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Gutter Gardens

Vegetables Gardening in a Rain Gutter

Gardening in the gutter, literally, is one of the hottest small space gardening trends I’ve spotted this year. The idea behind a gutter garden is simple: hang rain gutters from a wall, fence, or chains, fill them up with potting soil, and plant shallow-rooted crops in the trough-like containers. This arrangement is ingenious on a number of levels.

a. It allows you to turn otherwise unusable sunny areas into growing space.

b. Rain gutters are inexpensive, readily available, and come in a range of edible garden-friendly materials, including copper, plastic, and aluminum.

c. Some of the best kitchen garden crops grow well in shallow containers, including lettuce, spinach, mache, herbs, and strawberries. Scallions, radishes, beets, and round carrots like ‘Parmex’ can also be grown in gutter gardens.

d. The gutters are hung up off the ground, which helps protect crops from rabbits, groundhogs, and other garden creatures that like to nibble on salad greens.

e. The gardens can be positioned at a height that makes them accessible to all people.

Here’s a quick round up of some gutter garden ideas:

Gutter Garden Trend

Alaska gardener  Suzanne Forsling first wrote about her three-tiered gutter garden last year and it remains one of the most popular examples around.

Life on the Balcony has an excellent tutorial from landscape architect Janet Luke on creating a balcony gutter garden. I love this project because it allows condo and apartment gardeners to grow a lot of food in a small space and it creates a living screen. Using copper gutters would makes this system particularly attractive.

Irrigated Gutter Garden

The most ingenious gutter garden I’ve come across is located at the Highland People’s Food Seedbank Project in Inverness, Scotland. This garden was designed by Chris Scatchard and it has an integrated irrigation system. I think this design would work really well in school, office, community, and condominium gardens.

Gutters can also be incorporated into traditional landscapes. I’m especially fond of the gutter in Becky Barsch Fischer’s vegetable garden in Texas because it takes advantage of the vertical space above a raised bed (see the top photo).

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20 Responses to “Gutter Gardens”

  1. 1
    Jamie Says:

    WOW! I absolutely LOVE this idea. Even in a spacious garden I coudl see using these. I love the three tiered one on the side of the house, it just looks so cool! I think I’m definitely going to have to give these a try next spring!

  2. 2
    Gardener on Sherlock Street Says:

    This is a great way to spread gardening to areas with little or no space to garden in ground. I’ve seen it on many websites this year too. Where I live, they’d dry out way to fast in our winds. (My few hanging baskets tend to spend most of July and August on the ground for that reason).

  3. 3
    Erica Says:

    Great idea and great roundup of links! I’m going to link this over at Grow It Eat It (the food growing blog I help run for U. Maryland Extension).

    If only I had asked my neighbors to save the gutter that got dented when a tree fell on their roof! Bet it would still be good for growing stuff in.
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Leaves that dont leave us =-.

  4. 4
    meg Says:

    These are wonderful! I had planned on incorporating them into the garden this year but will definitely do it next year. More space! Lettuce encircling my deck!
    .-= meg´s last blog ..August Can Jam- not Tomatoes =-.

  5. 5
    patricia Says:

    What a clever idea. You have no idea how this is perfect for my garden. If you could see how I manipulate the sunny spaces now.

  6. 6
    bakingbarb Says:

    Such a great idea, would eliminate my major weed issue!

  7. 7
    Jaspenelle Says:

    Oh my goodness! I love this idea! I could see this on the inside of my (not yet built) wooden fence.
    .-= Jaspenelle´s last blog ..Good Food =-.

  8. 8
    Donata Says:

    Great fun. I was going to do a “salad table” next year, but I think a gutter garden along the fence above the beds would be fabulous! Thank you for sharing all of your wonderful stuffs.
    .-= Donata´s last blog ..repost- Crab stack salad with tarragon vinaigrette and fennel =-.

  9. 9
    Brad Says:

    I usually don’t associate with folks who have their heads in the gutter, but I’ll make an exception here. You should all check out the work Martin Price is doing at ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization) with rooftop gardening. He’s done a lot of experimenting with self-watering designs for gutters and other containers, which require very little maintenance and up-front investment.

    For example, one strategy he uses is to line the bottom of containers with socks filled with empty soda cans, and he places compost on top of that. The cans create space for a water reservoir beneath the soil, while the socks wick moisture up to plant roots. Near the end of the container, he’ll place a small pot that goes right to the bottom, so he can see the water level. The simplicity and practicality of his techniques is rock-solid… check him out:

  10. 10
    Maralyn Jones Says:

    I just loved your idea…..great one…

  11. 11
    Wendy Says:

    ooh, I particularly like the set up in the second photo.

  12. 12
    tigress Says:

    this is awesome!
    .-= tigress´s last blog ..nectarine preserves with summer savory &amp white pepper =-.

  13. 13
    Juliana Says:

    My chickens have decided that newly planted lettuce beds are the best for digging and eating. This might be just the thing to get our lettuce going, great idea!

  14. 14
    reapwhatyougrow Says:

    Wow, what a fab post. I will give this a thought next year at seed time. I particularly like the idea of getting my seeds above slug level.

    I did see Sarah Raven do this with her peas, but never really saw the potential before.
    .-= reapwhatyougrow´s last blog ..Apple bonanza =-.

  15. 15
    tom | tall clover Says:

    I had to laugh; if I was to describe my garden this year I’d have titled the article: Gardening in the Toilet.
    .-= tom | tall clover´s last blog ..Freezing Berries and Rocket Science =-.

  16. 16
    Kris Says:


    1. I love your advice on KUOW! And your digginfood Web site.

    2. It was WAY too difficult for me to figure out how to send you this e-mail via your Web site. Please make it a simple “click and connect”.

    3. I wanted to alert you to the fabulous discussion about egg safety and hen well-being on Warren Olney’s program today (8-31) in case you missed it.

    THANK YOU for your insights about veggie health!

    Kris Moe

  17. 17
    Steve @ the black peppercorn Says:

    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!

  18. 18
    Lesia Delisa Says:

    Hey, awesome blog however there is a issue whereby sometimes I am sent back to the main page when I view different topics in your page.

  19. 19
    Cherrie Says:

    I have tried these three years in a row with ZERO good results. Plants sprout, but fail to thrive…lettuce remains about two inches tall and all plants in the gutters are stunted in terms of growth. I’ve tried herbs, flowers, lettuce, kale, chard…nothing has worked. I haven’t given up but I just don’t know how people are making it work.

  20. 20
    Orlando Roofing Says:

    Thanks for sharing the details and pictures on this terrific DIY with rain gutters re-purposed for the garden. In this case, you just need to keep them clean of weeds instead of roof debris!

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