Gutter-Planted Garden Greens

| 4/29/2013 2:05:00 PM

I do know I'm supposed to eat greens...really I do. In the seventh grade, we were shown a movie about what happened to the British sailors who got scurvy because they didn't eat their greens. But here's the reality: At the time I was a single guy living solo; I'd go to the grocery store and dutifully buy a plastic container of greens. That evening, I'd have some and then the next time I looked, the lovely fresh greens would be on their way to compost. Lucky for the chickens — there was no danger of them coming down with scurvy!

It was in December. It was plenty cold outside. My garden was asleep under a blanket of snow. With no real plan in mind, I went to the local nursery and asked if I could grow greens in small plastic pots. I had read that Swiss chard and bok choy were two plants that did well with less-than-full sunlight. The salesperson was a bit taken aback at my question, but allowed that they should grow. So I left the shop with two seed packets and a dozen used one-quart plastic pots.

Later, I planted chard and bok choy in organic potting soil, putting the pots in a recycled kitty litter tray onGutter-planted garden greens in the window a bench in a sunny corner. Soon enough, there were green shoots, and then before I knew it there was a mass of green leaves, each struggling for a bit of the pale January sunlight. Another problem became evident: Watering a mass of leaves makes even watering impossible. Some were too wet, some too dry. But I was harvesting fresh greens! What was surprising to me was that chard grown indoors was unlike the chard I had gotten at the store. My plants produced tender, mild-flavored leaves, unlike what I remembered chard leaves to be (leathery with a strong flavor). But while I had found a solution to my scurvy concerns, my plants were increasingly over-crowded and light-starved.

About that time, I came across an idea for container growing call “flood and drain,” where the pots — set in a tray of some sort — are flooded, allowed to soak, and then drained. One claimed benefit was to provide air to the roots when the rising water in the tray pushed out the existing air then drew in fresh oxygen to the roots as the water level receded when the tray was drained. The other advantage to this method is that the flooding water removes any salt buildup that might accumulate from the liquid fertilizer. I also heard this method was called “passive hydroponic,” and it appealed to me, because it was kind of hydroponic, but allowed me to use organic liquid fertilizers and organic potting soil. 

It was becoming pretty obvious the crowding and lack of light were real limitations to my mini garden. Then, the idea of a trough on the windowsill came to mind, combining a way to water all the plants uniformly and efficiently all at once. Great, now how to make this trough? Wood? Sheet metal? The choices all seemed expensive, clumsy, prone to leaking...then the light bulb went on in my head: gutters!

I started researching gutters. The ones at my local hardware store would not fit the pots I had chosen. The pots were 4” by 4” by 5” high, and were too wide at their base for the gutter profiles I had seen. I just love the internet. With a lot of searching I found that Lowe's stocked a vinyl gutter that had a unique profile that fitted the quart pots perfectly. And they also had a complete line of end caps, hanging brackets...the works! My Gutter Garden was born — at least in my imagination.

4/7/2014 5:39:25 PM

This is a really creative idea! Richard

4/30/2013 3:46:12 PM

This is a very interesting idea. I hope I will be able to implement it in my winter – garden. I started <a target="_new" href="">growing shallots</a> this winter as well as some other greens, but looks like something is not good with my watering technique; I have some salt deposits accumulation. May be water is not good or drain? Any way I will try to build this gutter system.


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