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 dream of nurturing a lively garden in my yard without having to dig up tracts of dirt cannot be underestimated, which is why I’ve brainstormed several ideas that could help me overcome this judicial obstacle.
The other challenge can be my daughter’s dogs. They like to dig, so even if I could get approval to put raised beds in my garden, 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.
What You Need to Build a Solid Gutter Garden and How
The cost of the following materials ranges at about $35 or so, depending on where you purchase them from. I got mine from Home Depot at $33.90, though you should take factors such as location into consideration, as it can affect prices.
You will need:
- 2 – 10-foot aluminum gutters
- 4 end caps (2 right & 2 Left)
- 4 special hanging screws
- drill and drill bit, as well as a screw
- a small tube of glue or putty to secure the ends
- potting soil or compost
The gutters (or eavestroughs) that you are using do not need to be explicitly made of aluminum. Some have reported making use of PVC pipes, while wilder claims suggest that even bamboo can be used. I went with aluminum as it is not too expensive, relatively sturdy, especially for what I had in mind, and lightweight to boot. This is important as mobility is one of the main advantages of gutter gardens, and I wanted to make sure I can take them with me when I move out.
I chose the east-facing fence because I’m living in Texas and the afternoon sun can be intense. The eastern part of my garden will get full sun until about 2 PM, after which it will be in the shade. This will give me at least 7 hours of sun in the winter and hopefully shade the garden during 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 instead to maximize the warmth of the afternoon sun.
1. Make sure you have sturdy fence posts between 6 – 8 feet apart. You do not want your fasteners to be at the exact ends of the gutters. They will be placed on the fence at an angle so excess water will drain out with ease.
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 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 a Bad 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 said gutters on the roofs of their houses. However, turning fully functioning gutters into planters is a very bad idea that can outright 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 from your rooftop directly into the 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. That might seem like a hidden blessing, but it is anything but, instead serving to be nothing but a danger to your house.
For 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. Gutter gardens are not picky, and they’re relatively spacious as well. Here are some examples of what you can grow:
- 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 to contain it or expect a full gutter)
- marjoram and thyme
For under $50 I have created a functional but removable garden that I’m very pleased with. I can’t wait until the bare root strawberry starts to arrive, as 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 the article with more pictures 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 – 10 foot gutters. Talk 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, ideally 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 an 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 to your heart’s content. This is one of the best ways to liven up a boring deck in an insanely affordable manner with a nice touch of well-needed greenery.
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 that you and your family will 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 to ensure a healthy relationship with the sun.
6. Patio Gutter Garden
A patio gutter garden can be easily turned into a living privacy screen. Just make sure that you use plants with dense foliage and/or hanging vines that like a bit of shadow for this project, or else it’s not going to have its intended effect. This hanging garden will offer you the privacy you need in the most subtle and natural way. It will also impress your guests, drawing back to a more elegant time when rich green gardens were in fashion.
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 if you want to maximize efficiency, though that might make your greenhouse more crowded than it needs to be.
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 with contrasting colors. The sky is the limit when it comes to the many ways in which you can customize your 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 directly into the table or simply leave it on top. Makes garden-side gatherings significantly more chic.
10. Indoor Gutter Garden
You can create a beautiful corner of paradise with an indoor gutter garden. Such a 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? I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially after having done so much research on gutter gardens. One thing is clear, though – you don’t need a raised flower bed for a beautiful garden.
Have you had success growing in small spaces? Share your ideas in the comments section below.
Kim T. says
I love this idea! My fiance and I are sure to start newlywed life as renters and this sounds perfect for us!
I have lettuce and spinach in my gutter garden. I also grow in raised beds and 5 gallon buckets. You can get food grade 4.5 and 5 gallon buckets from bakeries — they usually throw them out. So you can have a portable garden anywhere! This year I have 4 gutters and 50 buckets. The buckets contain tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, kale, white and purple potatoes. I have raised beds for cucumbers, melons, garlic, squash and such.
Nice! Thanks for sharing ~Shelle
Used for growing vegetables galvanized bucket. Very comfortable, practical and beautiful. In the bucket very easy to grow tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini. Periodically, watered and watered, was to constantly moist soil. Good harvest meet annually. Here is written about in detail galvanized bucket http://apromera.com/. I plan to increase their vegetable garden.
Gutter Clean Up says
When it comes to gutter gardening the first that comes to my mind is how a friend of mine managed to combine it with aquaponics. There’s literally nothing more convenient to use than old(or new) gutters in an Aquaponics system. He made them look like shelves. Recycling at its finest. 🙂
Thanks for the guide. I will plant the Strawberries in my gutter.
My name is Elisha Long and I am a senior in a horticulture class at a technical school in Pennsylvania. For my senior project, I am making a vertical garden using rain gutters and hanging it off of a coat rack. I was wondering if there was someone I could email with a couple of questions that I have as a type of interview?
Thank you for your time,
Hi Elisha, you can email me – Shelle [at] preparednessmama.com and I will answer the best I can!
Hi have two gutters on my fenc, last year I tried strawberrys from packs (the dry type in a packet) I had no luck whatsoever not even a green leaf same again this year no luck again.
The soil seams to be very dry even though I water regularly. Can you tell me what I am doing wrong.
I have found that gutter gardens need a lot of water. If it is in a place that gets direct sun in the afternoon you may have to water twice a day. You could also try adding water storing crystals to help. Here’s an Amazon link to the product I mean. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0042YYVYG/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0042YYVYG&linkCode=as2&tag=preparednessmama0a-20&linkId=ece109b306510182a7fe3e49a48c2ac9
Lisa Volkers says
I wanted to do Basil and Cilantro in my gutter garden. By your recommendations I don’t see it listed. What would be the reason for that?
Gutter garden is totally new and it is a good idea. I love to have the hanging one in my work area. Since it does not need much watering I think we can have it indoors near the front porch, courtyard and in the back patio. Can I grow cilantro and basil in them?
Sylvana Whittaker says
Hello! Thank you for the information! My question is do you need to line the gutter with pebbles or anything ? And. Should you drill a hole every 6 inches to grow herbs?
Thank you iagain so much!!!
If you live in a wetter state, unlike Texas, yes adding pebbles or amending the soil with a bit of peat moss or organic compost is always a great idea to prevent waterlogging. Whatever you plant, make sure that the potting mix is as loose as you can get. No need for drilling holes along the gutter if you place it at an angle that allows water to drain at one end.