A flourishing green lawn is the pride and joy of many Australian homes… except when it’s located in your gutters.
You may not realise it, but gutters can play host to one of the more unexpected ecosystems you may find around your home.
That’s because when the right mix of seeds, compost materials, water and even manure congregate together, plants tend to grow – and thanks to falling leaves, wind-blown seeds, rain and animal visitors, gutters often contain this mix of organic ingredients.
Your home’s location will largely determine which plants could end up flourishing in your gutters and downpipes.
After all, the local (and invasive) fauna in Darwin and Hobart are pretty different. So while you could find Musky Storksbill weeds in your Hobart gutters, Gamba Grass weeds would be a more likely culprit for gutters in Darwin.
Although grass, moss and weeds are particularly common gutter garden plants, trees can also flourish in your gutter ecosystem. Downpipes provide a convenient place to put down roots, and the gutters themselves provide plentiful access to sunlight and rainwater.
Why does it matter?
Gutter gardens increase the risk of rusted and/or clogged gutters and downpipes, which in turn can lead to interior flooding and severe structural damage to your home. This can result in anything from a minor inconvenience to an incredibly hefty repair bill.
By attracting animal residents to their ecosystem, gutter gardens can also affect your home’s health. These unwanted visitors will often make their way into your home, spreading fleas, mosquitoes, germs and other unpleasant, unhealthy things. (They also tend to physically damage your home.)
For people with Rain Harvesting systems, gutter gardens can compromise the quality and quantity of your rainwater – both of which defeat much of the purpose of rain harvesting in the first place.
Clearly then, gutter gardens are bad news for you and your home.
What can you do?
The most immediately obvious solution to accidental gutter gardens is regular gutter cleaning. After all, if you clear your gutters of any organic material, a garden can’t grow in them. But gutter cleaning is accompanied by a range of obvious and hidden costs.
Some home owners choose to hire a professional gutter cleaner. A quick search of gutter cleaning services in Brisbane suggests that prices for gutter cleaning for a very small 3 bedroom home start at $140. Multiply that a few times each year (experts recommend you clean your gutters a minimum of once every three months), and the costs soon begin to rise.
DIY gutter cleaning may save you from paying these extra bills, but it can be costly in other ways. Falls from ladders are a common cause of major trauma and death, and unfortunately, ladders are an unavoidable gutter cleaning apparatus.
Gutter mesh (gutter guard)
Installing the right gutter mesh (aka gutter guard) for your home is a smart and effective way to prevent gutter gardens and significantly reduce the need for gutter cleaning.
Gutter mesh acts as a barrier that permits the entry of rainwater, but prevents leaves, pests and other debris from entering your gutters.
Different gutter mesh comes with different apertures (the size of the holes in the mesh), so it’s important that you choose the right gutter mesh for your home. For example, if you live in an area populated with small leafed plants such as jacaranda trees, you’ll probably want gutter mesh with a smaller aperture to ensure it’s effective in preventing gutter gardens from growing. On the other hand, if the smallest leaves around your home are palm fronds, you’ll probably be fine with a larger aperture mesh.
“How does your garden grow?”
The nursery rhyme “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” asks “How does your garden grow?”
But as you can see, when it comes to your gutters, it’s important to be able to answer this question with a resounding “It doesn’t!”
To identify the best gutter mesh for preventing gutter gardens around your home, check out our handy Mesh Matcher tool. Mesh Matcher asks you 6 simple questions, then uses your answers to recommend the optimal gutter mesh or meshes for you.