Who doesn’t love strawberries? We often make do with store-bought strawberries, but they can taste really flavorless when they’re not in season.
Want to eat juicy and succulent strawberries right from your home? Grow them yourself! It may sound difficult, but it’s totally worth it.
A rising trend in home gardening is growing fruits and vegetables in rain gutters. It might sound crazy, but gutters make great vessels for growing sensitive plants.
Interested in learning how to grow strawberries in old rain gutters? This ultimate DIY guide will tell you everything you need to know. Read on!
We know what you are thinking. Plants growing out of your rain gutters is never a good thing. If your gutter is filled with debris and weeds, it’s time to call professional gutter maintenance.
Experienced rain gutter experts like Spout Gutters can help clean and unclog them. And, if your old gutter is too rusty, they can replace it with a better one. In that case, what do you do with the old gutter? We spoke with SPOUT and found this strawberry growing secret to be a favorite among their team.
Instead of throwing away an old gutter, you can use it to grow strawberries at home. To create a planting system with your home gutter, you will need to get a little handy. Here are a few things you will need to make a complete system.
- Your old gutter. You will need to cut it into smaller units, which will be more manageable.
- If your gutter is made of PVC, you can use a hand saw or a circular saw. For a metal gutter, you can use a jigsaw with a metal cutting blade or a tin snip.
- Gutter end caps. Buy one that matches your system.
- For metal planting units, you will need pliers.
- You will either need good quality rubber caulk or PVC glue, depending on what material was used to make your gutter.
- A power drill and appropriate drill bits. Use cobalt drill bits for metal and dowel bits for PVC (creates smooth holes without any breakage).
- You will also need a pencil and measuring tape.
- You might need extra building materials for making a vertical garden frame, such as wood pieces, nails, hammers, etc.
- Once you take down your gutter, you will need to cut it into smaller units. If it is a seamed gutter, consider cutting at the joints. Before you pull out the saw, make sure you wear protective gloves and safety goggles.
- Decide on what size you want each planter unit to be. Measure out the gutter and mark where you need to cut. You can consider cutting each piece in the middle into two equal parts.
- Use your saw or tin snips to cut your gutter into pieces. Be careful while handling them as the freshly cut edges can be quite sharp. Keep your protective gloves on at all times.
- For metal planters, attach the end caps to the edge. Use a plier to crimp the edges of the cap to secure them in place. Then, apply rubber caulk to the inner rim of the gutter. This will ensure that the cap doesn’t come off. Let the sealant dry before using the planter.
- For PVC planters, you need to apply glue on the edge of the gutter and on the inside edge of the end cap. Press them together firmly in place to ensure that they are completely secure.
- Once the glue or sealant has dried, place the piece upside down on a flat surface. Drill holes into the planter leaving a 6- to 8-inch gap in between. These holes will ensure that your plants get proper drainage.
- Strawberry seedlings or seeds. Using seedlings is easier as it is more difficult and time-consuming to grow plants from seeds.
- Potting soil. Good quality soil is a necessity for growing healthy plants.
- Fertilizer to feed and strengthen your strawberry plants.
- Gardening trowel. Make sure you use plastic ones, no matter what material the gutter is made of. Metal trowels can damage the gutter, leading to holes or cracks.
- Scissors. You might need this common gardening tool if you are transplanting strawberries.
- A watering can or a garden hose with a spray nozzle. The water speed needs to be gentle while watering delicate strawberry plants.
- Once your gutter strawberry planters are ready, it’s time to add the soil. Use a garden trowel to scoop in the soil and fill the planter units.
- Don’t overfill the strawberry gutters. Leave at least a one-inch gap on top. Plant your seedlings in the soil leaving 6-inch gaps between each.
- If you are transplanting strawberries, make sure to use scissors to trim the roots.
- In colder climates, plant your strawberries at the beginning of spring. If you live somewhere warm, you can also plant them in the fall.
If you want to grow strawberries in the rain gutters without soil you can use the hydroponic system. You can use old rain gutters as a grow tray in this method.
