Many beginning vegetable gardeners make the common gardening mistake of starting too large. If you don’t have a big yard with room for a large vegetable garden, try growing a vegetable garden on a deck.
Vegetable gardening is one of the great pleasures of the summer months for many gardeners. But for many of us, space does not allow a full outside garden or even raised garden beds.
So many vegetables can be grown in large planters and having the garden so nearby makes this much easier to manage.
Even in a small space, you can grow lots of different vegetables and get a great harvest for your efforts. There is nothing quite like making meals with vegetables that you have grown yourself.
Read on to see how I manage this task right outside my back door.
Vegetable garden problems can be hard to troubleshoot and getting a good harvest is sometimes difficult. These tips for gardening in containers eliminates many of these problems that start in the soil.Don't have a large yard to grow veggies? No problem. Check out this tutorial for growing vegetables on a deck or patio. 🍅🌽🥦🥬🥒🥕 Click To Tweet
Tips for Growing a Vegetable Garden on a Deck
I have gone back and forth in my mind about my vegetable garden. Two years ago, I had a 1000 square foot garden filled with vegetables.
Alas, the squirrels made it their mission to eat the entire crop almost down to the last vegetable. (read about that disaster here.)
Last year, I transformed that garden into a perennial vegetable garden. None of the vegetables produced much and the tomatoes were a disaster with tomato leaf curl, blossom end rot, yellow leaves and problems ripening.
Not being a person to be defeated by critters or diseased plants, I persevered! This year I am growing an entire vegetable garden on a deck just steps from my family room.
My whole deck will be home to both vegetables and flowers this summer. This summer the squirrels and rabbits will not defeat me!
(That is my new mantra – I repeat it daily!) I am bringing the garden up close and personal, as they say.
All of the vegetables are growing in very large pots and planters.
I figure that I will be able to keep an eye on the critters and keep the plants in tip top condition. So far, it is working pretty well.
One problem with using pots with drainage holes on your deck is that the soil will wash out. There are lots of ways to keep this from happening. Check out this post for covering drainage holes in pots.
Vegetable Deck Garden Ideas
I have the a wide variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers in pots growing on my deck. Flowers and herbs are easy, since they are small. Growing vegetables in containers instead of in the ground does mean that some adjustments must be made.
Here are a few things to consider.
What are the best vegetables to grow in pots?
You may wonder what you can grow in your deck garden planters. The answer is pretty much anything that you can grow in soil in the ground.
There may be a few exceptions. (watermelons and other types of melons would be a challenge as would corn, but most other vegetables will do just fine.)
The real choice is your own. What do you like to eat? Grow those! I am growing these vegetables:
- Tomatoes (determinate, indeterminate and cherry tomatoes) – Find out what to do if your tomatoes won’t ripen.
- Sweet Peppers
- Swiss Chard
- Leaf lettuce
- Spring Onions
- Bush Beans – two kinds of bush beans (both yellow and green) I have heirloom climber beans growing in an outside garden bed, but guess who chomped them all yesterday? Hint. He hops, has a long tail and loves carrots (and obviously, beans!)
- Onions – as long as you have lots of sunlight, onions will grow well in pots, since they don’t have a deep root system.
Don’t forget the herbs!
I have always grown herbs. They are easy to grow and many of them are perennials that come back each year.
Kitchen garden herbs add so much flavor to the recipes that you will be making with all those vegetables. Be sure to have some room for them, too!
Herbs grow especially well in containers. I have always grown them, and just LOVE having them right outside my back door.
Every night when I cook, it’s just a matter of taking some kitchen shears and snipping off the ones I need to use for that night’s recipe. These are the herbs that I am growing now:
More Tips and Tricks for a Vegetable Garden on a Deck
Once you have decided on what to grow on your deck vegetable garden, you will need to figure out how to best care for the garden. These tips should help.
Watering vegetables on a deck garden
One of the crucial care tips for a vegetable garden is good watering. Here are some ways to make sure the plants get the water they need to grow well.
Be sure your pots are within easy reach of your watering system. The beauty of a garden on a deck is that the water tap is generally quite near by.
You won’t have to worry about drip irrigation or soaker hoses the way you would in a vegetable garden that is planted in the ground.
With the pots in a confined area, you can just walk around with the hose and give them all a soak in just minutes a day.
Growing the vegetables in pots also makes it easier for me to keep the water off the leaves. I can walk on the lawn around the edge of the deck, and the pots seem almost like raised garden beds.
I can get the water right to the roots where it belongs. The key to watering is a really good soaking at the roots.
I love my hose set up! It is within about 10 feet of my water source and this makes it super easy to get just the right amount of water to the veggies.
I have a corner near the deck where I keep the hose, and it’s ready to go when I am ready to water. The whole watering procedure of the garden from start to finish takes about 10 minutes at the most!
Be sure to check out this post to see how I used concrete blocks to make a raised bed vegetable garden in another season.
What size pots should I use for a vegetable garden?
