Spring time has arrived in Central Texas and it’s time to take all the lessons I learned from last year’s deck container gardening and apply them to a new round of education, fun and starting a deck garden. I had some success last year and am excited to get started again and take advantage of everything I’ve learned as well as try a few new things for my container garden on the deck.
What I Learned Starting a Deck Garden
I’ve summarized what I’ve learned starting a container vegetable garden but here are my key learning’s from last year:
- monitor and manage the soil temperature using a soil thermometer – a deck garden can get very very hot
- don’t over water the plants in each planter box – be more sparing with the drip irrigation kit
- don’t over plant any of the planter boxes
My goals for this season are
- is to determine the ideal plant/water/temperature ratios for my deck garden
- teach my daughters the benefits of having a regular container gardening project that produces real results
- have fun, learn and enjoy fresh food from my deck container garden
The deck garden sat idle through the winter season so the first step in starting a deck garden is do do a quick inventory of what we have and what needs to be done to restart our container gardening.
Drip Irrigation for Container Plants
I use a drip irrigation system to provide a regular a measured amount of drip irrigation for container plants to each planter box. I tested the drip irrigation system and everything appeared to work fine except for a leaky backflow preventer. I replaced it for about $4 and tightened all of the connections before starting a deck garden.
Potting Soil for Container Garden
Container gardening can be very tough on soil and planter boxes. The soil in each of the planter boxes has become dry and hard and will need to be supplemented with some new potting soil for my container garden. This is the first step in starting a deck garden. Some of this is due to the very dry winter we’ve had and part of it due to the very high temperatures from last year. I’m going to be much more rigorous measuring soil temperature in my deck garden with a soil thermometer this year.
Container Gardening on a Deck
The planter boxes from last year’s container gardening on a deck remain in relatively good shape but definitely show some wear and tear. They will probably last at least one more year but will need to be replaced after that if they continue to deteriorate and before I consider another year of starting a deck garden.
Potting Soil for Container Garden
I have some great potting soil for my container garden left over from last year’s container gardening when I filled the planter boxes but it is covered over with grass. If you order potting soil in bulk, you can get it cheaper and it will always be ready when you are ready for starting a deck garden.
Planter Boxes for Starting a Deck Garden
Each planter box for starting a deck garden is about 18 gallons and weighs approximately 125 pounds when completely filled with dirt. I filled two planter boxes with new, fresh soil and lugged them to the top of the stairs. It was tough but sometimes, starting a deck garden can be a challenge. I then distributed the new soil across the 6 planter boxes to top them off.
Full Sun Container Gardens
I filled the planter boxes for the full sun container gardens fuller with soil this year than I did last year. Underneath the soil in each container is a set of empty plastic bottle as a space filler. I have no idea about the condition of those empty bottles or what the temperature may have done to break them down. Last year, I measured the temperature with a soil thermometer. This year, part of my plan in starting a deck garden is to monitor the soil temperature much more closely.
Photos of Container Gardens
The planter boxes for starting a deck garden are filled and ready for planting. This year, I’m planting
- one planter box of cucumbers
- three containers of tomatoes
- one planter box of peppers
- one container of strawberries
I’m a big believer of taking a lot of photos of container gardens – from starting a deck garden to the very end – to help me document my progress and learn from my mistakes.
Cucumbers in a Container Garden on Deck
Last year, I planted two types of cucumbers in the container garden on my deck and they did fairly well until the heat got them. My mistake when starting a deck garden was that I over planted in two dense rows, one of each type. This year I’m still planting two types – Sugar Crunch and Early Pride – but I’m planting them in two small mounds centered in the planter box with only 6 seeds in each mound.
Partial Sun Container Garden Tomatoes
In my partial sun container garden tomato planter boxes last year, I planted four tomato plants and a pepper plant in each planter box. The result was that the tomato plants tended to grow tall and stringy. This year in starting a deck garden, I’m only planting a single tomato plant in each planter box. I very much like the “grape” style tomatoes and the Juliet variety is well suited to this area.
Full Sun Container Garden Tomatoes
How could you have a deck garden without having a Patio variety tomato plant? These prefer a full sun container garden so we’ll make sure they are placed on the end of the line. Again, only one plant per planter box. Last year, when starting a deck garden, I planted as many as four plants in a planter box and they were too over crowded.
Pear Tomatoes in Container Garden on a Deck
My youngest daughter loves little yellow tomatoes in the container garden on the deck and she had the advantage of going with me when I purchased the plants. So, she selected the Yellow Pear variety for this planter box.
Chili Peppers in a Full Sun Container Garden
I love fresh Pico de Gallo – a typically Mexican relish with tomatoes, peppers, onions and cilantro. It’s not salsa, which i usually chopped very fine and even cooked sometimes. Pico de Gallo (chicken scratch) is a much coarser relish and made/served fresh. I want to be able to make my own so I considered planting everything I needed to make it when starting a deck garden. When I thought about it, though, I decided not to plant onions because they are soil depth intensive and I chose not to plant cilantro because it is so easily available at the store. Neither of those appeared to be well suited for a full sun container garden. So, I’ve only planted peppers and tomatoes. This is a mild jalapeno variety. Pepper plants don’t grow very large so I elected to plant two pepper plants in this planter box.
I’m not really sure about this pepper but the description intrigued me and I didn’t want two jalapeno plants and I wanted to try this one more than I wanted to grow my own serrano peppers. This is a cowhorn pepper.
Drip Irrigation for Strawberry Plants
I’m not a big strawberry fan. I like them but it seems silly to grow them when they are so easily available at the store. They also seem to require enormous amounts of drip irrigation for container plants and that makes it tough to manage when you are starting a deck garden. That said, my youngest daughter wanted one for “her” container gardening and she was with me when we bought the plants so she got what she wanted!
Drip Irrigation for Container Plants
I set the drip irrigation system watering timer for twice daily, 6AM and 6PM for five minutes. Each plant in the deck garden has a 1 GPH emitter. Some planter boxes have two plants so they have two emitters. I have not utilized any fertilizer at this point and I have not measured the soil temperature with a soil thermometer yet.
Starting a deck garden is fun but it can be a lot of work and hopefully, it will pay off with lots of learning, enjoyment and delicious vegetables.