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Surprising Garden Pots: Copper Gutters

This lush three-tier garden screen consists of pairs of copper K-style gutters, which have flat backs, hanging from lengths of chain. We planted the gutters with ivy, and hung the screen on a sheltered porch.

Source: Martha Stewart Living, March 2006


Tip: Plant vines, such as ivy, with potting soil that contains lightweight perlite.


  • Tape measure

  • Six 5-inch-deep copper K-style gutters

  • Gutter end caps (6 left and 6 right)

  • Permanent marker

  • No. 3 machine chain

  • String

  • One-handed bar clamp

  • Scrap wood

  • Awl

  • Hammer

  • Drill with 7/32 bit, 1/4-by-4-inch (30) machine screws and corresponding washers (96) and nuts (66)

  • Pliers

  • Crescent wrench

  • Pencil

  • 6-inch metal ceiling hooks

  • Heavy-duty spring latching hooks


  1. Measure the length and height of the area where you will hang the screen, and order six gutters (and 12 end caps) to fit the space, leaving at least a 6-inch clearance on both sides. Note: Be sure to choose a sound structural beam to hang it from. We do not recommend building a screen that is more than 6 feet long from end to end.

  2. With a marker, draw a straight, vertical line in the center of a gutter, on its interior flat side. This indicates the placement of the center chain. Determine the placement of the two outer chains by measuring equal distances to the left and right of the center and drawing straight vertical lines. Each of our outer chains was installed two feet from the center. Repeat this step for remaining gutters.

  3. Have three chains cut to fit your space, allowing for three evenly spaced pairs of gutters. Count the links in each chain, and divide it into thirds (leaving any extra links at the top). Mark the sections by tying pieces of string to the links.

  4. You will use screws to join pairs of gutters back to back and to install chains between them. Mark the holes for the screws: In the places where you drew the vertical lines, mark two Xs, one above the other, spaced to comfortably accommodate one to two chain links between them.

  5. Place two gutters back to back, matching up corners. Clamp a piece of scrap wood between them, in the place where you made your first set of Xs. Next, create a pilot hole (A). Place the point of the awl on the center of an X, and tap it with a hammer. Drill into the pilot hole, first from one side, then from the other. Create the remaining holes, moving the clamp and wood along as you work. Repeat this step for remaining pairs of gutters.

  6. Connect pairs of gutters with screws, working from the bottom up (B): Place a washer on a screw, and thread it through one of the lower holes on the interior flat side of a gutter. Add another washer, followed by a nut. (Do not tighten these yet.) Repeat this assembly in the upper hole. Slip a chain onto the screws, placing the bottom link on the lower screw. Follow with a nut, then a washer on each screw. Repeat screw and chain assembly on remaining holes in this gutter. Thread screws in this gutter through the holes in its mate. Place a washer and a nut on each screw. Repeat this step to connect remaining pairs of gutters and joining pairs with the chains, matching chain links marked with strings with lower screws.

  7. Drill drainage holes in the bottom of each gutter, placing scrap wood underneath.

  8. Fit end caps onto gutters, and tap gently with a hammer. Using pliers, crimp the caps and gutters together at all corners and a few additional points on the sides. Tighten all nuts with wrench.

  9. Secure corners of gutters together: Near the end of each pair of gutters, drill two holes, one above the other, as directed in step 5. Place a washer on a screw, and thread it through holes in both gutters, from left to right. Add another washer and a nut. Repeat to install screws in remaining holes. Tighten all nuts.

  10. To hang the screen, find the center of the beam, and mark it with a pencil. Measure to the left and right the same distance you spaced the chains on the gutters; mark these points on the beam with a pencil. Drill a hole in the beam at each point. Manually screw in ceiling hooks, gripping them with a clamp if this becomes difficult.

  11. Attach a spring latching hook to the top link of each chain. (To shorten length of screen, attach hooks farther down). Two people are needed to hang the screen. Have one person support the gutters, stacked on top of one another, while the other attaches the eye of each latching hook to the ceiling hooks. Once the screen is installed, carefully separate the tiers. Plant as desired, using potting soil that contains lightweight perlite; avoid overwatering.

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