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:
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.
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).