Project: Rain gutter planter

The end result

Problems with slugs and snails eating your greens?  How about cold soil inhibiting the growth of those plants that are supposed to be sown direct?

Inspired by what I saw on an episode of River Cottage: Veg Every Day!, I had no more quickly though: ‘I could do that!’ than I remembered that we don’t yet have a greenhouse.  The feature in the program was about ‘micro salads’: these are essentially salads made from the leaves of baby green vegetables grown in rain guttering in grenhouses.  It may have been the River Cottage gardener, Mark Diacono, who introduced the idea to Hugh (the ethos of River Cottage is explained here).

Well, what we do have is a house with its longest wall facing south which remains warm even on cooler days, so I set my head to improvising.  What I came up with – for the total cost of £6 – was the solution below which you can see from the last photo, has begun producing green leafy things within a couple of weeks.

You will need:

  • 2x 3m lengths of small black guttering and brackets to suit (you don’t need the end caps, you want excess to drain away)
  • 4x Rawl plugs(I used plugs suitable for size 6 screws)
  • 4x 3″/7cm size 6 screws
  • 2x 1.5m lengths of wood (I used reclaimed curtain baton)
  • some black pond sheeting (I found some on the beach)
  • staplegun
  • screwdriver
  • hammer drill with masonry bit (size 6) and goggles
  • compost and seeds

If you can do as I did and salvage/ re-use as much as possible then you’ll save cash.  Photos of the stages have been posted below but essentially, putting everything together boils down to these few simple steps:

  1. Put four holes toward the ends of each piece of baton.  Use these holes as a guide to where to drill into the supporting south-facing wall.
  2. Put the Rawl plugs in the holes (remember to drill deeper than the length of the holes – about 50% more should be all you need).  Hang the batons in place.
  3. Next staple-gun the pondsheet into place.  It must be black to absorb heat.  If you don’t have pondsheet, try using a heavy-duty bin-liner that you’ve opened out.
  4. Screw the gutter brackets into the batons through the sheet.  Don’t worry about the guttering being too straight as they need to be able to drain.
  5. Click the guttering into place and put compost in the gutter.  If you’re worried about the compost draining away, put large pebbles at the end of the guttering.
  6. Now plant your seed.  A cover of 1/2 cm should be more than sufficient for most types of green vegetable seed.  One note of caution is to check the compost is moist even after periods of heavy rainfall.

In planting seeds this way, I’ve found this to be far easier than even planting in pots and because the seeds have been planted 2cm apart, it will be easy to transplant the whole row of seedlings straight into the veg patch with the minimum of fuss (should they last that long).

It’s not just slugs and snails who are put off.  The wood pigeons who help themselves to the young seedlings in our garden struggle to get their butts even close to the wall to peck at the greens.  Result!

Stage 1 - hang the supporting batonsStage 2 - staple the pond sheet onto the batonsStage 3 - after screwing the brackets onto the batons, hang the gutteringStage 4 - check the seedlings regularly, watering even after rain if dry