In the ground, vegetables have loads of room to spread out. Garden pots contain the roots but still need to give the vegetables plenty of room to grow.
Be sure to use pots that will accommodate the size of the plant you want to grow. There is no way a 5+ foot tomato plant will grow in a 5 gallon pot.
It needs room for the roots! Think of the final size of the plant when you choose the pot.
Small plants like lettuce and radishes will do just fine in long and narrow planters. For larger vegetables, err on the larger size for pots.
You won’t go wrong, I promise.
Bigger pots mean that the plants will need less water and will grow larger, as well. Consider using 12 inches at the smallest and up to 24 inches or larger for the biggest ones, such as tomato plants.
Work area for a deck garden
Have a small potting area nearby. Did you know that you can propagate some vegetable plants from cuttings? I take cuttings of my tomato plants for new plants later in the year.
This way I can start my seedlings right on my deck along with my other tomato plants.
I have a large tiered garden stand that sits against the wall of my patio and it doubles as a stand to hold both my plants and some supplies.
I love having seedlings and cuttings so close – It is a great way to increase my harvest and have plants ready for succession planting when the time is right.
This stand is just a few steps from my table that doubles as a work station when I am potting.
You won’t want to be trudging back and forth to the shed all the time for tools that you’ll use daily. You’ll be glad to have pots and tools nearby as the summer.
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Some things to keep close:
- Garden wand (especially if you grown any plants in hanging baskets (some tomato plants and strawberries do well in these.)
- Garden trays for starting seeds
- Small pots to transplant seedlings
- All purpose vegetable fertilizer or a bucket of compost.
- Set of garden tools for tending the plants and weeding
Make sure you have Room to Tend to the vegetables
Be sure you have room, either outside the deck or near the pots, for plant maintenance. You will want to inspect, water and tend to them easily without moving furniture.
I find it very relaxing to just walk around the perimeter of my deck, watering, pulling out the odd weed and inspecting the vegetables for pests.
I have a very large deck which measure about 14 x 25 feet. It has ample room for seating, dining, a potting area and a BBQ area, PLUS the vegetable garden and several areas for flowers.
It is amazing, what can be grown on a deck, isn’t it?
One of the beauties of deck gardening with containers is that you will have far less in the way of pests than one normally does in a garden in the ground. I can even sit in a comfy chair to do my tending.
(So much better than leaning over and pulling weeds from the ground!)
Even though your vegetables are going to be growing in containers, some will still need supports. Use stakes and climbing supports for the plants to use as they grow.
I put my stakes in with the seedlings so as not to disturb the roots later.
Tomatoes, especially, need supports, or they will get too top heavy. I just use one long plant stake pushed all the way to the base of the pot at planting time.
Pieces of nylon stockings keep the plant attached and can be added as it grows.
There are many things to use for support for cucumbers and beans. (I used pieces of old garden wire fencing.
I just poked them into the earth and they allow beans to climb and supports for cucumbers, too!)
Should you use Plastic or Terra cotta pots?
I have both, and they work just fine. One thing to consider is that terra cotta pots will need more watering because of their porous nature.
Also they are heavier than plastic so the choice is yours if water conservation and the weight of the pots are important factors to you.
Another factor is how long the pots will last. Terra cotta is a natural material that tends to last a long time. Plastic pots, on the other hand, are susceptible to UV rays and will become brittle, particularly if you need to move them often.
Color of pots
Very dark or black pots will absorb the heat, so lighter colors work better and will need less watering and be gentler on the roots of the plants.
To give a nice decorative look, I like to have my pots coordinated in color. I chose both green and a terra cotta color.
Remember that the garden will be very visible when you are entertaining or eating on the deck during the summer, so an eye pleasing color choice is important.
What Soil do you need for vegetables
The soil that you use needs to be well draining, and soil made especially for containers will give the best results. Don’t just go out in the garden and dig up plain garden soil.
Soil made for containers is enriched and will give you better results.
I have a compost pile in my garden and make it a habit to add a few scoops of compost to every pot so that I don’t have to worry too much about fertilizing the vegetables.
How to get started with a deck garden
You can plant your own seeds or start with store bought plants for deck gardens. Seeds are much cheaper but need to be started earlier, perhaps indoors, so that they will be ready when the warm weather hits.
Store bought plants are ready to put into the containers when you are ready to get going on your deck garden.
Water the soil and seedlings first before you plant. The seeds will get a better start and the seedlings won’t be stressed when they are transplanted.
Good tools make for a better garden
Hopefully, you will have winterized your tools last fall so that they are ready this spring. Think ahead to what you might wish to purchase this year if you don’t have many.
You won’t need many tools. A small garden rake and hoe in a basket nearby will work for both tending and harvesting the vegetables.
Having the right tools on hand can make all the difference. There is no substitute for good garden tools.
They last so much longer than cheap imitations and save you money in the long run by providing excellent use for years to come!
Enjoying Deck Gardening
My deck has room for two seating areas – one is a cozy place for afternoon drinks. It overlooks my newest flower garden bed and also my test garden and we spend a lot of time sitting there.
