garden, garden tips, projects

How to Make a Hanging Gutter Garden

82 Comments 04 January 2011

Hanging Gutter Garden

During my after-holiday-get-organized mode, I discovered all these past garden projects I had taken pictures of, but never posted them on the blog. Remember that “living wall” I bragged about?  Well, it’s a dead wall now, but there is much to be learned, so I’ll post about it soon.  I’ll start my 2011 DIY project post with my new hanging gutter garden that will be featured in the upcoming book Garden Up! by Susan Morrison and Rebecca Sweet.

Why Bother with a Gutter Garden?

For me, I have plenty of space to grow all the edibles I want, however, many apartment dwellers are confined to balconies, or small patios, and a collection of containers can start to look cluttery and cost a lot of money up front. Gutter gardens are a great way to take advantage of the vertical spaces around your home to grow flowers, edibles and create a stylish space divider or privacy screen without spending too much money.

Oh, and the slug issue – that’s just it, there is none! Not to say this design is pest free. You’ll still have to deal with flying pests, but you can easily wrap some row cover material around the gutters to allow sunlight in, but keep the flying buggers away from your spinach. Note to self: this is great blog idea – more to come on this issue.

Other gutter garden designs have suggested anchoring them on the side of your house.  Although this is not a bad option, I’d rather not drills holes into my siding or worry about water sitting between the gutters and my siding.  If you rent, I doubt your landlord would be into you screwing a bunch of holes in the siding either.

How to Make a Modern Gutter Garden

Before we start the DIY process of making the hanging gutter garden, I should clarify that I made this gutter garden with a few materials from Feeney, an architectural products company right in my backyard. Most of these materials can be purchased at your local hardware store, with the exception of Feeney’s super sleek cross clamps.  You can buy less attractive hardware attachments at a hardware store.

chain link gutter garden

Chain link gutter garden.

UPDATE: I’ve changed the materials a bit to make sourcing the supplies a lot easier. Click on the photo (left) to see a modified step-by-step instruction on my Nest In Style Facebook page. You can now buy all the materials at your local hardware store without needing to track down the Feeney cross clamps. On another note, if you plan to plant edibles in a PVC gutter, it’s best to line the inside with heavy-duty landscape plastic (be sure to poke holes in the plastic for drainage). Over time, exposure to the sun can start to break down the materials used to make PVC and potentially leach into the soil.

Materials Tools
1 – 8′ PVC white rain gutter cut into 3 32″ sections Cordless Drill with drill bit set
6 – PVC white gutter end caps Hand saw or hack saw
2 – 1/8″diameter steel cables cut to desired length T-square or straight edge
6 – Feeney Cross Clamps (see image below) Tape measure
6 – 1/8″ diameter Feeney steel rods Permanent marker
2 – Galvanized eye hooks Level
Potting soil and Plants Eye protection

Gutter garden materials

Close up of Feeney’s super sleek cross clamps.

Feeney's stainless steel crossclamps

Let’s get started already…

  1. Determine the center of your gutters and draw a reference line (otherwise your gutter won’t hang right).
  2. Mark and drill the holes for the steel cable rods. Find a drill bit the same diameter as the cable to minimize the wiggle room.
  3. Space drill holes a few sizes larger to make sure you get good drainage (plant roots hate sitting in water for long periods of time).

Gutter garden drainage holes

Once you have all your gutter holes drilled, you’re ready to hang this bad boy. Be patient…we’ll be planting very soon.

  1. Locate a spot that gets at least 4 hours of sun. I placed mine on the cross beams of a pergola I built a couple of years ago.
  2. Drill pilot holes (a hole slightly smaller in diameter than the screw diameter) to make screwing in the eye hook a lot easier. Make sure the holes are the same distance as the steel cable so they hang straight down.
  3. Slide the gutters through the holes and secure them with the cross clamps at your desired heights.  You’ll notice I placed mesh tape (normally used for drywall joints), left over from another project, over the drainage holes to keep the soil from seeping. However, I think the holes are small enough, this step is not necessary. I did it out of habit.
  4. Secure the gutter with the cross clamps and half circle steel rods (Note: I bent the steel rods around my Nalgene bottle. It just happened to be the perfect diameter of the gutters).
J-hook support for gutter garden Stainless steel cable supports Gutter garden supports

Now you’re ready to fill it with organic potting soil and plant them with your choice of shallow rooted plants.  I found watering to be easier with a narrow spout watering can like this Aqua Genie Watering Can. Hoses will blast your soil all over the place and rain-style spouts will water your plants and not the soil (note: water your soil NOT your plants).

