Monday, May 30, 2011

Gutter Garden Tutorial

I've been asked by so many people about my Gutter Garden that I thought posting a tutorial would be very helpful to those that want to do it.
Up front, this was not my genius idea, I wish I could take credit for such a clever idea. I read it on a blog last year, by a woman in Alaska who was tired of fighting the cold, rocky ground, slugs, cats and deer, all who wanted a piece of her garden. She thought that if she could get the plants off the ground, that would solve most of her problems. She posted pictures of her gutter garden and all I did was copy it!

These are just regular gutters that you can by from any hardware store. They typically come in 10 foot lengths which is perfect for this application. Our fence posts are 10 feet apart, and you want something strong like that to screw into. This saved us having to cut any length off.

Decide how much gutter you will need and if needed, the store can even cut them to length for you.

Also purchase the gutter caps, U clips, equal length boards and screws.

I bought 4 - 10 foot lengths of gutters, 2 gutter caps for each length (so 8 gutter caps in all) and 3 U clips for each gutter. I also purchased 4 - 10 foot lengths of board for support.

My husband screwed the 10' long boards to the fence, using the posts as studs. The boards are used for stability. Attach the gutters to the board.



Next, attach the end caps to the gutters. You could do this before screwing them to the boards, if you wish.



Attach the U clips to the gutters. These will help support the gutters and not allow them to bow outward once filled with all that heavy soil. We used 3 clips per section and can see bowing. Could have used 4, evenly spaced U clips. Regardless, 3 works just fine.



Drill drainage holes about every 8-10" in the bottom of each gutter, to allow for drainage. This is very important. If you don't do this, you risk root rot if excess water has no were to drain.



Fill the gutters with a good vegetable potting soil. One that has moisture lock is very helpful for the gutters, as they need watering often, given the shallowness of the container. Add soil and fill up to within 2 cm from the very top. Make sure the soil is nice and compact as it will settle with time and watering. You need as much soil in there to allow for the roots and to protect the veggies. I made the mistake last year of not adding enough soil and after it settled down, I ended up with onions and radishes sticking a bit out of the soil.



Run a trowel, or even a chop stick, down the length of the gutter, about 1/2 - 1" deep. Drop seeds in according to the directions on the package. Almost all say to leave 2.5cm spacing between seeds. I am way to impatient for that and I end up just lightly sprinkling them in there. Once they start coming up, you will see where you have to thin them out by literally plucking the excess out with your fingers. This allows for space to grow properly. They don't like being crowded in there!



I planted the Gutter Gardens for the first time last year and had 2 gutters on the west fence and 2 gutters on the east fence. I planted the west fence gutters first, waited 2 weeks and then planted the east fence gutters. Since the east fence gutters got the most sun, they took off growing and did WAY better than the west fence. In fact, some of the radishes on the west fence never grew enough to actually make radishes. So this year, I had my husband move the 2 west fence gutters over onto the east fence. It gets the best sun for the most hours, it all makes a difference.

Here are the gutters, planted on May 21st.
Top row - onions
Second row left side - mixed lettuce (radiation, endive, spinach, etc)
Second row right side - spinach
Third row - lettuce
Bottom row - strawberries



Week 1, the lettuce is popping up already! When the lettuce is ready, all you do it cut it off at the base, and it will grow back again and again.



I planted the strawberries out of purchased baskets. I don't know if I've ever seen strawberry seeds. Even so, I do not have the space in this house to start things indoors so sometimes, I have to resort to buying already grown.



Strawberries are the perfect candidate for gutter gardens as you can obviously control the trailers. Trail away, strawberries! Run and be free.



Here is a list of some produce that are shallow-rooted and would do well in a gutter garden:

Onions
Radish
All varieties of lettuce
Spinach
Strawberries
Herbs (peppermint, spearmint, thyme, sage, etc)

There is more, I am sure. Google "shallow root vegetable" to read more ideas.

Remember, anything grown in the gutter garden will not be very drought resistant. They will need watering more often, but of course, they won't require a lot of water. I like to start at the top gutter and work my way down to the bottom, then start all over again. They get a good watering and that will last several days (depending on how hot it is, of course. Water more often when it is really hot out.)

I hope others try this idea out. It has worked so well for us. I love to grow things, even if I don't eat them all. I'm what my father-in-law calls "an urban farmer".

1 comment:

Chelsea Welsh said...

That sounds interesting. I know gutters are normally used to draw rainwater away from the foundation of a building. But as something to keep plants? That's resourceful of you. I mean, that's resourceful of that woman from Alaska from whom you drew inspiration. ;)

Chelsea Welsh @ GutterHelmet.com