Beginner DIY Summer Projects: How to Build a Garden Deck
Decks are more than just a place to sit, relax, or grill. You can add greenery and grow your own food from the comforts of your deck. Growing a garden on your deck is almost exactly the same as growing one on the ground, except you have more control over the growing environment. Plus, if you live in an apartment or condo and don’t have access to soil in the ground, a vegetable garden planter nestled on your deck is a perfect solution. Read on to learn how to build a garden deck.
Determine Your Wood
In most instances, wood is the best bet when building a garden planter. Cedar is the best choice for planters since it is a naturally rot-resistant wood. Other quality choices include juniper, redwood, and cypress. You can also opt to stain or paint the wood. These types of wood will last about a decade before they begin to deteriorate.
However, avoid wood preserved with toxins. You can use wood infused with alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ), which is safe for food crops, but you may want to use landscape fabric as a liner. Use stainless steel screws or bolts to assemble the wood pieces together.
Narrow Down a Design
Several design options are available for gardening on your deck, some of which are very creative. Don’t let the lack of space limit your garden selections, as there’s a solution for every space issue. You could even add a few different choices as long as you have room.
Multi-tiered pots: This space-saving option allows you to grow plants on the ground or hanging from a chain. You can water the top tier, and let water trickle down to water the remaining pots. This option is best for most herbs, strawberries, and cherry tomatoes.
Planter pockets: Place a hanging fabric wall planter in an area that gets lots of natural sunlight. It doesn’t take up space on the floor, and is best to grow herbs. However, it will release excess water onto the ground, so be careful where you hang it.
Raised planter: Perhaps the most popular option, the raised bed lets you grow a variety of vegetables, herbs, and flowers due to its soil depth. Usually rectangular in shape, the raised planter resembles a flower box.
Vertical shelving: Instead of the traditional horizontal garden, you can go vertical and build a shelving unit. This allows a natural drip irrigation system, meaning you can water the top shelf and have the water trickle down to the others positioned below. This option is best for plants that don’t need much soil, such as members of the lettuce family as well as basil, oregano, and parsley.
Figure Out Dimensions
The dimensions for your garden largely depend upon what you’re growing. For a raised planter, consider a 3×6-foot bed for tomatoes, because you can reach the plants on all sides of the garden. Typically a raised garden should reach 1-2 feet in depth; you can go higher, but then you’ll need more soil.
Create the planter as deep as you can so the roots have plenty of room to spread out and grow. However, keep in mind that raised planters dry out quicker than those in the ground. Make sure you water your plants thoroughly and frequently.
Build Your Planter
When building your raised planter, you should use composite boards if possible, particularly underneath the bed. Place two 4x4s on the ground about four feet apart. Place a 2×6 across the top of the two boards, and screw the boards together. This is the start of one of the planter’s sides. Repeat for the other side. The 2x6s offer support for the raised bed’s bottom. Take two 2x4s and put them inside the 2x6s and 4x4s. Screw the 2x4s to the 2x6s. This is the planter’s frame. You should have enough room for seven 2x6s. Make sure to leave a little space between the boards for drainage.
For the sides, put one 2×6 on top of another. Make sure each board is level. Repeat for each side of the garden planter. If you want, install caster wheels to make the raised planter easier to maneuver. Mount them on the posts of the 2x6s. The wheels let you change the planter’s location to follow the sun or let the deck dry out underneath. Make sure the casters have at least a 250-pound capacity since the wood and dirt will add some weight to the planter.
Tip: If you don’t attach casters, make sure you leave about 3-4 inches of space between the bottom of your planter and the deck surface. This is especially important if your deck is wooden. All wood rots, even pressure-treated wood, and you need 3-4 inches to let the moisture evaporate to prevent rot.
Prepare the Garden
With a raised planter, you can fill the garden with a soil mix for planters, peat moss, or compost. Since your garden has built-in drainage, you don’t have to worry about erosion taking place. In addition, the soil in a raised container warms quicker in the spring, so you can plant certain vegetables, such as peppers and tomatoes, earlier than you could in the ground.
Use a weed control fabric underneath the soil to prevent the soil from leaking out the cracks. You can also use gravel, but the landscape fabric keeps fine particles from escaping. Plant your seeds or seedlings, and water as needed.
Tip: If you have two or more garden beds without casters, leave at least 18-24 inches between the two of them. That way you can walk between them as well as bring a wheelbarrow or other equipment to work on your plants and garden.
Building your own garden to use on your deck is a great way to start harvesting your own food. Even if you don’t have a lot of space, a portable garden is a perfect solution. Add some caster wheels to your planter, and you can move the garden to take advantage of the sunlight. Before long, you’ll enjoy the vegetables and herbs from your own garden, all reaped from the comforts of your deck.