Growing arugula in gutters

Gutter garden planted with edibles

Gutter Garden complete! click to enlarge

Plant Picks for Gutter Gardens

Shallow rooted edibles and annual flowers should grow easily in a gutter garden, making this project perfect for small space gardens, like balconies, or just to add visual interest to an otherwise boring patio. Scroll down to see how the plants filled in a month after planting.

Here’s a list of edibles to experiment with in your new gutter garden:

  • Arugula, spinach, swiss chard, kale and all kinds of lettuces
  • Annual herbs – cilantro, parsley, chives
  • Strawberries – buy bare roots to save money and make planting easier
  • Root Veggies – beets, radishes and maybe shallow carrot varieties like Tonda di parigi
  • Annual Flowers – marigolds, nasturtiums, pansies and violas

Hanging Gutter Garden Featured in Garden Up!

I’d like to plug in some shameless self-promotion, as well as highlight the upcoming book, Garden Up! (scheduled to publish this spring) from two of my favorite garden designer/garden writer friends, Rebecca Sweet and Susan Morrison.  Guess who’s DIY gutter garden will be featured in their new book? Moi!

Rebecca and I cover a wide range of vertical gardening ideas in our book, but are most excited about the amazing DIY projects ingenious gardeners all over the country created on their own. We follow Jayme’s blog and know she’s always experimenting. When she told us she was building her own gutter garden, we jumped at the chance to include it! – Susan Morrison

Check out their cool Garden Up! video Susan put together for their book. Thanks to Susan Morrison, Rebecca Sweet and Cool Springs Press for including my gutter garden in Garden Up!

Gutter Garden in October

Gutter Garden in November

More acknowledgments:  I recently found new inspiration from a fellow DIY blogger, Karen from The Art of Doing Stuff. Her blog is less than a year old and she is kicking butt with countless DIY projects from making a Halloween wreath, to Holiday container designs, to how to cutting onions. Check her out if you’re the DIY type.

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Author

- who has written 105 posts on Nest In Style | Garden Living with Modern Style.

Founder and owner of aHa! Modern Living, an online store where gardening and modern style come together.

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Your Comments

82 Comments

  1. Creative and innovative !
    One of the coolest gutter made hanging gardens that I have seen is in The Moss Room which is a cool drinking and eating place in the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. They took rectangle shaped gutters, pinned them to the wall and then attached slate tiles to the face. The troughs are planted with ferns, epiphytes and mosses.
    The look is wonderful and replaces the failing living wall of moss that was previously installed .

  2. Jayme, I saw these photos once before and I still love the idea. I’m thinking of hanging some off my vegetable garden fence posts, just to create a little extra space and to keep my salad greens away from the rabbits. They’ll look great, too.

  3. wonderful small space gardening project or just fun to make and grow the everyday edible in : ) Thank you for the share Annie

  4. Love it! What a great way to re-use, re-purpose!

  5. Kerry says:

    Now that is super cool! I just need to find a spot where it won’t get blown to Kansas, before I give it a try.

    Great job!

  6. I never even thought about the rabbits Marie. They are not an issue where I live, just the slugs and leaf miners – oh how I can’t stand leaf miners! I can’t wait to see your photos if you do build a gutter garden.

    Thanks for your nice comments Annie and Rebecca. I had a blast putting it together.

    I will have to google the gutter garden from the Academy of Sciences in San Fran. Sounds awesome Michelle. Thanks for sharing AND for the nice comments.

  7. me says:

    Great idea, and I can’t wait to try it, but…

    8′ PVC white rain gutter cut into 3 36″ sections

    36″ X 3 = 108
    108 / 12 = 9

  8. IAMSNWFLAKE says:

    Neat!!! I love it. Thanks for the tips and how-to’s.

  9. Beth says:

    Love this!

    One little tidbit, though. If you cut three 36″ sections from an 8′ long gutter, you’ll end up with two 3′ long pieces and a 2′ long piece, not three 3′ long pieces. The pieces should be cut at 32″ to get equal lengths and use up the entire gutter piece.

  10. Laura says:

    Great idea! Thanks for sharing. I’m looking forward to setting one of these up in my balcony.

  11. Anna says:

    This looks great! Do you think I can do something like this in my apartment, hanging in front of a window? We’d love to grow some plants inside, and it has to be high enough so the cats won’t get at it.

