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.
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.
|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|
Close up of Feeney’s super sleek cross clamps.
Let’s get started already…
- Determine the center of your gutters and draw a reference line (otherwise your gutter won’t hang right).
- 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.
- 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).
Once you have all your gutter holes drilled, you’re ready to hang this bad boy. Be patient…we’ll be planting very soon.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
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).
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.