Easy Gutter Gardening

gardening in gutters

Gutter Gardening Is An Easy Way To Grow Lots Of Plants In A Small Space

Gutter gardens are an easy way to add a lot of growing room to your garden, by going vertical!

Space is a premium in most city gardens and one of the answers to a lack of growing room is going up. By using gutters to grow shallow rooted plants, you can grow 4-6 times as much in the same space.

Why Gutter Gardens

The easiest answer is that they are readily available, moderately inexpensive, and there is mounting hardware readily available.   Personally I am a fan of the K style gutters because of the screw in hangers and flat back.  To add to that, gutters can be painted to match your garden and look stylish!

 Preparing A Gutter Garden

There are a few considerations for planting a gutter garden. Here are the primary things to consider.

Gutter Material

There are several options when it comes to gutter materials.  Plastic, aluminum are the most readily available, but copper and zinc coated steel can be found as well.  Zinc seems to me would be continually leaching into your soil, so that is out in my book. PVC gutters will work, but they too can leach chemicals into your soil. That leaves aluminum and copper.  This will come down to choice and look (and price), but both will hold up for years with no maintenance. 

Location

Because gutter gardens are not soil heavy I prefer East facing locations that are protected from the afternoon sun.  This will avoid drying out plants too fast. Plus, a lot of the things you will be growing in your gutter are not full sun plants anyway.

Drainage

It is obviously important to put some holes in the bottom for drainage.   Some people put in gravel or other material to assist in the drainage, but I find that a decent soil with lots of perlite mixed in seems to do just fine.

Fertilizer

You may want to be more regular about fertilizing your plants in your new gutter garden.  The limited soil won’t hold as many nutrients and there is a tendency for it to get washed away.

What Can You Grow In A Gutter Garden

You would be surprised what all you can grow in gutter gardens.   Realistically any plant that has shallow roots will work. This obviously negates thing like most root crops, tomatoes and the like.   Here are a few ideas of what you can grow.

  • Lettuces
  • Salad Greens
  • Asian Greens
  • Strawberries (love them for this)
  • Bush peas
  • Chives
  • Garlic
  • Bunching Onions
  • Radishes
  • Parisian or Atlas Carrots (small and round)
  • Herbs
  • Mint (this will try to take over)
  • Flowers

Watering

Probably the biggest concern when doing a gutter garden is watering. Limited soil means that the plants can dry out quickly on warm windy days. Locating them out of the direct afternoon sun helps considerably, but be aware that you need to check them more often.

Final Thoughts On Gardening In Gutters

For gardeners that are limited on space, or that don’t want to dig dirt, gutter gardens are a great solution.  Easy to build and maintain, gutter gardens offer a lot of potential with minimal effort.  Even if you have lots of room to plant, I highly suggest you take and afternoon and build a gutter garden of your own to experiment with!

Gutter Garden Inspirations

Here are a few examples of gardens you can built with some gutter material and some imagination.

decorative gutter garden on fence Gutter garden on shed walls A Frame gutter garden flowers in gutter garden Planted privacy wall made from gutters painted hanging gutter garden Free standing hanging gutter garden

What Pot Size For Tomatoes?

Knowing The Right Pot Size For Tomatoes Is Critical

One of the most popular urban gardening choices is tomatoes, but what pot size do you need for tomatoes?  A common mistake when growing tomatoes in containers is going too small.

Tomatoes are heavy feeders that have extensive root systems. Going too small means stunted plants and fewer tomatoes in the long run.

Sticking with more conventional pots, most urban gardeners choose containers of ~5 gallons for full size tomatoes. Smaller dwarf or determinate tomatoes can be successfully grown in smaller containers down to 3 gallons.

Remember that tomatoes love moisture and are not happy if they dry out. Too small of a pot for your tomatoes means that it will not only get root bound, but dry out, but not hold enough moisture to keep the plants happy.

Materials For Tomato Containers

For now we will avoid the more exotic tomato containers (upside down, hydroponic and so on) and focus on the more traditional pots for tomatoes. Once you know the pot size for tomatoes, you have to think materials.   Here are a few of the most common.

Terracotta Tomato Pots

Terracotta is a traditional material for gardening.  My experience is that for one, terracotta pots big enough for tomatoes tend to be expensive, heavy and prone to breakage. If you live in a part of the country that freezes during the winter, they need special treatment to survive. Additionally terracotta tends to wick moisture out of the soil and dry the plants out faster than other materials.

Glazed Ceramic Pots

More durable than terracotta and less prone to drying out, glazed ceramic pots are a better choice in my book.  The only issue with them is that they are heavy and generally expensive considering the size of pot needed for tomatoes.

Plastic Tomato Pots

A common choice for tomato gardeners, plastic containers are affordable, durable, and lightweight.  5 gallon buckets with holes drilled in them work perfectly fine if you are not worried about aesthetics.  Of course you can always buy more attractive ones. The only concern with plastic pots is making sure they drain adequately.  Tomatoes like water, but don’t want to be water logged.

Wooden Containers For Tomatoes

Whether they are purpose built cedar planting boxes or old half barrels, wooden containers work well for tomatoes.  The downside to wood tomato containers is that they generally only last a few seasons before breaking down.

Concrete Containers

Concrete is a solid choice for a tomato pot.  Coming with that of course is a whole lot of weight.  Of all the choices, concrete pots are the most durable — and the heaviest, so plan to place them in a permanent spot. Large sizes can be costly.

Fabric Grow Bags For Tomatoes

In my book, fabric grow bags are the best way to go for urban gardens and growing tomatoes.   Considering the pot size for tomatoes, grow bags are light, breath and drain well and are inexpensive.  They last several seasons and don’t rot.

5 Gallon air pots for growing tomatoes
5 Gallon air pots for growing tomatoes in my urban garden

This year I am testing out 5 gallon square grow bags for my tomatoes.  I’m liking the square shape of these though I’m wondering if the corners will be a weak point. The hope is that I can get more soil in around each plant in the same amount of space.

Final Thoughts On What Pot Size For Tomatoes

Whether you go with a traditional material or something more advanced like fabric tomato pots, bigger is better.  Of course you will need a sunny location for them and plenty of fertilizer.

When it comes to growing tomatoes, whether in a full size garden or an urban one, growing tomatoes is essentially easy, but growing AMAZING tomatoes is a science unto itself.