Sunday, 2 June 2013

Back-to-Back Gutter Planter

Due to our current backyard construction, I haven't been able to plant a veggie garden this spring. Part of it is a time thing (Every spare minute is spent on our landscaping project) and part of it is a space issue (Every square inch is being re-done in our landscaping project).

In a search for space-saving garden ideas I came a cross "Gutter Gardens" where folks are up-cycling the common rain gutter to make a garden box. Hmmm. Cheap, space efficient, easy, and most important - fast and off the ground. Me Likey!

The designs online all have a single gutter hung by a wire or chain from a doorframe or fence or wall. In our case I have a Wal-Mart Gazebo whose canvas cover is dead. We can easily hang our gutters from that, and allow our veggies to grow up and over the frame to provide shade.

Most of the online gutter planters that have the profile mine do are mounted on a wall or fence. This is because they need a bearing surface on the back of the gutters or they may go out of shape. I overcame that challenge by mounting the gutters back-to-back, which doubles the planting rows per level, and balances the forces acting on the gutter, allowing you to hang the wall mount gutters without a wall.

Today we went shopping and bought:

2 - 10ft lengths of gutter (Aluminium)............................... $20
8 - gutter end-caps (4 left hand, and 4 right hand)...............$10
4 - automotive upholstery clips (aka "Jesus clips")...............$ 3
6 - screws, washers, and nuts..........Scrounged from basement
1 - 4 foot length of cedar 2" X 4".....Free - I used scrap lumber   
chain....................................................................$2 per foot

Believe it or not the chain was the most expensive bit on the shopping list. I didn't need to get as much as I did. I got Fancy Brass chain rated to hold 300 pounds at $1.99 per foot. You could use rope or wire to hang the gutters if you want to save a few dollars.

My Goal was to build this for $25, apparently that was a bit ambitious, but $35 is quite reasonable, and I would challenge you to find a planter like this commercially available a lower price per foot!

Now that we have materials, here's how it was built...
Using the scrap 2x4 board cut to 48", I drilled a 1/2" hole, 4" down from the top so that I could pass the chain through the board. Below that, at 12" down from the top of the board, I drilled a 1/4" hole. Finally, at 36" down from the top, I drilled a second 1/4" hole.

 With the 3 holes drilled, I moved to the table saw and cut the board into 1/2" slices. 3 slices hold up a planter.

Now its time to build the gutters. Each planter will use two 10 foot lengths of eavestrough, and 8 end caps. Be sure you buy 4 left, and 4 right caps, or you will need to make a second trip to the store! We used aluminium gutters and caps.

You need to cut the gutters down to 5 foot lengths. There are a number of ways to do this. Some folks use tin snips, some use hack saws or grinders. I used a carbide blade in the compound mitre saw. Whichever way you cut the gutters, be careful, you may end up with a nasty gash from the sharp metal if you aren't careful.

 Now its time to put the end caps on the gutters. I used a dab of construction adhesive on the sides, and the fit the caps in place. holding a block against the back of the cap mash the tabs down until everything fits tight. Like this:

Now that your gutters are built, drill 1/4" holes through them for drainage, and drill 1/4" hanging holes through the backs of them. The Aluminium will allow your drill to wander, and th emetal will want to flex and bend. To get around that, put a scrap block of lumber behind the gutter before you drill through it, and us a nail as a centrepunch to dimple the metal where you want the hole to go.

For the hanging blocks, it is important that all 4 gutters have holes at the same locations, otherwise your wood supports will hang at crazy angles. Make the 3 holes located on dead centre, and in one foot from either end. Start with 2 gutters clamped back to back to each other, with a block of wood behind each hole location. Mark the locations, and drill through both gutters at once. Now remove one gutter, and replace it with another. Using the holes already in the first gutter as markers, drill the holes again, repeat for the final gutter. Using 1/4" bolts and washers attach the gutters to the wood slats.

Cut the chain to lengths appropriate for where you plan to hang this work of art, and everything starts to look like a planter.

Use the 'Jesus clips' to pin the ends of the rails together. These add a surprising amount of rigidity to the planters. I put the clips on, drilled the holes, and then attached them permanently.

Time to head outside! Hang your planter from whatever's handy by the chains. Fill with good soil, and put your plants in. We made 2 of these to replace the wall panels on our gazebo. Once the plants grow, we'll get the same shade, plus some veggies. We are trying growing cucumbers and zucchini over the gazebo to replace its roof. Our planters have:

kitchen herbs
green onions, garlic, and onion sets

So hopefully we will have a decent kitchen garden this summer, in zero square feet. And we'll get shade, and we'll have use for the old gazebo frame.


  1. ooh, nice! I'm going to have to try that...maybe on the fence behind my garden bed. And you don't have to bend over much to pick your stuff, either :)

  2. Thanks for the kind words Gretchen! We had a friend over yesterday talking about our 'great wall' and outof the blue they noticed the planters and asked where we bought them!

    I've thought about making up a few for a local nursing home since the not bending over is so great!


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