DIY Vertical Gutter Garden with Auto-Watering System

Learn to build an A-frame vertical garden system with an automatic watering setup.

Reader Contribution by Kerry W. Mann, Jr. and Homesteadhow
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by Adobestock/DN6

We built this A-Frame garden because our homestead soil has failed us the last few years. This is a simple DIY project and a good opportunity to teach my daughter some building lessons. I designed this project in 3D using Google Sketchup. Those plans are free for you to use here. We also have a gravity fed rainwater setup from last year that can — with the help of 2 AA batteries and a RainWater Kit from Amazon — auto-water the garden on a set schedule for us! Because some people learn better by seeing, we also made a video (which was really fun) for this project. You can see it above.

This is a beginner-level DIY project using some 2-by-2s and some PVC gutters. My 13-year-old daughter, Katie, built almost this entire project herself (with just a bit of help from Dad). The setup is nice, because we can position it where we want and Katie can own it 100 percent. Also, our homestead garden failed the last few years. While we are amending our homestead garden soil, we want to be 100% sure we grow a good crop this year and this will be a great help.

Sometimes people learn better via video, so Katie and I also created a video version of this project (take a look above). The supplies needed for this project could be found at most large home improvement and hardware stores. We picked our supplies up at Menards.

Supplies:

  • 8- 2x2x8 pressure-treated boards
  • 1- 2x6x8 pressure-treated board (this will be cut down to 5 feet long not 8, so get shorter if you can find it. In our project we used cedar because we had it)
  • 3- 10 foot PVC rain gutters
  • 12- gutter end caps
  • 12- gutter attachment brackets
  • 4- 4-nch flap hinges
  • 1- box of 2 1/2-inch construction screws
  • 1- container of wire staples or similar. The Auto-Watering Kit comes with some staples but we needed more.
  • 1- Automatic Watering Kit from Amazon

Tools:

  • Saw
  • Drill/driver
  • Wire cutter/aviation snips (something to cut the small water tubing)
  • Countersink bit or bit to predrill holes

Step 1: Start Cutting Your Material

OK, there aren’t any ladders in this project but the two sides of the A-Frame garden look like ladders and that is what we will call them for simplicity.

The two ladders are comprised of three rungs and two side: 3 + 2 = 5 times 2 = 10. So we need to end up with 4-foot pieces. So start by cutting five of the 2x2x8s in half to end up with ten 4-foot lengths.

Next, cut the three of the 10-foot-long gutters in half to end up with six 5-foot lengths. I carefully and slowly did this on our miter saw.

Finally, cut the 2x6x8 “shelf” down to 5-feet-long. The ladders will be 4-feet-long and the shelf and gutters will overhang and be five feet long.

Step 2: Prepare the 2 ‘Ladders’

Lay out the ladders on the ground. Each rung should be one foot down from the top/next piece. Now we want to mark the holes for each of the three rungs so we can drill pilot holes

In the picture we positioned 2 pieces even with each other and measured down one foot and marked both boards with a speed square and pencil. Afterwards we realized we should have done four at one time. So do four at once. Measure down one foot, mark all four boards (this is your top rung), measure down another foot from your mark and pencil all four boards for your second rung and then down one more foot for the bottom rung.

With your boards marked use a small drill bit our counter sink bit and drill a hole in the center of each mark. This is where you will screw through to attach your rung to the side boards.

Now your ladders and rungs are all prepared for the next step, assembly.

Step 3: Assemble the ‘Ladders’

Now it’s a matter of screwing in the rungs to each side. We used our drill and the construction screws. Don’t go too tight on the rungs. We left them slightly loose so that we could tilt them level once the gutter is attached. Plus you don’t want to split the boards.

Assemble both ladders.

Step 4: Attach the Top Shelf Hinges

The next step is to attach the top shelf with the four-inch flap hinges. Lay out the ladders and the shelf on a large table or on the ground.

Keep in mind you are looking at it upside down. Measure 6 inches over on each side of your shelf (since your shelf is 1 foot wider it will overhang the ladders by 6 inches on each side). This is where you want your hinge to attach to the ladders so mark your shelf. Our shelf wasn’t wide enough to allow both ladder hinges to align perfectly without overlapping so we staggered them slightly. Attached the hinges to both sides with the screws that came with the hinges.

Step 5: Attach the Gutter Brackets

Next we want to attach the gutters to the rungs. But first we need to secure this wobbly A-Frame. Attach a temporary board across the top to keep it upright. We had some leftover boards from the shelf we used. You don’t have to be fancy here. Remember this is hinged so at the end of the season we could remove several screws to collapse the unit for easier storage.

It will be much sturdier once we add the braces across rungs and under the gutter. The gutter is supported by two gutter brackets in the center- and in the next step we will add some cross braces which will add stability and support the edge of each gutter even more, but let’s focus on the brackets first:

Measure in 16 inches from each side of the rung and mark the rung for all six rungs on both sides. This is the location of each of the 12 brackets, two per rung. Next screw in your gutter brackets.

Then install the gutter end caps on each gutter.

And finally click the gutters into place on each rung. Once in place slide the gutter left or right so that you have a six-inch overhang on each side to match your shelf.

Step 6: Install Your Cross Bracing, and Final Assembly

The cross bracing are simply boards that go across each rung from one ladder to the other side, under the gutter.

They serve two purposes, they provide stability and they support the edge of each gutter (while the center is supported by the brackets).

We took our remaining 2x2s and placed them under the bottom gutter and across and we marked the board so it would be long enough to support both gutters on each side but not hang over beyond the gutters. Then we cut each to size and screwed into place as pictured.

At the end of the season if you want to collapse your garden- you will remove these same screws and set the bracing aside to fold this up.

Next drill a ton of holes in each gutter to allow for drainage. You could use the same bit you used to pre-drill your screws in the earlier step.

And now your basic structure is built! You could now remove the gutters now and paint it if you want. Since we used pressure treated boards we are going to let them dry out a bit before painting it white. White is a good color to reflect heat.

Step 7: Install the Automatic Watering Kit

The final step is to install the Automatic Watering Kit we picked up from Amazon.

With this kit we can set a timer to auto-water the garden whenever we want. This kit was enough for all of the gutter plants but not enough for the top shelf. We plan to expand the kit once we get the containers on the shelf – we can T off of the tubes to auto-water the shelf.

Follow the directions for your kit. We did three feeders per gutter.

First measure the length across from each gutter on the bottom and then cut six pieces of line half that length (we will have a T in the center aiming up. Then assemble three cross lines (two of the cut lines with a T in the center and drippers on each side). Pass them across and staple them in place. Repeat the same for the center rung (which will not be as long) and then the same for the top rung.

Next measure up from the bottom T to the center rung and cut 3 more pieces of tube. Attach to the bottom T and cut the hose above and tap in with a new T. I know it’s a lot of T’s! Repeat for the second rung of hoses. Then on the top T your way back to the right side where we will connect to the auto-timer. You could connect the auto-timer to the A-Frame or leave some extra length. We plan to place ours near a fence so we left a longer length from the A-frame to the auto-timer.

Conclusion

This was an easy project with a clever design and it will be nice to automate the watering setup. I designed this project in 3d using Google Sketchup. Those plans are free for you to use here.


Kerry W. Mann, Jr. moved to a 20-acre homestead in 2015, where he and his family use modern technology to learn new skills and teach homestead projects. Connect with Kerry on his YouTube page, Pinterest, Facebook, Instructables, and at My Evergreen Homestead.


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