Overcoming the Challenge of Gardening in a Rental
I have several gardening challenges I’m trying to overcome. First, we are living in a rental right now and they are not really keen on us digging up the grass area.
I find this curious because I think that having a few garden boxes would definitely increase the value of a yard. I will keep trying. In the meantime container gardening is my friend.
The other challenge can be my daughter’s dogs – they like to dig, so even if I could get approval to put in raised beds, the dogs would get to them in an instant.
I’m still searching for more solutions, but here’s the first thing I’m going to try. I’m putting up a gutter garden on the fence. It was easy to do – we did it in about 30 minutes. When the time comes to move to our permanent home, it will also be easy to remove.
Costing materials at the local Home Depot = $33.90 – You will need:
-// 2 – 10-foot aluminum gutters
-// 4 end caps (2 right & 2 Left)
-// 4 special hanging screws
-// Drill and drill bit, screw
-// A small tube of glue or putty to secure the ends
-// Potting soil or compost
I chose the east facing fence because I’m living in Texas and the afternoon sun can be intense. The east facing fence will get full sun until about 2 pm, and then it will be in the shade. This will give me at least 7 hours of sun in the winter and hopefully shade the garden in the hot summer months. I’m concerned that it will get too hot in the afternoon and that I will have a hard time keeping it watered during the hottest part of the day.
If I was still living in a colder climate I would probably choose the west facing fence to maximize the warmth of the afternoon sun.
1. Make sure you have sturdy fence posts between 6 ft and 8 ft apart. You do not want your fasteners at the exact ends of the gutters. They will be placed on the fence at an angle so excessive water will drain out.
2. Drill a few holes in the lower ending edge of the gutter. I made my top gutter drain into the one below. The bottom gutter will eventually drain into a watering can or bucket.
3. Place the end caps on each gutter section and use the glue or putty to secure them. The glue was an afterthought for us, but the end caps tended to pop off without it, so I had to add it after the gutters were hanging.
4. Use the special gutter fasteners and hang them at a slight angle so the water will drain. That’s it! You have gutter gardens ready for planting.
5. I saved some pecan shells from our harvest earlier in the month, so I added those to the bottom of the gutter. I think it will help with drainage. It may not really be necessary here in Texas, but it certainly would be if I were living in a wetter climate. You don’t want your plant roots to get waterlogged.
Next, I added bags of Organic Potting Soil (affiliate link). Each gutter took a 50-quart bag. Use the lightest soil you can find. If you are concerned about moisture retention, add a bit of peat moss too.
Why Growing Things in Your House’s Rain Gutters is Not a Good Idea
There’s a curious trend on social media started by people who either let wild plants grow out of their rain gutters or set up gardens themselves in the said gutters on their houses’ roofs. However, turning fully functioning gutters into planters is quite a bad idea that can ruin your home in the not so long term.
A clogged gutter with dirt, debris, and plants will become increasingly heavier as it accumulates more water which cannot be drained properly. As a result, the gutter adds more pressure onto the exterior wall on which it is attached, ultimately causing itself AND the wall to collapse.
Also, you might have to deal with surprise leaks in your home if the gutter is not allowed to fulfill its chief purpose: redirecting rooftop rainwater away from your home’s foundation.
How do plants manage to grow from a gutter? Rainwater flushes dirt and debris on your roof directly into your rain gutters. A neglected gutter eventually gets clogged and, as the water evaporates, the dirt and debris create a bed where wild plant seeds carried by the wind can sprout.
The water influx and unhindered sun exposure create the perfect environment for those plants to thrive on your roof… But now let’s get back to our gutter garden…
What can you plant in a gutter garden? Anything that you can grow in a 4-inch pot.
- Lettuce, Salad Greens and Asian Greens
- Spinach and Mustard
- Radish and other small root vegetables like carrots or beets
- Snap peas
- Chives, Garlic and Bunching Onions
- Mint (be sure and contain it or expect a full gutter full)
- Marjoram and Thyme
For under $50 I have created a functional but removable garden that I’m very pleased with. I can’t wait for the bare root strawberry starts to arrive, they are going to be planted in the top gutter garden.
