Monday, April 4, 2016

Gutter Planters: Pinterest Fail...and why

Like all Pinterest Fails, it seemed like such a cool idea!  Here's what I learned on why gutter planters aren't worth your time.

We'd just done some work on our house and ended up with a big stack of old gutters that were no longer needed.  And we have a terribly ugly wooden fence in need of some serious love.  Perfect, I have JUST the pin for that!  So I thought...

The concept is so charming: Upcycle old gutters into a cool vertical planter!  Its free, its a great way to reuse bulky old gutters, and it updates a boring (ugly) fence.  I jumped into this one feet first - what could go wrong?

The project itself was simple.  I used metal cutters to trim the gutters into the size I wanted, then attached the gutters to the fence using a drill and some screws.  The gutters are much easier to work with than I'd expected, as the metal is much more malleable than I'd originally expected.  Total time invested was under an hour.

Next, I filled the gutters with potting soil and a variety of plants.  Mostly succulents - this was going to be amazing!

Except, its not.  And here's why.  

Gutters are shallow and narrow.  Which is great for directing water off your roof, but means that there isn't a lot of room for a plant's complex rooting system to develop.  With only a couple of inches of soil to dig into, the plants didn't have much soil available to grow in.

Gutters are metal.  Which means that they get hot.  Which means that the soil dries out quickly.  With such a large metal surface, and so little depth, its an ideal evaporation system...which isn't exactly ideal for growing plants!

Basically, there is no way to keep the planters moist enough for growing...at least in my climate.  With such a shallow planting area, weak rooting possibilities, and a huge surface area in contact with metal, these planters couldn't keep even my most drought-tolerant and forgiving succulents a happy home.  

I gave the gutter planters a full year and several attempts before finally giving up.  Its a cool idea, and looks great for about a week, but unfortunately was a total bust for us in the California sun.  Maybe they could work in Portland...?

Back to the drawing board for ways to disguise the fence...

Ideas you'd like to share?


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