The following 101, on setting up your own gutter garden, comes from Farm Aid’s ace program assistant and frequent HOMEGROWN contributor, Toni Tiemann. (Check out her 101s on record planters and etched drinking glasses, not to mention her list of six things you might not be composting but could.) Thanks so much, Toni, and please keep the good ideas blooming!
I grew up on a farm with lots of land around and three separate gardens for flowers and veggies. But I recently moved to an apartment in Boston where the closest thing to a yard is the cement sidewalk next to my building. I ruefully gave up on the prospect of guerrilla gardening in my neighbor’s freshly deposited soil, but I missed watching and tending to plants as they grew. Even after setting pots of flowers and houseplants all over my apartment (check out my Record Planter 101), I still wasn’t satisfied. So I set off in search of a way to build a garden on my tiny, second-story deck without taking away from our already limited precious outdoor space.
Probably as a joke, one of my roommates recommended planting flowers in the gutters. Little did he know, there are tons of vertical gutter-garden plans floating around the Internet, as I soon found out. I didn’t follow any models or instructions, but with the help of my handy roommates, the process below took less than an hour and looks great on my deck. It was fairly inexpensive, too! This project is easily adaptable to whatever size and height you want, so play around with it to fit your space. It's also easy to breakdown and move—especially useful for nomadic college students.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
» 2 10-foot gutters, each cut in half (Several materials would work, but I chose vinyl gutters because they’re cheaper. A tip: Many hardware stores will do the cutting for you.)
» 8 gutter caps
» 3 36”-long 5/8”-wide threaded rod
» 15 nuts to fit the threaded rod
» Power drill
» Measuring tape
» String (I used twine.)
» Seedlings to transplant or soil and seeds (I planted flower seeds in organic potting soil. When choosing plants or seeds, keep in mind where you’ll situate your garden. Because my deck only gets a few hours of direct sunlight, I went with flower varieties amenable to partial shade.)
WHAT TO DO
1. If the gutters are already cut to the size you want, you’re ready to get started. Otherwise, start by cutting the gutters.
2. Using a power drill, drill three holes into each gutter: one on either end, about 3 to 4 inches in, and one in the middle. Make sure the holes are big enough to fit the threaded rod but not so big that the nuts will fall through. I drilled these holes by stacking the gutters on top of each other, with the ends flush, but I would recommend avoiding this strategy. Instead, measure where you’d like the holes to go and drill each gutter individually. While it was easy to drill through the stack of four, the gutters were slightly warped, so the holes didn’t easily align.
3. Screw in one nut on the bottom of each of the 3 threaded rods. Place the first piece of gutter on top of each threaded rod.
4. Screw the next nut one foot above the first gutter. Place the second piece of gutter on top of the nut on the threaded rod. Repeat for the third piece of gutter.
5. For the last piece of gutter, put a nut at the top of each threaded rod. After putting the last section of gutter on top of the nuts, screw the last three nuts on top of the gutter, securing it in place.
6. Put the gutter caps on every end of the gutter sections.
7. Place the gutters against the portion of porch or deck to which you’ll secure it. Use the twine to tie the threaded rod to the railing posts. I tied each threaded rod to the deck railing in three different places.
8. Now for the fun part! Fill each of the gutters with soil and add the seedlings, if you’re transplanting. If you’re planting seeds, like I did, plant the seeds about 1-inch deep, a few inches apart.
9. Tend your new garden with water, sunshine, and lots of love!
Got a question for Toni? Or your own gutter gardening tip to share? Post it below and keep the conversation rolling! In addition to Toni's 101s on record planters and etched drinking glasses, and those 101s mentioned above on transplanting and seedbombs, you might be interested in 101s on seed starting, container gardening, creating raised beds, launching a bucket brigade, building your own self-watering container (aka subirrigated planter), and gardening with kids. You can find oodles of 101s on specific crops, plus lots more things to plant, grow, cook, preserve, make, craft, and tend, in the HOMEGROWN 101 library.
PHOTOS: TONI TIEMANN