The bottom is already filled with snap peas, radish starts, and leaf lettuce. I will update picture later in the season. Meanwhile, here are some fantastic gutter garden ideas from around the web.
10 Gutter Garden Design Ideas
Rain gutters can make outstanding planters if you are really short on garden space or just live in a rental. But our idea of a rain gutter garden is not absolute. You can play with materials, design, and location to your heart’s content to create some amazing gutter gardens.
1. Freestanding Gutter Garden
The beauty of the freestanding gutter garden is that you can place it both indoors and outdoors as long as there is enough sunlight for the plants you plan on growing. What’s more, in inclement weather, you can easily move this gutter garden indoors, especially if you have retrofitted it with two pairs of wheels.
2. A-Frame Gutter Garden
This is a variant of the freestanding gutter garden but you get more space for your plants as it can fit up to six 9- to 10-foot gutters. Talking about outdoor gardening real estate.
This gutter garden design offers the most space to grow strawberries, lettuce, herbs, spinach, and other greens with shallow roots. The frame requires more effort and planning than other gutter garden ideas on our list, but the result is the most effective when it comes to saving tons of space.
3. Classic Rain Gutter Garden
The classic gutter garden is several recycled rain gutter (pieces) attached to a vertical wall, wooden pallet or fence in contrasting colors for maximum visual effect. This way you have a low-maintenance vertical wall garden that can take care of itself when it comes to watering provided there’s enough rainfall in your area.
You can also pair this garden with a automatic dripping system so that you forget about it until harvest time. The vertical wall gutter garden is a great planter for lettuce, peppers, herbs, and other low-maintenance plants.
4. Deck Gutter Garden
Yes. you’ve heard that right! You can install a gutter garden on your deck. Just mount several gutter pieces on the side of the deck with over-the-rail hooks and you get a practical and visually pleasing vertical garden space where you can plant things to your little heart’s content. This is one of the best ways to liven up a boring deck with a nice touch of green in an insanely affordable way.
5. Hanging Gutter Garden
Here’s an ingenious way to take advantage of every corner of your outdoor space. You can build this hanging 3-tier rain gutter garden close to your kitchen and adorn it with seedlings of plants you and your family will certainly enjoy. You can also grow brightly colored flowers in this prop to add a nice pop of color to your patio, yard, or garden.
For this project, use PVC pipes since they’re lighter than their aluminum counterparts and less likely to rust. Add some strategically placed holes in the pipes for proper drainage, and place the garden in a bright spot.
6. Patio Gutter Garden
A patio gutter garden can be easily turned into a living privacy screen. Just make sure that you use for this project plants with dense foliage and/or hanging vines that like a bit of shadow. This hanging garden will offer you the privacy you need in the most subtle and natural way.
7. Greenhouse Gutter Garden
You can set up a rain gutter garden in a greenhouse to take advantage of whatever free space you have left there.
A rain gutter garden will enable you to grow more food without expanding the greenhouse. You can use both a hanging gutter garden as shown at no. 5 on this list and a vertical one attached to a wall.
8. Rustic Fence Gutter Garden
You can attach a gutter garden to a countryside wooden fence for a real rustic vibe. You can either grown edibles in it or accent plants in contrasting colors. The sky is the limit to how you can customize such impressive garden.
9. Tabletop Gutter Garden
Adorn an outdoor wooden table with an embedded gutter garden in which you can grow small plants such as succulents and herbs for a touch of vibrant green. Set up the gutter into the table directly or leave it as it is on the table.
10. Indoor Gutter Garden
You can create a beautiful corner of paradise with an indoor gutter garden. Such project can instantly give new life to even some of the most uninspiring indoor spaces. For maximum effect pick natural materials and plants that go well with one another to create a mini ecosystem that will be a joy to look at.
So which one is your favorite?
Have you had success growing in small spaces? Share your ideas in the comments section below.