To grow strawberries using hydroponics, you need to opt for PVC or vinyl gutter systems, as a metal gutter will rust due to the constant contact with water.
The downspouts can also be used, but you will have to cut holes in them. For these, you won’t need the support of a grow media such as clay pebbles or gravel to hold the plant upright.
There are two methods you can use to grow your hydroponic strawberries – the drip system and the Nutrient Film Technique.
The drip method in hydroponics uses a pump to drip nutrient solution into a separate growing tray. Here is how the drip system works for your rain gutter strawberries.
- Follow the process mentioned earlier in the article to cut and cap your gutter to create separate planting units.
- The grow tray will be a structure made from your gutter planters and the planting tray you place on top of it. You need to find a planting tray that can fit over your planters.
- Place the plants within the planting pockets, using structure media such as rocks or perlite to keep them upright. Place the gutter on top of the nutrient tank.
- The pump is placed inside the nutrient solution tank. The grow tray and the tank are connected by small pipes. These pipes drip the solution directly onto the roots where the plants soak in as much nutrition as they need.
- The remnant solution will drip from the planting pockets onto the base of the gutter planters. You need to drill holes there so that the remaining solution drains back into the nutrient tank.
- Turn on the pump two to three times per day to ensure that your strawberry plants get enough food.
The Nutrient Film Technique or NFT uses a light film of nutrient solution to feed the plants. Here is how NFT works when using old rain gutters to grow strawberries.
- You can use downspouts to create these NFT planting units. Cut holes in them, leaving 6-to 8-inch space in between. The plants will be placed in them with the roots hanging below. You won’t need any structure media to keep them upright.
- The downspout planting tray will be placed on top of the nutrient tank. Similar to a drip system, a pump will bring the solution onto the planting unit. The tray needs to be hung slanted on top of the tank.
- The solution will pour from the higher end and roll down, touching the roots as it drains down the lower end. You have to drill a hole there and attach a pipe, to ensure that the remaining solution returns to the nutrient tanks.
What makes old gutters such great planters for strawberries? Here are some benefits to consider if you are thinking of shifting to a gutter planter.
Strawberries are soft-stemmed plants. Once the fruits grow bigger and heavier, they tend to rest on the ground. Being delicious, they become easy prey for slugs, bugs, birds, and small animals.
Frequent contact with the ground can make them vulnerable to fungi and pest infestation, especially when it rains and the plant beds get flooded. Planting them in old gutters can keep them clean and off the ground.
Strawberry plants are short, which can make fruit picking quite difficult. You have to bend and kneel frequently while picking the strawberries. Hours of strawberry picking can leave you with aching backs and sore knees.
Since most gutter systems are used to create vertical gardens, they are often elevated. This eliminates the need to kneel and thereby reduces bending, making strawberry picking easier. The fruits stay clean, and the elevated state makes it easier to tend to the plants.
A key purpose of growing strawberries in rain gutters is to keep them elevated.
You can use flat stones, concrete blocks, or bricks to elevate the gutter. Another way to elevate rain gutters is by using them to create vertical gardens.
You need to drill holes at the bottom of the planter to ensure your strawberry plants get proper drainage. Without some lift, the holes will get blocked. Try using brackets to mount the gutters on walls, fences or rails.
People create vertical gardens using gutters and wooden frames. These can work like shelves attached to walls, or you can use planter stands that can support the gutters.
You can also make D.I.Y. A-frame stands using simple woodwork materials like plywood, nails, etc. Such frames can support multiple gutter planting units, which means it will require less space. Since vertical gardens are excellent for using space efficiently, such wooden racks work really well.
Who would have thought that your old rain gutter could be used to grow strawberries! Although it might sound crazy, give it a try and wait for excellent results.
Make sure your plants are getting proper drainage. Keep your gutters elevated by placing them on rocks or by mounting them on a wall. With the right tools, some determination, and this handy guide, you can use your old rain gutters to grow strawberries.