Vertical Gutter Gardens
There are a lot of exciting and innovative gardening ideas popping up on the Internet these days, especially for space-challenged folks like apartment dwellers and small-lot home owners. Having been inspired over a year ago by articles and growing concepts to grow baby greens in my porch over the winter (with a smile and a nod to jasonw), I embarked on just that this fall. By combing the concept of the vertical pallet garden and the openness of a gutter growing system, I hope to get the best of both methods.
With the final push of my summer garden coming to a close, I decided to give this rain gutter garden a try. It seemed perfect for baby greens. Although I don’t have any space constraints, gardening at my elevation in the winter would prove a major hassle, and I was looking to make use of my southeasterly-facing deck, which has a large covered section. On sunny days, I push this unit down to the end to maximize sun exposure, and when the weather is gnarly, I push it under the awning.
This is an easy 5’ x 5’ structure. 5’ tall side posts, 5’ sections to hang the gutters on.
The gutters come in 10’ sections, so this required 2 cuts, which the folks at the home improvement store might be kind enough to do for you. 8 end caps (4 right, 4 left), and 12 hangers do the trick for the rest of the project. Any kind of lumber will work – we used 2x4s for the uprights and the horizontals. If you can’t scavenge pieces, the lumber department will usually cut them for you. We prefer the strength of screws vs. nails, and we simply assembled the unit. You’ll need pieces to make the unit stand upright; we had those triangular pieces hanging around from previous construction, and they worked great. You could use 2x4s, too – 3 on each side.
So far, I’d say the results are good. We’ve had some spectacular storms and cold nights, and the garden is pretty healthy. Of course, in better conditions, these greens would be growing like maniacs. In fact, this might be a total keeper to continue doing baby greens in year ‘round. A portal annex garden if you will.
I have been able to grow a surprising amount of variety and volume with this simple setup. On the lower level we planted Romaine lettuce, with cilantro on the end. Next up is kale, with spinach mixed in. Third level, Toy Choy (a miniature Bok Choy hybrid), and top level, Bok Choy. This unit has sustained snow, frost, and cold, but everything is doing well. I occasionally succumb to the temptation to grab a leaf here and there to munch on, and the Bok Choys are simply amazing - and extra good to have in the middle of the winter. This garden also supplies plenty of greens for sandwiches – just take what you need and instantly boost the nutritional value of your meal.
As I have worked with this new growing system, it has occurred to me to build a few of these to donate to senior living communities and nursing homes. Possibly a few to help support local food production for low-income families and community support programs. This can be a cost-effect solution to help support therapeutic gardening for seniors and provide highly nutritional food to families with limited means and access to quality food.