Alan is a longtime hobby farmer who enjoys writing about his experiences with beekeeping, baby ducks, fish ponds, and Nigerian Dwarf goats.
What Is a Gutter Garden?
A gutter garden is a container garden made of short gutter sections hung horizontally and filled with soil. While each individual gutter is hung horizontally, hanging them one over the other makes great use of vertical space. Gutters can be hung on a wall, fence, or on an easy to build stand. I made a simple stand for my gutter garden using a pallet and a few boards.
Gutter gardens are perfect for plants with shallow roots and short life cycles. One of my favorites is mixed baby lettuce. There is nothing like sitting down to a fresh bowl of salad that you grew yourself. Many people grow strawberries in their gutter gardens. Strawberries are a great option because they come back year after year. There are many great options available to keep gutter gardening interesting and fun year after year.
Materials for a Gutter Garden
One of the things I love about building a gutter garden is that all of the materials are easy to find. I was able to find some of my materials for free! Start by getting a couple of five inch gutters, some end caps, and some small screws to connect the end caps. Keep in mind that the end caps are different for the right end and the left end. You will also need some screws for mounting the gutters or gutter hangers if available.
Any large home improvement store should have five inch gutters and the accessories that go with them. Since new gutters usually come in long pieces, cutting them into shorter sections will make them easier to work with.
Of course you will also need the stuff for planting your new garden. Some potting soil to fill the gutters is definitely a good start. Proper fertilizer and a few packets of seeds should round out the list.
Cut the gutters into sections, using a length that works for your space. I had two recycled gutters that were each about eight feet long. I cut them both in half and ended up with four sections, each about four feet long.
You can cut the gutters using tin snips or a hack saw. Personally, I think the tin snips are much easier to work with. Be sure not to use an angle grinder to cut the gutters. Gutters are made of aluminum, which can shatter angle grinder blades.
Once the gutters are cut into sections, it is time to install the end caps. The end caps should pop on to the gutters with just a little pressure. If you have any trouble, make sure the gutter end is lining up with the recess in the caps. If not, just slightly bend the gutter end so that it does line up properly. Use a few small sheet metal screws to keep the cap in place.
Great Plants for a Gutter Garden
clumps every 6 inches
Mild Onion Herb
Zesty Salad Topping
clumps every 12 inches
After your gutter sections are assembled, drill a lot of small drain holes in the bottom of each one. You should drill at least twenty or more drain holes in each section to ensure heavy rains will not flood the gutters and wash out your garden.
The importance of this step should not be overlooked. Gutters are quite shallow, and they can fill with water quickly. I recommend using a garden hose and spray nozzle to test the drainage. After drilling the drain holes in a section, spray it heavily with the garden hose for several minutes. If the water starts to pool in the bottom of the gutter you should drill more holes.
Mounting the Gutters
The gutter sections are now ready to hang on a fence or wall. You could also build a stand for your gutter garden. A simple stand can be made by leaning a pallet against something or attaching legs to the pallet. I used a couple of scrap boards, a pallet, and some extra screws to build my gutter garden stand.
Some type of support should be installed to make sure the gutters do not sag down in the front. The home improvement store might have hangers that support the front of the gutters, which will work great. If not, you could drill some long screws under the bottom of the gutters for support. Another option would be to add some small wooden blocks from front to back, which is what I did. I just cut the blocks to fit and screwed through the gutters while holding them in place.
Ready to Plant
Your gutter sections should now be ready to turn into a garden. Place a thin layer of mulch in the bottom of each gutter to prevent the soil from washing out. With the mulch in place, fill the gutters with potting soil almost to the top. Pat the soil down well, then plant your seeds or plants according to the directions on the packages. Water as needed and you will be enjoying the fruits and vegetables of your labor in no time.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.