how to build a gutter garden

Note: Our gutter garden was featured at Apartment Therapy on June 1, 2012.
For an update on how are garden was growing a month later, please see
our gutter garden update

Yesterday we replanted our gutter garden on our back porch. It's been barren the last two years, but Stella and I are renewing our commitment and discipline to care for it this time. As I'm writing I am just realizing that we replanted this on Earth Day. I didn't plan that, but, neat!

Here is a quick how-to on how we built our gutter garden three summers ago.

What we used:

+One 8'-0" long galvanized steel roof gutter
+Eight galvanized gutter hangers and screws
+Six galvanized end caps (three left facing, three right facing, they are not interchangeable)
+Organic exterior potting soil
+Plants and seeds

We had the gutter snipped in the store into two 3'-0" long pieces and one 2'-0" long piece. You can see why these lengths make sense given the sunlight angle on our back porch.

This is the gutter garden as it stood yesterday morning, filled with hard, depleted soil.

What we did:

+Before mounting to the wall, we drilled 5/16" drainage holes in the bottom of the gutters, spaced about 10" on center.

+Also before attaching them to the wall, we fit the caps on the ends. This can take some muscle, patience, and maybe even a hammer. The gutter ends get warped by the tin snips, so the caps don't fit on as easily as you would hope!

+Finally, we attached the gutters to the wall with the mounting hardware. You will have to drill through the back side of the gutter to position the gutter hangers, so it is easier if you have two people working on the job.

All about drainage.

 End caps, before and after plantings.

A gutter hanger.

What we planted this year:

+Starter lettuces, nasturtiums and a few forget-me-nots
+Radish, sweet pea and zinnia seeds
+Strawberries (we didn't yet, but I'm grabbing some tomorrow to throw in)

We have two major hurdles with this gutter garden. One being the obvious lack of depth for things to root. The second is our partial sun. About three-quarters of the gutters get direct sun in the morning until around noon, but a portion of the garden NEVER gets sun. I'm looking around for something I can use to reflect some light back onto the garden without driving the neighbors nuts with glare. Maybe a matte aluminum baking sheet. I'll let you know how that works out!

The finished garden.

 Stella and Oliver present day (l), Stella almost three years ago (r),
when we first built the garden. Time flies.


  1. Such a great idea and beautiful too. I think you must've instinctually known it was earth day! I always say women need to go with their gut :-)

    1. Isn't that funny! I really didn't realize it until in bed writing the post and heard it on the news. I wish this had been my idea! I saw a photo years and years ago and thought it was so brilliant and perfect for our limited space, we had to try it. If only we had better sun in that area. :( We'll see how it does!

  2. awesome to actually hear and see the real-life "nuts and bolts" of your experience with these! I'm going to share and book mark! Thanks so much!!

    1. Thank you, Daffy Dave! It was really nice and convenient that we had a freestanding wall to attach it to. It gets more complicated when you've got to deal with waterproofing issues on the side of a house! I'm glad you've been so moved by this concept over the last week or two, keep me posted if you build one for yourself!

  3. Gutter garden is a great idea to those with limited space in backyard. This is elevated from the ground that's why it is easier to clean.

  4. Wonderful post! We were looking for a fun project for Memorial Day weekend! We can't wait to do ours.

    All the Best,

    1. Thank you, Rionna! I would love for you to link it up here in the comments once you've built it. It would be fun to have several versions of gutter gardens to look at. Hope you had a great weekend!

  5. A really great idea to use every space for small gardening projects! I love your pictures!

    1. Thank you so much, Anna-Maria! I really appreciate that.

  6. I work with guttering every day and never considered that it could be used as a plant box. What a fantastic idea!


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