When starting a deck garden, you must have containers. It’s just part of the whole deal. In my case, I used 18 gallon Rubbermaid storage containers. They are rugged enough to hold the weight of a lot of dirt and plants as well as flexible enough to expand without cracking or breaking.
Filling the Containers with Empty Bottles When Starting a Deck Garden
The book I read on starting a container vegetable garden recommended punching some holes in the bottom of each deck container so that excess water could easily flow out. I punched eight holes in each container with a 3/8″ drill. The book also recommended using something to take up space in the deck container as not all of the plants required 12″ of soil. We saved our plastic drink bottles for a couple of months so that we’d have a sufficient number of empties to work with.
Larger Fillers for Your Deck Garden Containers
I also like pickles so we saved those plastic jars and used them as well. I think it’s important to note at this point in starting a deck garden that each plant species has a different depth requirement. Do a little research so that you have just enough soil depth without having too much soil. I promise you, it will be very important in the next step!
Potting Soil or Garden Soil Mix in Your Deck Vegetable Garden
Rather than buy the expensive bagged dirt from Home Depot for the Deck Containers, I elected to buy some really good compost soil from a local garden supply store. I have more than I need and it was less than $20. Buying bagged dirt would have cost well over $100!
Lessons Learned Starting a Deck Garden
The first lesson I learned is to plan ahead. Do your research and think through what you want to accomplish and then make a plan. This will make it much easier and less expensive to reach your goals. For example, if you think through the weight of an 18 gallon container filled with dirt, you’ll realize that it will weigh approximately 125 pounds – that’s a lot of weight to move. Also, if you plan ahead, you will save a ton of money on the cost of the potting soil by purchasing it from a local farmer rather than in bags from the store. That said, you’re going to need some method to either get it delivered or transport it yourself. Next time, I’ll talk in more detail about filling the containers for starting a deck garden and getting them up to the deck.
The containers you choose will be integral in stating your own deck garden. Before deciding, be sure to learn more about raised garden beds and planter boxes.
Building a Deck Garden Foundation
Now that I have the equipment, I start to layout how the container / deck garden is going to fit and work on the deck. I have six 18 gallon containers and a good sized deck to work with. Installing the drip irrigation system is the next step.
I’ve selected the location for the container / deck garden on my deck. The deck faces North which should provide some protection for the planter boxes and drip irrigation system from the brutal Texas Summer heat. The deck is also very convenient and addresses a problem where I’ve failed gardening in the past – the garden was too far from the house and I didn’t tend it frequently enough. Walking out the back door and another 5 steps should solve that problem!
This deck garden system is going to require a timer to control the watering system.
I’m not going to be able to reliably do it myself and the deck garden is probably going to need water at least twice daily.
This is the expected layout of the main hose of the inexpensive drip irrigation system along the deck railing. Hopefully, the dogs and cats will leave it alone and it should also provide fairly easy access in the event that I need to make some sort of repair.
This is the initial layout and spacing of the containers for the deck garden.
Without any experience, I’m going to try to strike the right balance between compactness to get ins many containers as I can and spacing that will allow the plants in each container to have sufficient room for growth. I suspect that they are going to be very heavy when full of dirt and plants so getting it right the first times going to be important.
The containers for the deck garden have drainage holes drilled in the bottom so that excess water can drain out.
Because of that, they will need to be lifted off of the deck floor to keep those drain holes from getting clogged. Cinder blocks were handy and appear to get the containers up to a height that will prevent me from bending over to manage the plants. I was hoping that a single cinder block would suffice but it doesn’t appear that will provide adequate support.
Two cinder blocks for each deck garden container looks much more stable. I have couple of rambunctious dogs!
Everything looks good, stable and well spaced to proceed. Next week, timer and hose hookup.
Starting the Deck Container Garden
After reading the book I mentioned above, I decided to go ahead with the deck container garden – henceforth known as the Deck Garden – because I put it on the deck behind my house. I decided to use Rubbermaid 18 gallon containers and a simple drip irrigation system. For this to be really useful and valuable, it needs to be almost entirely brainless. That means I want to go out a get vegetables anytime I want and only have to think about managing the Arden once a week. Here’s how I started.
This is the deck prior to starting the deck garden.
Inexpensive Drip Irrigation System for a Deck Container Garden
All the materials at hand to set up the garden on the deck.
Detail of the drip irrigation system-in-a-box.
Contents of the box. Looks like it’s going to be easy!
The hose bib where I’m going to plug it all in.
I’ll have more in my next post about getting it all setup and working.
Update on Starting the Deck Container Garden July 1, 2012
Our deck container garden has had both successes and learning opportunities since we began. Read about our rain drip irrigation development and our raised garden beds to better determine how you can create your own best deck container garden to ensure that you, too, can be sure you have healthy, natural, and less expensive food to eat.