The other area has a large table and umbrella set up for home barbecues and guests. Even with those two areas, there is still a load of space left for containers.
Don’t forget to add some flowers to your deck garden
Flowering plants soften up the look of the deck vegetable garden and also attract beneficial pollinators.
Even with all my vegetables, there is still plenty of room for flowers on my deck too. After all, what is a garden without flowers?
This vintage circular stair case plant stand winds around and holds 6 potted flower plants in one small footprint.
Add in the bird cage planter and the plants at the foot and there are 10 flower pots in a 3 foot space. Gardening on a deck just means thinking outside the box!
Who says you need a large yard for a big flower and veggie garden? This vegetable garden on my deck shows that this is not the case. I harvested vegetables all summer long and they tasted just fabulous.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to have a look at the transformation of what used to be my vegetable garden last year. I have changed this area into a wonderful Southwest themed garden bed.
Have you ever tried to grow a vegetable garden on a deck in containers? What were your results? I would love to hear in the comments below.
Admin note: This post first appeared on my blog in April of 2015. I have updated the post to add new photos, a video, a printable project card and information for helping you with your DIY deck garden project.
Pin this post of deck gardening for later
Would you like a reminder of these ideas for growing a vegetable garden on a patio or deck? Just pin this image to one of your gardening boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.
How to Grow a Vegetable Garden on a Deck
Vegetable gardens normally take up a lot of room but this doesn't have to be the case. You can easily grow man entire vegetable garden in pots around the perimeter of your deck. Here is now to do it!
- Large patio or deck
- 12- 24" pots to hold plants
- Vegetable seedlings or seeds to start plants
- Good quality Garden soil
- Organic material or compost
- Herb plants
- Flowering plants
- Garden hose with a watering nozzle
- Measure the outside corner edge of your patio to see how many pots it will hold. I have a 14-25 foot deck and it held about 16 planters of various sizes.
- Once you know how much room you have, you can decide what to grow based on size of pots.
- I planted the largest pots on the outside and another row of smaller pots touching them inside. This gave me two areas to harvest, inside the deck and outside the deck.
- Herbs, radishes, Swiss Chard and other greens will grow in fairly small pots.
- Large plants such as bush beans, tomatoes, peppers and the like will need larger pots.
- Use good quality soil especially made for vegetables.
- Add some organic matter to the soil and water well.
- Plant the seedlings and add stakes for support for tall plants at planting time so as not to disturb the roots.
- Water well. Plants in pots need more water than those grown in the ground. I often watered my plants both morning and night on the hottest days.
- Once early plants such as lettuce, and broccoli are done growing, you can replant with items like bush beans to keep the vegetables coming all summer long.
- Harvest when your plants are at the peak of maturity for best flavor.
- At the end of the season remove dead stocks to clean up and cut down herbs. Many will regrow again the next year.
The cost of the vegetable garden will depend on the type of pots that you purchase. Self watering planters or ceramic pots would make it much more expensive. However, pots last for several years, so the yearly cost is lower than the first time cost.
My cost doesn't include the price of pots.
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Saturday 11th of June 2022
Hi, I have 14” pots and started With seeds. I have thinned to 2 cucumber, 2 zucchini, and 2 green beans each pot. They’re beside my porch railing so the climbers can climb and spread. Do I need to thin again to 1 of each 3 per pot though? They have been drying out fairly quickly, and while beans add nutrients, I don’t want them to overcrowd each other and not produce fruits.
Also I have 10” pots with 2-3 bell peppers each. They’re growing much slower, but not sure if they’ll overcrowd eventually.
Any recommendations for feeding/compost with container gardens?
Saturday 11th of June 2022
You can usually grow more than the package says in pots, but bear in mind that pots dry out quickly compared to plants in the ground so this is more likely the problem than over crowding.
Sunday 17th of January 2021
I have grown herbs and cherry tomatoes on my upper level wood deck for about 10 yrs using saucers under each. My treated and sealed deck starting rotting about 3 yrs ago and now needs replacement. How can I keep the water from rotting the boards?
Thursday 21st of January 2021
The only way to do this is to use large saucers. Last year, I had my husband make a long shelf unit that sits beside the perimeter of the deck, so my plants are still handy but not sitting on the deck, since we just replaced the boards and stained it.
Friday 8th of May 2020
wow, this is so useful! I saved this to my favorites so I can keep going back to it to improve my home!l
Friday 8th of May 2020
Glad you enjoyed the post Jay.
Monday 4th of May 2020
I have an apt underneath me which is a concern when watering. Dont want to, but I should probably get saucers for all containers heh so no water drains down to the balcony below me?
Joan C James
Wednesday 22nd of April 2020
What can you grow, and how, on a condo deck that is high up (2nd level) in the building and faces dense woods so little sunlight comes through? We would love to grow a few veggies and some herbs but have no idea where to start.
Wednesday 22nd of April 2020
Most vegetables need some sunlight, but there are a few that can grow with less. I have written a post that talks about both types and how much light they need. You can read it here.