Deck planters for vegetables

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. In cases like this, try growing a vegetable garden on a deck. 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.

This vegetable gardening post is brought to you by Gilmour. The content and opinions expressed below are my own. The Gardening Cook is a participant in the Amazon Affiliate Program. This post may contain affiliate links. I earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you if you purchase through an affiliate link.

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.

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.

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.

I have teamed up with a new sponsor, Gilmour. They have a wide range of products for your gardening needs, including pruning tools, watering products and a great variety of garden hoses. They are a trusted and reliable brand with decades of American heritage. One of their products which is of special interest to me is their Flexogen hose.

You simply cannot beat Flexogen hoses. They have so many wonderful features:

  • It has been proudly made in the USA for over 40 years and has a lifetime warranty.
  • It is perfect for any type of homemaker, especially those, like me, who put their tools to the ultimate test and expect them to really last.
  • The Flexogen hose is an unbeatable combination of quality, flexibility and durability.
  • And it is the only 8 layer hose on the market with a one-of-a-kind patented construction (many other hoses are made with only six layers.) With these features, it is easy to see why the Flexogen hose is the longest-lasting and most durable hose in its class.

Gilmour provided me with both their Flexogen hose and a great spray nozzle to test for them this summer. I am delighted to let my readers know about the quality of their tools and how well they work for me and to give you an opportunity to see the garden tools in action.

I decided to put the hose and nozzle to a test in my deck garden. 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.

Vegetable Deck Garden Tips

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.

Which Vegetables Should I Grow?

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)
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Turnips
  • Swiss Chard
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Radishes
  • Beets
  • 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!)

Don’t forget the herbs!

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:

  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Chives
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Tarragon
  • Sage

More Tips and Tricks for a Vegetable Garden on a Deck


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. 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.

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!

Size of the pots

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

Have a small potting area nearby. I take cuttings of my tomato plants for new plants later in the year and start my seedlings right on my deck. 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 progresses

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 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

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 gardening in 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!)

Plant Supports

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 vs Terra cotta?

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.

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. 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.

Soil for the 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

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 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.

Thank you to Gilmour for my Flexogen hose and gentle power wand. These are available for sale at Amazon, local home improvement store or many garden centers.

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 and additional tips and information for helping you with your DIY deck garden project.

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Read More

This list of 11 Deck Vegetable Garden Ideas is going to inspire you to grow tasty and organic vegetables in limited space of your deck successfully!

Image Credit: obustroeno

If you’ve decided to create a vegetable garden on your deck or patio, these ideas and tips are going to help you in generating more growing area and crop productivity.

1. Skinny Deck Gardening Bed for Growing Herbs, Vegetables, and Flowers

Your small vegetable deck garden is enough to produce vegetables and herbs well if you manage the space properly. These skinny deck gardening beds here have tomatoes, lettuces, basil, oregano, dill, chives, and flowers like zinnia, daisy, and marigold.

2. Growing a Vegetable Garden on a Deck

Carol from shares her valuable tips and knowledge for creating a deck vegetable garden in her article here. Must read that, if you’re a beginner.

3. Hanging Deck Rail Herb Planter

This excellent YouTube tutorial video shows how to build a planter box that hangs from a deck rail. You can use it to grow your favorite aromatic herbs, dwarf vegetables, greens or flowers.

4. How to Build Deck Railing Planters

Learn how to build a deck railing planter for yourself. Some woodworking is involved, which is explained well in this YouTube tutorial.

5. Deck Vegetable Garden Set Up

This blogger shared the step by step process of her brother-in-law’s Deck Vegetable Garden project. They started with herbs and tomatoes (the best bet for beginner gardeners).

6. Deck Rail Herb Garden

Utilize every inch of space when you’re growing a limited space garden. This quick project at Craftivity Designs shows how to create a small deck rail herb garden.

7. Recycled Shutter Mason Jar Herb Garden

For this project, you’ll need an old shutter or reclaimed pallet or plyboard, a few large mason jars, herbs, hose clamps.
First, make a 2 inches layer for drainage by adding gravel or small rocks in the bottom, then add potting soil and plant your favorite herbs. Create an opening in mason jar lids for plants to come out (or else simply remove the lids). Attach the mason jars to the shutter/board using hose clamps. Be careful with watering as there are no drainage holes.

8. Off the Deck Salad Garden Box

An off-the-deck salad garden planter like this can be the smartest addition to your deck vegetable garden. There are many more container vegetable garden ideas available on the University of Maryland Extension!

9. DIY Ladder Planter

To grow more plants in a compact area like a balcony, patio or deck garden, a ladder planter is the greatest solution. Check out our article on DIY Ladder Planters to get 17 ideas with their step by step tutorials.

10. DIY Tiered Herb Garden

A tiered vegetable or herb garden is the best way to squeeze more space onto your deck or patio. The step by step tutorial is available at Decor and the Dog.

11. Grow Vegetables in Containers

If you’re not creating raised beds or skeptical about trying vertical growing ideas, must see our 15 container vegetable garden designs and ideas here to grow fresh homegrown vegetables on your deck.

Growing food doesn’t necessarily require a big backyard.

Even if you live in a high-rise apartment, homegrown vegetables and herbs can be yours. In many cases, a patio or deck can even offer big advantages. You can grow tomatoes, potatoes and even cucumbers in large containers on a sunny patio, and nothing beats the convenience of stepping outside to snip a few herbs for dinner. Although container-grown crops may sometimes have lower yields than those grown in raised beds, they can still be quite productive. In fact, there is almost nothing you can’t grow on a patio or deck, from apples to zucchini.