  12. Cherrie says:

    Wow…this gives me all kinds of ideas for gardening out of the reach of DEER! We really have to be smart around here…and plant higher than 10 feet or fence higher than 10 feet. Of course it might be challenging to harvest from a ladder, but could be worth it!

  13. Rachel says:

    Wow, this is fantastic! I just came across your site via Apartment Therapy. I’ll be subscribing right away. And I would LOVE to link to this if you didn’t mind.

  14. Thanks Rachel! I bet this would look fab on your balcony, great screen idea too! Of course, please feel free to link to this post.

  15. I’m so lucky I don’t have to deal with deer in my backyard Cherrie. My dogs are trouble enough AND I now have 4 chickens to deal with. Love the poop, and the soon-to-be fresh eggs, but they eat everything in sight! Also think about the difficulties in watering from that high too. A shnazzy drip system would solve that problem though.

  16. Hmm, this is a good question Anna. I would totally rig something like this gutter garden in front of my apartment window. But what I’m thinking requires drilling in to the siding, how open is your landlord? If you send me photos, I can help you problem solve (nestinstyle -at- gmail.com).

  17. Very cool Laura. I’d love to see photos if you do!

  18. Whoa Beth, talk about brain-to-keyboard fail! Thank you for catching that error. It’s supposed to be 32″ NOT 36″. I just fixed the error on the blog post. THANK YOU!

  19. Yep, Beth pointed this out too! I just changed the dimensions to 32″ on the blog post. Thank you for letting me know! Good luck with the project and remember to water often.

  20. Beverly says:

    Just love the gutter garden idea!

  21. jacqueline says:

    I was searching home depot’s website for “cross clamp” and wasn’t able to come up with anything. Is there hardware that performs the same purpose for the 1/8″ cable but is not called a “cross clamp?” Any info will be helpful.

    Thanks.

  22. sandra says:

    where can i buy the feeney cross clamps and wire?

  23. Kandyce says:

    This is so cool and I want to do it… but I had a failed experiment with a hanging tomato plant last year and finding out it needed to be watered three times a day. Would that be a concern with this type of garden?

  24. easygardner says:

    I love your hanging gutter garden it really is a great idea and I like all of the pictures you included. Your presentation is very clear and easy to understand. You did a great job and I give you a thumbs up and 5 stars *****.

  25. bobsmith says:

    I have a question… what about chemicals from the plastic (like BPA or worse) leeching into the soil and into your vegetables? Gutters aren’t manufactured with food-growing in mind.

    I’d be very reluctant to do this unless I knew it was safe. Those who are “in the know” won’t store their food in plastic containers. Should we be growing our food in them? Have you looked into this?

  26. Louise says:

    I’m hanging these in front of my windows using curtain rod hardware and a strong pole. Will place a drip tray / planter underneath on windowsill or a table. Thanks for this great idea! Also, I was going to screen my porch, but I think I’ll hang these and grow citronella and some other insect repellant plants. Any suggestions?

  27. Louise says:

    Oh, I want to attract hummingbirds too. This is going to be fun!

  28. Nancy says:

    can’t see you growing carrots in this. kinda limits what you can grow but cute idea

  29. Yes, Nancy, you’ve pointed out the limitations of this kind of hanging garden. I plan to plant succulents in it this year. Takes a lot of watering since the container is so shallow.

  30. Herbs are a great choice for repelling insects and attracting beneficial insects. Check out this article from Herb Companion Magazine for specific varieties. As far as the hummingbirds go, here’s an article from the Old Farmer’s Almanac about creating hummingbird habitats from the ground up. But for the gutter garden, I would try the alliums (chives), catmint, mint, pansies and zinnias.

  31. Yes, Kandyce, this garden would need to be watered often. The smaller the container, the more often it needs to be watered. I would recommend you plant succulents in this type of garden instead.

  32. Shira says:

    Question: How does this hanging garden concept do with windy days?

    Thanks, amazing idea!!

  33. V T Balanarasimha says:

    Awesome idea.i will definitively try this out

  34. This is such a well thought out plan. There is definitely a use for this on my balcony. As an apartment dweller there isn’t much room for vertical growth to this is perfect! Thanks for sharing. :D

  35. Amy says:

    I thought of doing something similar, but winding a soaker hose through it, then when I want to water it I can just turn on the soaker hose and water through from the roots. Would probably need to cap the ends with mesh or something to go around the hose. Thanks for the idea, super cool!

