It would be nice if I could say I created the Gutter Garden, but have to admit I met someone who had set up such a garden, fell in love with the concept, and thought I’d give it a whirl. Besides, there are always quite a few unused gutters hanging around looking for a deeper purpose in life.
My small courtyard has been quite challenging when it comes to something fun and pretty to look at in the spring and summer. I tried to grow some vegetables the first round, but the gutters are lacking in depth to bear any fruit, although the vines seemed to do okay for a couple of months. Green beans, basil, and other edibles were on the hit list, but I would not recommend them to anyone after my failed experiment.
Get started by gathering your gutters, cut them to the desired length, paint them if you want to, and secure them to the fence’s horizontal boards using a power drill and enough screws to keep the gutters in place. Fill each gutter with a quality soil mixture for plants or seeds after the last frost in your area. Or start seeds indoors and transplant.
So far, my fave plants are young Asparagus ferns. They are sturdy, take the heat and wind, lots of sun, and love the gutters! Who knew? At the end of the growing season I dig up the ferns and gift them.
My passion is Zinnias, which I grow from seed and transplant when they are a couple of inches tall and sport at least two sets of leaves. For the gutters I use the Thumbelina variety, which still get quite tall — 10″ or so — and will need a little extra care to help them keep standing. This year I have used a plant twine to run along the front of each gutter to see how this works. So far so good…
One thing that seems to keep the garden growing all summer is having plants that are compatible with each other and like the same soil, water, and sunlight. Portulaca get waterlogged when combined with Zinnias. If you want succulents, devote one gutter to them alone and it will be smashing.
Meanwhile, the garden seems to last for about 4-5 months, but the real trick is to water frequently — everyday if necessary. With such shallow soil the plants can dry out and die overnight, which is one of the drawbacks. During the winter fill the gutters with string lights and seasonal holiday ornaments and enjoy the gutters during the off season. I’m not above using fake foliage to fill in the blanks here.
As with anything good in life, a lot of tender loving care will produce a beautiful view and make the effort all worthwhile. Any plant worth its salt will certainly be the first to tell us that Love is the Answer.
Carmen Allgood © 2017
All photos © Carmen Allgood