Why Grow Edibles on Your Patio or Deck

More light. Do you live in a cloudy region like the Pacific Northwest, where light is at a premium? Growing in an elevated space, where sun is easier to come by than at ground level, can be a great approach.

Fewer pests. Pests like slugs, snails and even rats and squirrels are less likely to find your garden if it’s on a deck, especially if you’re in a high-rise.

Fewer weeds. By growing in a potting medium that’s free of weed seeds, you’ll likely experience fewer weeds than backyard gardeners. Just don’t be surprised if a few weeds make it to your garden on the wind.

Less water use. Although container-grown veggies need more frequent watering than those grown in raised beds, it’s often easier to gauge how much water is needed, saving water in the long run.

Easy access. Even if you grow most of your crops in raised beds, you can always keep a few containers of herbs on the deck right outside the kitchen. The convenience of walking out the door and snipping a few chives truly adds to the everyday cooking experience.

How to Plan Your Patio or Deck Garden

Get good containers. The bigger the container, the better: Larger containers retain water longer and allow plants to develop stronger root systems. If you’re crafty or on a budget, consider upcycling materials like wine boxes or food storage totes with holes drilled in the bottom. Just make sure the wood hasn’t been treated and the container is food-safe. If you’re looking for a more elegant solution, consider cedar or fiberglass planters, which will last for years. Keep in mind that ceramic or terra-cotta planters, while attractive and inexpensive, can dry out quickly and crack in freezing temperatures. Make sure that your containers have adequate drainage holes.

Get a good growing medium. Container gardens should always be planted in a specially designed potting mix. Unlike garden soil, potting mix is specially blended for moisture retention and is lightweight. Purchase the best-quality organic potting mix you can find, or mix your own. Look for a peat-moss-free potting mix, as peat moss is a nonrenewable resource. Vegetables are heavy feeders. Add a sprinkling of granulated slow-release organic fertilizer at the time of planting, and follow up with monthly additions of organic liquid fertilizer designed for vegetables.

Protect plants from the elements. High-rise gardens can be vulnerable to wind, heavy rain and heat. Take advantage of existing structures like roof overhangs, patio umbrellas and glass railings to protect your plants. Consider using movable planters that can be relocated to a different part of your patio or deck as needed. To protect newly planted crops from storms, try using the clear plastic clamshell containers from commercial salad mixes. Alternately, you can construct mini garden hoops from sturdy wire and clear plastic. In the past, I’ve used bamboo to support my protective structures for containers, but this year I’ll be using 14-gauge galvanized wire to create mini hoops.

Start worm composting. Want to make your own fertilizer? Consider setting up a worm compost bin. It’s a simple, non-smelly way to recycle your kitchen scraps and create great fertilizer, and works well even in an apartment. You can harvest both worm compost and “worm tea” (liquid produced by the worm-composting process) to keep your plants healthy.

What to Grow on the Deck or Patio

While just about any vegetable or fruit can grow on a patio or deck, these classics are especially well-suited to container gardening.

Tomatoes. Tomatoes are a classic choice for container gardens. They soak up the heat of a patio or deck. Just be sure to use a container that’s at least 18 inches deep, and set up a trellis.

Potatoes. Believe it or not, potatoes grow beautifully in containers. Unlike those grown in the field, potatoes grown in containers don’t involve a ton of digging, searching and accidentally slicing spuds in half with your shovel to harvest. Instead, just tip the container onto a tarp when you’re ready. Use a large container or Grow Bag or another fabric container, and pile more potting mix on the plants are they grow.

Herbs. Herbs are an ideal choice for patio or deck gardens. By placing the plants close to your kitchen, you’ll always be inspired to pop outside and grab a few chives for dinner. Herbs do well in containers and appreciate the added sun and heat of a deck. What’s more, invasive plants like mint won’t have a chance to spread.

Salad greens. With their small root systems, salad greens do very well in containers. Thinly sow a small patch of seeds every week to keep a continuous supply, and be sure to harvest as soon as they look ready. By clipping salad greens with scissors, you can often get a second or even third harvest from one sowing.

Things to Consider

Avoid overcrowding. Overcrowding is one of the most common reasons for crop failure in home gardens, especially when grown in containers. Compared to raised beds, plants grown in containers don’t have as much space to spread out their roots. Give large crops, like tomatoes, kale and cucumbers, lots of space with just one plant per large pot, one that’s at least 18 inches deep. Learn to sow the seeds of salad greens lightly, and thin excess seedlings relentlessly.

Water regularly. Container-grown crops need more frequent watering than crops grown in raised beds. Make sure that your potting mix stays moist — like a freshly baked cake — but not soggy. It’s OK if the top dries out a bit in the afternoons, but everything underneath should stay nice and moist. In some cases, this will mean a daily or even twice-daily sprinkling. Early morning, before the midday sun heats things up, is the best time to water. If your life is busy, consider installing an irrigation system designed especially for containers, and set it on a timer.

Maintain your soil. Vegetables are heavy feeders, as noted above. Add a sprinkling of granulated slow-release organic fertilizer at the time of planting, and follow up with monthly additions of an organic liquid fertilizer designed for vegetables.

“Step Right Outside for Fresh Herbs and Vegetables” by Rebecca Cuttler originally appeared on


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