  36. Shawnta says:

    Wonderful idea. I am making three for my mom’s 50th birthday.

    Make sure, if you’re going to grow edibles, that you use PVC. Don’t use tin or aluminum to grow things you eat.

    Finding half round, pvc gutters was difficult. The only supplier of 1/2 round pvc gutters I could find was egutter.com. They cut the 10′ into 3 pieces for me which significantly decreased the shipping cost. Also, they were wonderful to work with.

    Thank you, also for the perfect clamp. We were able to order them Feeney directly.
    Thanks again!

  37. So great! I am trying to think of a way to have an herb garden in the back yard but I have young kids who love to play soccer. This could be the perfect way to save the veggies and herbs from getting hit by fast moving soccer balls!

  38. Really nice idea! The only ‘but’ that comes up for me is… I’d rather use natural materials to use as a ‘gutter’.

    Some people believe using plastic (pvc) for this might end up leaving small pvc parts in the soil, then in the roots end then in the herbs and plats itself… making them much less good for our health.

  39. Bob Watt says:

    Really cool idea especially for people with limited garden space. And it looks attractive to boot.

  40. I saw reposted on Apartment Therapy and loved the idea. I see that the original concept was posted here. THANK YOU! When I started to have issues with slugs and other ground pests, I decided to create a hanging gutter garden as well. Photos and a blog post about it here: http://theurbanheirloomsproject.blogspot.com/2012/06/my-hanging-gutter-garden.html. It’s working out nicely!

  41. James says:

    Your gutter garden looks great and very much more attractive than my amateur attempt which I have done against my back wall. In my case, I simply had some left over guttering from a job my brother did, just a few feet, and having seen it done very effectively by a friend of mine, I had a go myself.

    At first, I chose the wrong kind of flowers as I’m no expert by any means, and due to a little too much sunlight, found I lost a few. But one thing I did do, which may be worth consideration, was to put a short length up high. I got around the watering and maintenance issue by raising them on a pulley at each end.

    However, mine was not well planned out and I did it just for the fun of it, but seeing your creations is making me think I really should do it properly.

    Thank you for the suggestions of suitable vegetables to plant such as spinach, kale and lettuce. I really fancy having a go with strawberries, too. They are ideal for me as where I live I do seem to be rather blighted by many slugs so this is a great suggestion and I think I shall tear down my shambolic attempt and do it a little neater following your guide.

  42. What a great use of vertical space, Diane! You’re version looks fantastic as well. I have to give you credit for not giving up after the first fail, and to keep trying until you figured out a solution that works for you – the life of a Do-it-herselfer! Thanks for sharing your project with us!

  43. Thanks for leaving your comments here, James! Definitely give your gutter project another go! I’ll be posting an easier version – although not as sleek looking – soon after I move from Oregon to Salt Lake City in about a month. In the meantime, try to find the deepest gutters you can find, and be sure to line your gutters with a thick plastic if you’re planting edibles in repurposed gutters. Good luck!

  44. Hi Jayme
    Whar a great site, I am glad I discovered it.
    Here is my very low tech hanging gutter planters.

    http://vegetarianirvana.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/hanging-wall-garden-with-gutter-planters/

  45. Wayne Irvine says:

    I’ve considered projects like this for some time but the contamination mentioned by several other respondents is of concern to me too. I can’t help but notice these posts have gone unanswered.

    I would love to hear both sides of the argument about using PVC for the beds.

  46. Hello Wayne! Thanks for your comment. To answer your question about using PVC, or other potentially harmfull materials, as planters is the breakdown of the material over time and chemicals leaching into the soil. Many gardeners create a barrier using a heavy plastic between the soil and planter to prevent the contaminants from reaching the soil, therefore preventing the plant from absorbing potentially harmful chemicals up through their roots. I should have posted a reply and update to this important question sooner.

  47. Very, very nice ! Especially in homes where there is little space, as in the balcony or terrace.

  48. Cam D. says:

    What an amazing gutter garden idea here! I am already thinking about my steel cables in the house that have been in the stock room for a while now. But I am considering to use a different gutter instead of PVC (not sure though). I can’t wait to hang my greens to keep them away from wild eaters around.

  49. Good idea :-) Just moved away from Copenhagen with my girlfriend to a smaller town 30 min. away. We have a small garden and talked about what kind of projects to do. This is definitely one of them :)

  50. Devendra Sachan says:

    Nicely explained , working idea .


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