Sure, a rain gutter’s an essential part of your home exterior, routing rainwater in a controlled fashion to ward against leaks and structural damage–and to keep you that much drier when you’re heading in or coming out during a downpour.
Rain gutters, though, are actually multiuse pieces of technology–really! For anyone with a green thumb, they’ve got surprising utility in the garden–even as a garden.
A Rain Garden Utilizing Gutters
First off, though, your hardworking, roof-rim gutters offer a handy H2O conduit for a “rain garden.” A rain garden’s a wonderful, eco-friendly way to take advantage of natural rainwater to nourish bountiful and beautiful yard greenery while warding against some of the negative effects of an urban environment. A paved-over landscape encourages rapid runoff and the transport of pollutants into groundwater systems. A rain garden both slows this sheet flow and naturally filters it through vegetation.
Attaching extension pipes to your rain gutters gives you a handy-dandy water source for such a rain garden. Rainwater flows off your roof, through your gutters, and into these extensions via the downspouts to flow into your garden bed.
The University of Maine Cooperative Extension suggests sizing a rain garden to at least 30 percent of its drainage area (from rooftop to driveway) so that it accommodates the runoff of a one-inch rainfall.
Obviously you’ll want to rely on a premium gutter system to maintain a rain garden. Second-rate gutters that clog too easily or can’t stand the elements don’t provide a dependable- or effective-enough setup.
Rain Gutter Gardens
An ingenious way to raise vegetables or flowers in a space-efficient manner, meanwhile, is to use rain gutters themselves as planters. Such “rain gutter gardens” can be hung on indoor or outdoor walls to take advantage of vertical growing space. The gutter design’s naturally conducive for watering, while holes drilled into the bottom allow for drainage.
Besides planting directly in a gutter, it can also serve as a trough to hold flowerpots–another nice way to have a vertical garden when you don’t have much acreage to play around with. And some people plant plastic buckets with holes in the bottom and place them in rows atop rain gutters that are irrigated by a separate rain bucket or hose, eliminating the need to water by hand.
Really, the sky’s the limit when it comes to designing a rain gutter. They’re a great exercise for creativity, and a fantastic means of taking advantage of existing materials and whatever room you have to grow plants–in the backyard or in the apartment. Give ’em a try!