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Lettuce Tree – Using Vertical Space for Balconies and Small Spaces

I am trying to get the most out of my balcony space. Obviously, the vertical direction is the way to go…

by Martin Korndoerfer

Inspired by other bloggers, I wanted to try my luck with the much acclaimed lettuce tree. Reported challenges have been to keep the soil in the upper part from drying out.

Alright, off I go to the hardware store. This time, spending 3.50 Euro for the polypropylene pipe (15 cm diameter). It didn’t hurt me or my wallet. The bottom is an old, broken rubber gymnastic ball — which was free.

So, I started off drilling holes of 4 cm diameter — staggered to use the space most efficiently. The distances between holes are 20 cm vertically, 15 diagonally and 25 cm horizontally. Then I filled the pipe with aged compost. (Note to self: next time, first fill with soil, then drill the holes…) On top I left space for five litres of water (incidentally, the exact volume of my watering can). I divided the pipe in thirds by adding soil, then a plastic pot (with drainage holes) with roughly 15 cm diameter at the top. Then soil again, then another pot, then soil again. This, I hope will slow the water sufficiently to hold a significant amount of water in the top two layers to allow the lettuces to grow.

Next, I planted lollo rosso lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. crispa) in some holes and the hardy endive (Cichorium endivia) in others. In one hole I added nasturtium (Tropaeolum) for good measure. Around the pipe, into the soil-filled gymnastics ball, I planted some more lollo rosso, strawberries and a wu-wei plant (Schisandra chinensis). To avoid soil falling from the holes, I stuffed some old linen into the hole, just leaving enough space for the lettuces to peak out between the sheets.


  1. Just read through the post and am very impressed. I’ve never heard of a lettuce tree before, but this is certainly a project I’m willing to take on. Thanks for the post and info, amazing!

  2. Any thoughts on how the partition pot helped equalize water? Am about to make a few of these, and would love any thoughts on how to configure so that lower plants don’t get overwatered.

  3. Hi, I’m moving into an apartment with a closed balcony and I’m looking to build something like this but I need a solution to collect the drainage water, does your gym ball have drainage holes? Do you think a large vase or bucket would hold the pipe? I’m worried about it falling but I also can’t have drainage water running on the floor… Thanks in advance, I’m a total noob and would appreciate any insight you can share =)

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