Gardens can be amazing resources during an emergency as well as for everyday enjoyment. Everyone can put in a garden, even if it is just a rain gutter full! Rain gutter gardening is a helpful solution for those that want to have a garden but also are short on space.
A rain gutter garden is made with actual rain gutters, but not the ones already attached to your house. Individual sections of aluminum or PVC rain gutters can be purchased at nearly every home improvement store and work great for a garden. All you have to do is drill a few drainage holes, fasten them to a sturdy fence or wall, and plant your garden!
Gardens can be amazing resources during an emergency and rain gutter gardens are a great solution to wanting a garden, but having very limited space. They can be put up almost anywhere and are easy on the wallet as well. They can also be a very easy start into gardening if starting up a full-size garden sounds daunting.
Benefits of a Rain Gutter Garden
- Small and easy to manage, especially if you are new to gardening or only have a small amount of time to dedicate to it
- Can be installed almost anywhere, no yard necessary!
- Gets your garden up off the ground. This is so helpful if you have back problems or struggle getting on the ground to tend to a garden. They can be hung at a good height for you to be able to care for them without bending or leaning over.
- Gardens are great for stress relief and getting outside in the sunshine regularly.
In one afternoon, you can put together a beautiful rain gutter garden that can help during an emergency as well as regularly put more fresh food on your table!
What Materials Do I Need?
- Rain gutter(s)
- End caps
- Measuring tape
- Potting soil
What Type of Gutter Should I Choose?
Rain gutters come in different materials at varying price points. The most inexpensive types are either aluminum or PVC and can range anywhere from $4 – $10 per 5 feet of gutter.
Either one of these materials work great for a rain gutter garden as they are sturdy and easy to hang up yourself. Make sure to grab the coordinating fasteners for your gutters to be able to hang them up!
Another great thing about these materials is that they both can be painted! So if you are wanting to add some color or even just want to match your fence color, paint the outsides before you get them full of plants.
One of the only differences between aluminum and PVC is how long they will last. The aluminum may start to rust in humid environments and the PVC could crack in constant heat or direct sun, so take into consideration your general climate as well as where you are planning to put your garden before purchasing the gutters.
If you are changing out old rain gutters, you can definitely upcycle them into gardens! This is a great way to save on costs and keep them out of the dump.
Keep in mind though that you will want to clean old rain gutters and check for too much wear or rust. If you are worried about too much wear for edibles or unsure about what your gutters are made of, plant only flowers or succulents that won’t be consumed.
Prepping Your Rain Gutters
Once you have purchased your rain gutters, you can get them ready to hang up in just three easy steps.
Step 1 – Choose a Length
Hopefully by this point, you have a good idea about where you are wanting to hang up your rain gutter garden. This likely does not match the exact length of what you can buy from the store, so you will probably have to cut them to get the length you want.
Aluminum can be cut with metal shears and PVC with a hacksaw. You can also double-check wherever you bought your gutters to see if they will cut them for you in-store.
Decide how long you want your rain gutters and where they will be supported. You will want to hang them up somewhere very sturdy, like between fence posts or the side of your house, and add supports at least every 3-5 feet. Measure exactly where you are wanting to hang them up and cut your gutters accordingly.
Step 2 – End Caps
Next, you will want to cap the ends of the gutters. This will help the soil and plants to stay in the gutter, as well as give it a nice, clean finished edge.
These usually can just be snapped into place, but feel free to give it extra security or just a better seal with super glue or PVC glue.
Step 3 – Drill Holes for Drainage
The last step before you hang up your gutters is to make some drainage holes. Drill small holes, about ½ inch in diameter, once every 6 – 10 inches.
Now you are ready to hang them up!
Where Should I Hang My Rain Gutter Garden?
The most common place to hang a rain gutter garden is along a wooden fence as they are very sturdy and can be drilled into pretty easily.
Some smaller gutter gardens can be attached to the fence rail or backing, but generally, it is best to stick to fence posts for security.
Following the directions from your specific gutters and fasteners, secure the rain gutters to the fence posts. Make sure you are securing your garden every 3-5 feet to ensure that it will not bow or crack from too much unsupported weight.
Once you have a general idea for where you want to hang your garden, track how often the sun will be directly on your garden. If one side of your fence gets a lot of sun, you may want to switch to a spot that gets a good mix of sun and shade.
You also will need to match your plants to how much sun your garden is getting. A few options for plants that do well in full sun are some succulents, marigolds, or lettuces.
Other Options for Hanging
If you do not have a wooden fence, you would rather not drill into it, or it’s looking a little unstable, there are many other options on where to hang your rain gutter garden.
Gutters can be attached to the side of the house or garage. They can also be run along a deck banister, which would make them even more accessible!
Rain gutter gardens can be free hanging and supported from above like a hanging basket. This works well if your gutters are no more than 2 – 3 feet long and are supported on both ends.
If you have a little more space, but not enough for a full garden bed, you could create a free-standing rain gutter garden by building an A-frame or latter support. They can be constructed to hold multiple tiers of gutter gardens to really utilize the space.
You can even attach wheels to the bottom of your frame and then you have a mobile garden! This could especially be helpful if your climate is not particularly friendly to the plants you decide to use or you need to move them to stay in the sun.
What Type of Plants Should I Use?
Any type of plant that does well in small pots and spaces will work wonderfully for your rain gutter garden. Strawberries, herbs, succulents, lettuces, and flowers are all great choices for a rain gutter garden.
Herbs and succulents are all very forgiving plants, so they are great options for beginner gardeners who are just learning how to take care of plants.
Any plants that have spreading roots instead of deep diving roots will work well in a rain gutter garden. Also, choose plants that will work well together. Gutter gardens are small so the plants need to benefit each other and not compete for space.
Once you have chosen your plants, fill the gutters with your choice of soil and plant them! Try to keep a 4- 6 inch space between each plant to allow for it to grow and not compete with the next set of plants. It will also help distribute the weight well across your entire rain gutter garden.
Tips For Creating and Maintaining a Beautiful Garden!
- Rain gutter gardens are rather shallow and can dry out quickly. Make sure you are watering it often, especially on really hot days. You can install a drip system that can run along the gutter and water it continuously. These are fairly easy to install but make sure to check the soil often after installation to make sure it is not getting overwatered.
- Gardens can be planted with a theme in mind. Some themes could include:
- A salad garden full of lettuces, spinach, snap peas, and herbs.
- An herb garden with all the herbs for your favorite dishes such as cilantro, green onions, chives, and garlic.
- A succulent garden full of a range of different colors and sizes of succulents.
- Hang multiple gutters together vertically to create a larger garden space or connect multiple gutters together to create one long garden that runs the perimeter of your fence or wall. Another variation you can try is to hang the gardens at a slight incline. This can help with drainage as well as changing the look of your garden.
- Since rain gutter gardens are generally simple and inexpensive to create, they are usually not a huge deal to replace if they become cracked or damaged. Just take down the broken gutter, hang up a new one, then carefully transfer your plants into the new gutter.
- If you have pets or even small children, make sure you hang your gardens high enough that they won’t be disturbed.
Gardens are great for stress relief, so have fun with them and don’t overcomplicate it! Make it a fun new hobby that will provide for you daily as well as in an emergency.