Growing strawberries vertically off the ground have many benefits, not only does it allow you to grow a lot more strawberries in the same area but it also keeps them away from pest like slugs and snails and keeps them from rotting sitting on the ground.
Below I will discuss the pros and cons of growing strawberries in gutters and how to be successful to supply your family with lots of berries.
This type of structure is great for strawberries, lettuce, and spinach since their roots structure to support the plants does not require a deep area.
Strawberries need full sun so be sure to find a location that meets their requirements, for lettuce and spinach they can have partial shade avoiding late afternoon sun.
How to build the structure
Parts you will need to build the raised gutter structure
- 2- 4x4x8 treated wood posts
- 2- bags of quick-dry cement for posts
- 3- 2x4x8 or 2x6x8 cedar or redwood board not treated
- 3- 10 foot lengths of gutter (Largest possible)
- 1- box of 1 1/2″ stainless steel screws
- 1/4 or 1/2 crushed rock approximately 1 bucket full
** Optional feature is to add drip irrigation and a timer along the length of each gutter for easy watering, this step is done once the soil and plants have been added to the gutters.
If you mount the gutters to a fence you will not need the wood above, if you have room to make rows you can double the gutters used and the cedar boards.
Tools & Supplies
- Electric screw-driver
- Electric drill with 1/4 to 1/2 inch bit
- 1 1/2-2 inch stainless steel screws
- 2-4 x 4 x 8 foot treated cedar posts
- 3- 8 foot sections of gutter using the largest size you can find 8 inch gutters are much better than 4-6 inch ones
- 3- 2 x 4 x 8 or 2 x 6 x 8 treated cedar boards
Step-By-Step instructions for building the raised gutter structure.
- Start by digging two post holes 8 feet apart and 28 inches deep. This will allow you to add 4 inches of rock for good drainage that the posts will set on
- Use a post hole to dig the holes and the width should be large enough to allow your 4×4 post to have 1/2 inch to 1-inch space around the post
- Add 4 inches of crushed rock such as 1/4 or 1/2 inch crushed rock to each hole
- Place posts in the holes and add more gravel around the post to secure them. Be sure to level and measure to make sure they are plumb
- Add 1/2 of one of the bags of cement to the hole while continuing to check the post for being plumb
- Add water and tamp to secure the post
- Add the remainder of the cement and water to complete 1 post. Check to make sure it is level and plumb
- Repeat the process for the other post
- Allow 24 hours for the post to set, you may need to secure posts with bracing to make sure they stay level and plumb
- Take one of your 2x4x8 or 2x6x8 boards to attach to the posts
- Mark heights of 2 feet, 4 feet, and 6 feet on each post to secure your boards be sure to check with a level before securing the boards
- Now it is time to drill holes in the bottom of your gutters for drainage, drill holes every 8-12 inches the entire length of the gutter
- Attach the gutters to the 2×4 or 2×6 board starting at the top and working down using your stainless steel screws every 12 inches
- Now fill the gutter 1/2 way with the amended soil with the correct nutrients for what you are growing
- Add plants and the remainder of the soil to fill the gutters close to the top but not too full
- Water in thoroughly and sit back to enjoy your crops
Soil for Gutters
Use organic potting soil to fill the gutters within the top inch of the gutter to plant your vegetables or fruit. You will need to continue to feed the plants throughout the growing season to keep them nourished.
Harvesting and Replanting
Be sure you are harvesting on a regular basis to keep the plants producing. Since strawberries have one crop unless they are overbearing you can companion plant in the gutters between each plant with lettuce or spinach.
If you are planting lettuce and spinach you can sow seeds throughout the growing season to get multiple crops.
I will be building this verticle structure this year to see how the project works to grow strawberries, lettuce, and spinach, I might throw in a few other varieties to test out during the year. Throughout the year I will share pictures and updates to let you know how this works and any suggestions. Please check back to see the updates and results of this verticle gardening project.
Pros of Gutter Gardening
The berries will hang over the sides of the gutter freely and not be laying on the ground to rot.
It will keep the berries away from bugs such as slugs and snails.
They are much easier to harvest eliminating having to bend and stoop over or kneel on the ground.
It will allow you to keep your berries away from some pests like rabbits but they will still need additional protection from birds, rats, and squirrels. using netting, tule, or other cages.
It is also easier to weed, water, and care for your berries by having them raised off the ground to grow in gutters.
Cons of Gutter Gardening
Even though it is easier to water the strawberries it is more time-consuming since they will need to be watered more often since the soil they are in can dry out more easily, especially in hot weather.
You will need to protect the berry plants in summer from the heat by using a color of gutter that deflects the heat and does not absorb the heat. In winter you will need to insulate from the cold, one way is to remove the gutters and place hem in a protected area to protect the roots and crowns of the berry plants.
Strawberry roots can grow up to 12 inches deep and most gutters are 5-8 inches deep, so they can get root bound. Use as large a gutter as you can find to provide adequate room for the roots to grow.
Most strawberry plants have a life of 4-5 years so it is very important to get the runners to root so that you can keep your plants productive for years beyond the life of the original plant.
To keep the plants from getting too much water it is a good idea to slope the gutters and drill drainage holes to keep the plants from sitting in water.
Even with the known cons, I believe it is best to grow strawberries in gutters and I will document my discoveries as I build the structure for growing my berries in gutters off the ground.
Keep watch as I document my adventure in growing strawberries and other vegetables this way.
Happy Gardening from the Urban Gardener!