I’m excited to publish Life on the Balcony’s second guest post from Janet Luke. Janet is a Landscape Architect who has a Masters degree, with Honors, in Environmental and Resource Planning. She has a passion for sustainable design, edible landscaping and permaculture. Her website–Green Urban Living–is inspiring many urbanites to grow their own food, keep livestock and live a more sustainable lifestyle, whilst having fun doing it!
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Gutter gardens are a great way to use use free “air space” and an easily found, recycled material to grow fresh tasty food! They can be easily made in around half an hour and whats even better you don’t need any fancy tools or even fancier building skills! Within half an hour you can be sitting back watching your fresh salad greens growing. This type of container does limit the types of plants you can grow.
Plants I Have Grown in a Gutter:
- Mesclun mix salad
- Wheat grass (for all those health freaks out there!)
- Strawberries ( about one plant every 30cm) – being elevated off the ground I have found that the birds can’t find them so easily and they are not contaminated with soil or bugs.
- Thyme (plant herbs at 20cm spacings)
- Claytonia (Miners Lettuce)
STEP ONE: Locate some gutters. The deeper, wider types such as commercial building guttering is best. Avoid PVC gutters as they often have a lead additive in them that can leach into soil. Visit demolition yards or ask the neighbours or friendly plumbers for off-cuts. Buy two corresponding ends for the guttering. They come in a left and right shape. If you are not sure take the length of guttering to a home hardware store and ask for advice. If you can’t get matching ends you could fill two bags with sand or instant concrete to form stops at each end.
STEP TWO: Fit the ends with pvc glue. You can buy this at any hardware store in the plumbing department.
STEP THREE: Drill one small drainage hole at the bottom of gutter, every three feet. Use a small drill bit about the size of a straw.
STEP FOUR: Affix guttering to balcony railing with looped twine, light chain or rope. You can use matching type brackets to affix guttering to side of house. Screw brackets so that they are level, at around two feet spacings. Choose a place that gets at least 5 hours of sun each day.
STEP FIVE: Fill gutter with good quality potting mix. Choose one which contains water holding crystals and slow release fertiliser. It is worth paying the extra money for the premium brands.
STEP SIX: Plant or sow seeds of your choice. If sowing mesclun mix I will often only sow half the gutter and when it starts to germinate I sow the other half. This gives me a constant supply.
STEP SEVEN: Water regularly, daily in summer. Mulch the soil surface with compost.
Things to Remember
- Use good quality potting mix
- Water daily in summer
- Only drill one drainage hole every three feet. You need drainage but you want to retain water in soil for as long as possible.
- The gutter is heavy when filled with soil so make sure attachments are strong.
- Take your gutter with you on holiday so you don’t miss out on those summer strawberries!
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Previous LOTB Guest Posts
- Composting on the Balcony: The Easy Way to Environmental Virtue by Hannah Katsman
- Grow Your Own Figs: At Tasty Way to Save Money and Eat Locally by Claire Brown
- Grow Your Own Birdhouse: A Great Container Gardening Project to do with Kids! by Janet Luke
Want to write for Life on the Balcony? Submit your post idea and I’ll let you know if it would be a good fit.