Gardening for the Vertically Advantaged

I have a little problem. And when I say “little,” I mean short. His name is Furgus. He’s a corgi, and he’s terribly naughty.

At 14 months old, Furgus has the brain of a puppy, the teeth of a shark and the body of a full-grown beast. He is both adorable and highly destructive. (The adorable part allows him to remain a member of our household.)

Shortly after acquiring said pup last spring, I planted my veggie garden and filled innumerable pots on our patio with beautiful, delicate annuals. Then I stood back, admired my handiwork and went on about my business.

Not long afterward, I returned to gaze upon the loveliness of my plants. But lovely, they were not. Instead, I was greeted with the harsh realities of puppy ownership. My garden was utterly destroyed—pots turned over, veggies unearthed and scattered across the yard, plants trampled beyond recognition. 

Oh, Furgus.

I did not attempt to rehabilitate my garden last year. Instead, I started forming a plan to beat that little corgi at his own game. What advantages do I have over Furgus? Well, some brain power (I hope), opposable thumbs and certainly a lot of height.

Unlike Furgus, I also have Pinterest, and I quickly found inspiration for growing my garden out of his reach. The answer? Gutters. Plain ol’ aluminum gutters, which—with a little elbow grease, wood framing, adhesive and spray paint—turn into the most wonderful corgi-proof garden.

I had big plans to build my gutter garden all by myself, but I quickly realized my folly and called for backup from my handy, handsome hubby. Here’s how it all went down (I mean up):

  1. We first built a wood frame and attached it (with masonry screws) to the back of the house. Three uprights and two horizontal boards at the top…done!

  2. Next, my husband cut three 10’ aluminum gutters in half. The miter saw sliced through the gutters like butter.

  3. He also cut a 2x4 board into 12 triangular pieces to serve as brackets for the gutters.

  4. At the ends of each gutter (6 total), I attached end caps with gutter adhesive. That was a sticky mess.

  5. Then I went crazy with the spray paint. My mom calls this color “Sarah green.” I quite agree.

  6. While the paint dried, I screwed the brackets into the uprights of the wood frame, using a level to keep them straight.

  7. Finally, I screwed holes into the bottoms of the gutters for drainage and attached them with screws to the wood frame, resting each gutter on the brackets for support.

At this point, the only thing left to do was garden! I filled each gutter with potting mix for veggies. Then I introduced the plants: romaine lettuce, onions, bell peppers and rainbow chard. I’m not entirely sure all these veggies will grow well in gutters, but this is a year for experimentation, and I’m giving it a try.

On each side of the gutter garden, I used metal window wells to create raised beds for my tomatoes and zucchini. I thought these would be far too tall for Furgus to infiltrate, but that little devil is ridiculously athletic (despite his diminutive stature). He immediately jumped into the beds and pranced around like Tumnus the damn faun. But I would not be so easily defeated. I put tomato cages into both beds, and Furgus has kept his distance ever since.

I am eagerly anticipating a bumper crop from my garden this year. I’ve already harvested a few salad’s worth of romaine lettuce, and it’s so very satisfying to enjoy fresh food I have raised myself. Assuming my gutter garden does not collapse in a heap…and that Furgus does not learn how to scale walls…I intend to garden vertically for many years hence. It’s easier on the back and a delight to the eyes.

— Sarah

P.S. I also went vertical with my herb garden. Here are a few pics!