Everyday Gardeners

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Recycle Gutters Into A DIY Vertical Shade Garden

Vertical Gutter Garden with Asparagus Fern

Big, blank, shady walls are bullies in my garden. Limited by no sun, dry conditions, and poor soil, my shady walls ogle my garden tools threateningly and push me around with that intimidating attitude all bullies have. I spend hours staring at an empty wall trying to come to terms with a sustainable solution that might work. Without a doubt, you have the same mean wall-bully hiding in your garden that hides in mine.

There’s only one way to fix a perplexing shady wall. In dealing with a wall-bully, one must cover it with a creative solution. A quick answer to that problem is to paint the wall, add several trellis’s all along the area, then plant a non-invasive shade climber at the base of a trellis, so the wall becomes less threatening and more appealing.

How To Say No To Bullies

My favorite wall-bully solution, however, is to recycle old rain gutters into a vertical wall of garden. Find both new and old gutters and downspouts online, at home salvage warehouses, or at your local hardware store. Screw the rain gutters into the wall. Be sure to screw into supports and joists whenever possible to give the wall garden extra support.

While you could hang the old gutters on a wall and place the soil and plants directly in the gutters, I adore the idea of using a repetitive color pattern as a bright pop on the wall. Here you see rows of preplanted Asparagus Fern sitting in bold orange containers within the gutters. Each container has its special spot on the recycled gutters that stretch nearly ten feet high up a tall shade-filled wall. If one of the plants dies, it is easy to replace the plant by simply adding another container, thereby making this technique an easy-to-manage solution.

Do not let shady wall-bullies push you around; get out there and discover a creative, sustainable, solution like recycled gutters to make that difficult wall into your best friend.

14 Responses to “ Recycle Gutters Into A DIY Vertical Shade Garden ”

  1. If we had to guess we’d say that this photo was taken shortly after all these pots were stuffed into the gutters. The fact that none of these ferns are leaning toward the light tells us that they haven’t been there very long. The fact that there are no water stains indicates that the entire thing hasn’t even been well irrigated yet. Please post a photo that shows what this “wall” looks like in three or four months. Please tell people how they should water this without rotting the siding on their house that’s behind this. Please show how the ends of the gutters look – all carefully cropped out.

    In other words, this is one of those projects and photos that seem to be done for Pinterest and Facebook, not for the overall success of the person who puts time and money into the “recycling.”

  2. Each of those pots would have to cost at least $1.00 each (very conservative estimate) there are at least 25 pots per row and I counted 9 rows. Those asparagus ferns are going to live in those pots for maybe 6-8 months (again that is a generous amount ) then need to be replaced. How is this a good idea?

  3. Hi Donna!

    These pots did not cost $1.00 each. They are made of plastic and cost pennies. You could easily have put the plants directly into the rows without a container to save money. You would do the same thing with these plants that you do with any other plants when they outgrow their pots — you would move them and put them somewhere else. No potted plant in a container is meant to be a permanent placement.

  4. In answers to “HCG” above -


    These pots have been in this location for months according to the grower. I took this photo at a nursery in Minnesota and the asparagus ferns were grown from seed. They are watered daily and have been for months. I do not have a photo of the ends of the gutters – they looked the same as the fronts and were closed on the ends. The light it was exposed to was an area covered with a plastic nursery roof – – very gentle light which I would consider part-shade.

    About protecting the walls — there are too many surfaces that readers of BHG might have for me to give an explanation on how to cover each one. If you put this on a fence you might not put anything up to protect it. You could cover a wall in plastic or not. You could cover a wall in metal sheeting or not. It depends on each individual and where they specifically place a vertical wall garden.

    This photo and story were meant as an idea stimulator to help readers get ideas for vertical wall gardens and recycling old items, not as an intense high-level carpenter/building explanation.

    Also – I’ll be speaking in person at Hyannis on Sunday 5/19 – please feel free to meet up with me so we can discuss this in person and I can help you with your particular wall you might have an interest in placing a vertical wall. I am happy to meet up with you to chat!

    Thanks much,

    Shawna Coronado

  5. Ms Coronado, I know you garden writers have to struggle to find material to write about but this is just plain wrong on many levels.
    Firstly, sustainable? Except for up-cycling some tres-chic galvinized gutters, everything else in this exercise is in opposition to the word sustainable. It would take about 4 rolling racks of asparagus fern in 4″ round plastic pots to fill up these gutters. That is about 1/8 of a truckload of box store plants. A Sasquatchian sized carbon footprint…
    Looking at this monoculture is not only boring, but verges on banal, not to mention unsustainable. What happens when the agressive tuberuous roots of this plant exceed the space of the pots and expire? Go buy more is your answer…So, Ms Designer, why not plant shade-worthy plugs or liners of true fern species, or tiarella, huchera or lamium etc; open up the vertical spacing, maybe mess around with the placement of plants in more random horizontal ‘blocks’, paint the background wall in some contrasting color….C’mon, you can do better than this “experiment”.

  6. lol…I invite you to go to any Garden Center and purchase those ‘cute’ 4″ pots of Asparagus fern for ‘pennies’ for the retail garden purchase.

  7. Please stop with the flaming! As a first timer to this site, I must say that the hatred is horrible! This is simply an IDEA, that is the beauty of the internet, if you don’t like it, move on to the next page! We are doing this at our church, and I found this site to be helpful. If you are so concerned with the carbon footprint, then make the changes to suit your needs. No one said you had to follow this to the letter! Take the suggestion and run with it, make it your own, and be HAPPY! Life is too short to cut everyone down all the time. Can’t we all just get along?

  8. The pots are made out of plastic – they’re used as planting pots for the garden centers – - you can find them for free in the recycling area of most nurseries. Asparagus fern can be grown from seed. Super easy to establish.

  9. Everything here can be grown from seed. You don’t have to use the individual pots. It’s just an idea. When the roots exceed the planting area, you pull it out, donate it to your local city gardening club to use or plant it in a shady area in your garden. You can replace the plants with vegetables like lettuce.

    I don’t understand why everyone is so up and arms over this photo. It’s just a creative idea to try – you can do your own version of it however you would like.

  10. Thanks for the kind note Melissa. I have no idea why everyone is so upset about this photo, but appreciate your support. Really, this is just a beginning idea and someone could take this and do something marvelous with it within the confines of their own garden.

    Keep on a gardening! :-)


  11. Nice idea and creative way of recycling those gutters. I like the way you give life to your garden.

    If you have stuff that you can share concerning gardening you could visit http://happyhouseandgarden.com/ it’s a social garden site for garden lovers

  12. What a great idea! I’m thinking of hanging one or two on the trellis by my patio and will see how it does with rainbow chard, lettuce and spinache! Herbs would also be great to do. Just a fun project and can free up space for other food in the big garden.

    Thanks for sharing a fun idea!
    (…and ditto on what melissa said).

  13. Oh man! The hater comments are terrible! It’s just an idea!

    I personally am more interested in planting directly in the gutters instead of pots, and was looking for projects about that to get some ideas for how to specifically pull it off using a brick wall and whether salad greens would work (from my research it looks like they could, despite the shallow depth of the gutter).

    I’d love some USEFUL comments pointing to projects like this that have more details about how to execute it with salad greens if anyone has run across them.

    Great post, and thanks for sharing the concept, Shawna!

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