Rain Gutter Gardening

    Herbal gutter garden. (PHOTO/MARC WOODARD)

    If you have always wanted to grow an herb garden but have not done so for lack of garden space, consider using a rain gutter as a plant container. They can be suspended or hung along any fence or inside/outside wall to grow your favorite herbs at an affordable price. 

    Materials needed – Repurpose an old gutter or purchase a 10′ section with end pieces and hangers, or rope for ~$10.00 – $20.00 at your favorite home improvement center. If you do not have room to hang a 10-foot section, cut it to a desired length using a hack saw.

    Although the depth of most gutters is ~3-5″, keep in mind many herb roots grow deeper than this. However, they do colonize and will make use of the entire gutter space and thrive as long as the roots don’t extend much beyond 10-12″ and spaced accordingly.

    When hanging gutters outdoors and exposed to the weather, I recommend drilling holes every 12-16 inches at the bottom of each gutter using a ¼” round drill bit. Gutters can also be stacked vertically and spaced using rope, brackets or other means. Be sure to use gutter ends. This will make the gutter more rigid, contain the soil and provide good water drainage. Select a loamy soil [high-quality earth, a mixture of sand, clay, and decaying plant material], or potters’ soil for healthy plant growth and yield. Before hanging and filling gutters with soil, consider helping your children spruce them up with colorful all-weather paints – fun for the whole family.

    When hanging gutter gardens indoors, do not drill the bottom of the gutter unless a secondary drainage gutter is attached below it as a catch basin. Indoor watering instruction – If your plants are green and wilted and the soil feels moist within a 1-2″ depth, wait 2-3 days before adding water. If leaves appear dry, add water. When green and vibrant – no water needed.

    The herbs I selected were based on plant growth in shallow containers and desired herbs criteria:

    1. Find a gutter location that provides 4-6 hours of sunlight daily.
    2. Plants must thrive in a 3-5″ shallow container.
    3. Space between plants must be no less than 6-8”, with a minimum 1-foot overhead clearance.
    4. Herbs must be useful in-home recipes.
    5. Selected herbs have a desired health benefit, i.e., antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial/viral health benefit.
    6. Some herbs are not compatible growing next to others. Read the seeds package for herb plant compatibility.

    After considering the plant selection criteria, the herbs I chose for my herbal gutter garden: Parsley, Chives, Cilantro, Oregano and Thyme. 

    This is a fun gardening project and experience for the whole family. Your children will take pride in growing and farming fresh foods to table, and share those lessons learned. Including how favorite home recipes with farmed fresh-to-table herbs benefit their health.