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Rain gutters for growing inside of greenhouse

 
Randy Buchler
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Hello everyone. We are wanting to utilize our vertical space in our greenhouse by growing strawberries in suspended/hanging gutter systems. Just wondering if anyone is doing or has done this? Gutters are made of various materials including PVC, Vinyl, aluminum and painted steel. We have ruled out PVC as it has been known to contain lead and vinyl is out just because it's nasty. But, what about aluminum? Painted steel? Would anything leach from either of these if they are not being heated up? They would have soaker hose running through the dirt, in a controlled environment. Any leads, advice, knowledge from experience, etc would be much appreciated! Thank you.
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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i don't use any aluminum around food
 
Ben Stallings
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Location: Emporia, KS
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I've been growing lettuce and other leafy greens in (galvanized steel) gutters for two years now, and I've thought about using them for strawberries. A couple issues to consider:
1) The ends of the gutters can be hard to waterproof, since they are not designed to be; the gutters are intended to slope away from the ends. I used tape (on the inside surface) which has not held up well. If you use the gutters as intended -- flowing toward a downspout -- rather than making them horizontal and drilling drain holes as I did, you may have better luck.
2) The soil in the gutters dries out very fast, even with full mulch. Plan on watering the plants every day during dry weather.
3) One of the chief advantages of planting in gutters is protection from rabbits and other ground-based predators. If your strawberries' main predators are birds, they may not be safe in hanging planters -- you may have to hang nets during berry season.

Personally I would not be concerned about either aluminum or steel leaching. Most PVC doesn't hold up well to sunlight (UV) even if it's marketed for outdoor use, so it fails from a durability standpoint regardless of its other properties.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Lots of ideas out there in the aquaponics world to google up. No perfect way.

+1 on them drying out FAST. And at the same time, it is easy to flood them out if you don't have a good drain system. You will need to water them a LOT--figuring out a mini flood and drain or wick system just to water them is worth it, as it is a PITA to water those top plants.

The other problems are weight and installation. Guttering is not made to handle that much weight and the bracketry doesn't always work with greenhouse framing very well.
 
Ben Stallings
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R wannabe wrote:The other problems are weight and installation. Guttering is not made to handle that much weight and the bracketry doesn't always work with greenhouse framing very well.


My solution to this was to suspend them with ropes wrapped around the front, bottom, and back of the gutter every 5 feet (that is, 3 ropes for a 10-foot length of gutter). I was able to support three gutters full of soil this way, one above another, from three hooks on the garage eave. I was thinking that if I mounted them against a wall next time, I would use boards supported at top and bottom (that is, resting on the ground and attached to the eave above), and nail or screw the gutter to the wall on back side and to the board on the front. Or alternatively, screw horizontal supports between the wall and the vertical boards, and just rest the gutters on these supports, with the wall and boards preventing the gutters from splaying out with the weight of the soil.
 
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