soil it will actually hold! Each tier of the Original vertical planter holds 1 cubic foot of soil. Because of the watering system, it’s imperative that you use potting soil for proper drainage.

Each tier has 6 pockets that you can grow separate crops in, and depending on the crops you choose, you can grow 1 to 3 plants inside each pocket. This is why the production and varietal possibilities of the Greenstalk is so revolutionary. In a 5 tier Original Vertical Greenstalk, you can grow up to 90 plants at a time!

It can be tempting to not fill your soil to the very top, but it’s important that you do. Potting soil will settle and you want to set your plants up for success. Recommended brands are Pro-Mix and Happy Frog. (I buy Pro-Mix at a local nursery — it’s less expensive than what I’ve found online — and it costs me about $40 to fill a Greenstalk.)

What can I grow in the Greenstalk?

The possibilities inside the Greenstalk are endless! While most gardeners stick to smaller plants, you can get creative with larger ones, too. Though I don’t recommend starting out with larger ones, if you do, make sure you consider the growth habit. For example, if you’re going to grow larger crops like tomatoes and cucumbers, shading is something you will need to consider; plant those larger crops in your bottom tiers.

Greenstalk vertical planter filled with ornamental cabbage and flowers
photo courtesy: Greenstalk Vertical Garden

If you are truly new to gardening, Greenstalk recommends that you start off with lettuce, greens, herbs, and smaller root crops like beets and carrots. You can grow other crops, of course, but you’ll need to support some crops and that may be a second or third-year garden experience.

How do I best grow strawberries?

Greenstalk suggests growing from bare roots in the larger Original planter. Fill the soil to the top, make a well inside your pocket and plant your strawberry plant giving it as much length as possible down inside the soil with the crown resting right on top — one per tier.

When your strawberries send out runners, you can move that runner into your next pocket or you can simply cut them off. Greenstalk has been growing the same strawberries in vertical planters for 6 seasons!

The root systems can get very large so every couple of years, we suggest taking them out of the pockets and cutting up your plant into smaller plants, and replanting them in separate pockets.

How often do I water?

During the spring and fall, watering once every day or two is typical, just like you’d water most container crops. In the summer, when crops are at full production, you may need to switch to twice per day. You’ll simply want to feel the soil about an inch down and if it feels dry, it’s time to water.

Because of the way the vertical planter is designed, it allows maximum watering at the root of the plant where it needs it most. So, when you are testing your soil for dampness, avoid the outer edges and feel the soil towards the center of the tier.

Orignal Greenstalk vs. Leaf Model

Greenstalk has two options of planters: the Original and the new Leaf model. Both are created with the same patented watering system, only the Leaf model has a bit more shallow pockets. The Original can grow almost any crop that you desire, including your leafy varieties, whereas the Leaf model is meant for more shallow-rooted crops.

advertisement for Greenstalk vertical planter leaf planter
image courtesy: Greenstalk Gardens

How to decide? I have both, and I enjoy the versatility of the Original Greenstalk, which allows a greater diversity of options. But I enjoy the Leaf Greenstalk for smaller plants because I can grow even more plants in seven tiers (instead of five in the Original). You can get the Original model with either 3 or 5 tiers, and you can get the Leaf model in either 5 or 7 tiers.

Can I grow potatoes and sweet potatoes?

To grow both varieties of potatoes, we suggest one plant per pocket. If you are only growing a few plants of potatoes, then make sure you keep them on the bottom of your vertical planter to avoid overshading other plants.

Greenstalk Vertical Planter full of lush vegetables
The 5-Tier Original Greenstalk Planter houses my fall garden plants — lettuce, greens, celery, and herbs.

Does the Greenstalk Need Fertilizer?

If you start out with a potting soil that doesn’t have added fertilizer, I recommend mixing in an organic, slow-release granular fertilizer to the soil as you’re filling up your Greenstalk with soil. My preferred choice is Garden Tone or Plant Tone.

Once your tiers are filled with plants, we suggest adding a liquid fertilizer at the top of the watering reservoir when you water. It ensures that each pocket receives the same fertilizer at the same time. Fish emulsion is good for a nitrogen boost, and liquid fish & seaweed fertilizer is a more all-purpose option.

Should I plant the same crops on the same side?

Since the Greenstalk holds plants in a circle, you may notice that some plants will inevitably be planted on the north side. How should you approach your planting, then?

First, Greenstalk makes a rolling mover specifically to help you easily turn or reposition your vertical planter when needed. This is an optional accessory, but it’s one I wouldn’t buy my Greenstalk without.

progression of plant growth in Greenstalk vertical planter
photo courtesy: Greenstalk Gardens

Greenstalk will also be coming out with a brand new spinner that helps you both turn your plant while collecting water at the same time. This allows you to put your plant on the deck or in a greenhouse without excess water spilling out. (Check their website for updates on this accessory.)

Do you plant level by level and stack as you go?

Greenstalk suggests laying out all of your tiers, filling them with soil, and planting each of your pockets while it’s not assembled. You can easily plant your transplants or seeds right in the unassembled tiers. Then, we suggest stacking them layer by layer and watering them at the very end. You can see how I put together my first Greenstalk in this video:

How many plants per pocket?

For larger plants like peppers, strawberries, and eggplant, plant one plant per pocket. Larger plants like cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash may require one in every other pocket due to shading. For smaller ones like lettuce, beets, peas, and carrots, you can plant up to three. You can see an infographic listing here on their site, which is also included in every order.

Greenstalk vertical planter with vegetables and flowers

Can this be used indoors?

You can use the vertical planter indoors, but the mover is always suggested to rotate and keep overflow water contained. It comes with a hose attachment so that you can catch your draining water in another dish or a plug to place at the end of the hose attachment.

What other accessories are available?

Besides the mover and spinner, Greenstalk also has other accessories. Their new frost cover and insect covers help protect your crops from cold and from insects. They zip and unzip so you can easily harvest and water all while still allowing the light in. If you’re growing larger crops like tomatoes or cucumbers, one of their plant supports might be a good option for you as well.

How do I amend the soil at the start of a new season?

If you aren’t going to keep any of the plants from prior years, Greenstalk suggests you dump your soil into a tarp or kiddie pool. You can then add fertilizer and more quality potting soil. Mix it all up and replant just like you would originally.

Greenstalk vertical planter being harvested

I really can’t say enough about my experience with the Greenstalk. It’s so low maintenance and hands-off and I am a true champion of this. I’ve moved all of my kitchen greens, herbs, and small plants into each of my Greenstalks. They provide endless harvests with almost no work.

And although Greenstalk sent me their planters at no charge, I have purchased them for friends and family. I also believe the planter would pay for itself in no time with all of the money it saves in greens and herb costs alone. This is truly an investment that will continue to give season after season.

To learn more and to view their options — the Greenstalk comes in a variety of sizes and colors — click here and use my discount code JILL10 for $10 off your purchase of $75 or more.

We hope you enjoy it as well and we can’t wait to see photos of your harvest!

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4 Comments

  1. I think I will be picking this up. I live in a small townhouse and only have a mulch patch in the front area (no yard, no porch, no balcony) with some bushes, so I am trying to do as much as I can in containers. This would work nicely. I have been obsessively researching dwarf/compact/container varieties of veggies and flowers since listening to the podcast 🙂

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