How to grow strawberries in rain gutters, and some things to consider before you start. Is this the best way to grow strawberries?
I am a huge fan of strawberries and raspberries; they’re two of my favorite fruits. Strawberries can be easy to grow and hardy plants that will overwinter, even in colder climates like Maryland or New Hampshire. I love that they come back each year. My first experience with growing strawberries was when I setup this rain gutter strawberry garden. I’m going to talk about why it might be the right option for you, challenges with growing in a gutter system, and other alternatives.
When I initially wrote this post back in April 2014, I was new-ish to gardening and brand new to strawberries. I’ve got a lot more experience under my belt now so I wanted to add a bit more information.
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Benefits to Growing Strawberries in Gutters
- Less weeding
- If hung high enough, they’re easier to tend to and pick fruit from.
- They look neat!
- Save space
- It’s a great upcycling project.
- Don’t need a lot of potting soil.
Drawbacks to Growing Strawberries in Gutters
- The soil dries out VERY fast.
- If you don’t add drainage holes, you could rot the roots of the plant or cause the soil to float away (or over the sides)
- Watering traditional (aka the watering can method) can cause soil to splash up on the gutters and make a mess.
- It’s time intensive to water these.
- It’s not the cheapest option for a planter.
- The plants may not overwinter well if you are in a colder climate.
- Mine didn’t seem to send out as many runners for baby plants. I’d recommend buying a lot of plants to fill this instead of hoping they’ll make babies for you.
How to Make a Rain Gutter Strawberry Garden
Original post from April 2014
To plant strawberries this year, I decided to try using some plastic gutters to plant them in. This was an idea I saw on a random Facebook post that was cycling around, but that had them propped up high on something (I couldn’t tell what as it was only a picture). I didn’t want to put them out of G’s reach (my 30 month old) so I decided to try them off the side of the deck, per my friend Ruth’s suggestion.
- 10′ Gutter
- End Caps for Gutter
- Drill and drill bit
- Zip ties or something else to attach the gutters to your deck, fence, etc.
- Potting soil
- Strawberry plants
I also made this cute playhouse planter for my kids with the short piece we cut off and two more end caps. Total purchase was $20.10, excluding the cost of the soil and the plants.
Start by cutting the gutter to your desired size. Add the end caps to either end.
Drill holes on the sides to run your cable ties through. If you plan to attach your gutters to wood using screws, don’t worry about this yet.
Add drainage holes to the bottom of the gutters.
Add soil and plants… I only got three plants for this. That was a mistake.
My suggestion if you decide to do this is to make them shorter because ours is so long that the middle of one post interferes with it sitting completely flush with the deck. This tilts it which is going to be annoying if it spills soil.
I highly, HIGHLY recommend setting up a drip irrigation system for your strawberry gutters. It will save you a lot of energy and frustration.
Tips for Growing in Gutters
Water frequently: The soil will dry out fast. You’re probably going to need to either setup a drip irrigation system or water daily, particularly in the warmer parts of the summer.
Use potting soil: This was something I didn’t understand when I first started gardening. Pots need potting soil. Gutters are a type of pot in this case so make sure you use the right soil. Potting soil holds moisture better than garden soil which is important because soil in pots tends to dry out quickly.
Support gutters well: Make sure the gutters are supported well when hung. I found that these were very heavy with soil in them.
Plant later in the season: There are strawberry varieties that are everbearing (they grow all season) and there are types that only fruit in the early Spring. Strawberries are pretty hardy in the cold, but I feel like the plants aren’t going to do well being planted before the date of last frost in such shallow planters. I could be wrong, but I would probably lean towards an everbearing variety for gutters. Then I would plant them after the last frost date.
Transplant to the ground to over winter them: Again, this speaks a bit to my concern about the gutters being too shallow to keep the soil warm enough to overwinter the strawberries. They might survive, but you’re more likely to see your strawberry plants again next year if you overwinter them in a garden bed. I usually add pine straw, wood chips, or mulch over my strawberry plants to keep them warm. You might be able to successfully do this in a gutter.
Add Drainage Holes and End Caps: You don’t want water drowning your strawberries, and you don’t want water washing away your soil and plants. Add drainage holes to the bottoms of the gutters, but make sure there’s an end cap on the ends too.
Alternatives to Growing Strawberries in Gutters
Personally, I’ve grown strawberries in gutters, raised beds, in my Back to Eden garden, and in my front garden. My favorite place to grow them is right in the ground. They seem to survive the winter better and end up taking over the garden a bit. I like that they provide a nice living mulch, and prevent weeds from peeking through.
My front garden is currently overgrown with strawberries and in the Spring my kids can run by, grab a handful of berries and eat on the go. It’s fun. I grow thyme as ground cover too. When the strawberry plants take over too much, I pick the babies and transplant them into my larger garden. My logic is that there’s no such thing as too many strawberries.
Strawberry plants are fairly attractive too. They produce a pretty white flower, red fruit, and unique green leaves. They look nice up front, even though they aren’t a traditional choice.
If you don’t have space for an in ground garden, you could grow strawberries pretty easily in a Garden Tower like this. The Garden Tower allows you to grow a lot of plants in a smaller footprint, but it’s dense enough and there’s enough soil that it doesn’t dry out as fast as gutters do.
Here’s some information on transplanting strawberries. They’re pretty easy to work with in my opinion; such a cooperative plant, at least in Zone 7.
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