Starting a Garden on Your Patio or Deck

Starting a Garden on Your Patio or Deck

patio garden

Even if you live in the city, you can still enjoy the benefits of growing your own fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers in the limited space that you have. Apartment dwellers and homeowners who have little or no backyard to speak of can take advantage of an outdoor patio to create a garden sanctuary designed for any number of purposes.

Perhaps you want a bit of extended living space or maybe you have a green thumb that is just itching to show what it can do?

Why Grow a Patio Garden?

Making the most of the small space you have is as simple as combining a few clever gardening techniques and strategies to meet your expectations. Your patio garden plan might include the use of vertical gardening, raised bed gardening, and container gardening. Each of these techniques is a successful way to garden in confined or small areas. But why bother going through the effort to create a patio garden in the first place?

There are so many wonderful benefits that you can derive from the simple planning of a patio garden. It really only makes sense to do so. Just take a look and see.

Patio Gardens Create Extra Living Space

One of the experiences that you might be going through is that you have outgrown your home, apartment, or condo. Although it seems as though you are going to have plenty of space when you move in, quite often, you outgrow that interior space rather quickly. Designing an outdoor patio garden is a simple yet effective strategy for extending your living space to the outdoors.

How you decide to use that outside space is up to you, but however that is, you gain extra living space that you wouldn’t otherwise have. When designing your patio garden, you should keep in mind your primary purpose (beside the fact that you want and need more room to enjoy life) and design your garden around that focal point. One of the options you have is to create a multi-purpose space where you can sit down and relax while enjoying a good book, sit at a table and enjoy a meal garnished with freshly-grown herbs, and entertain family and friends with a short stroll around your private garden.

Patio Gardens Hide Eyesores

Just because you have a patio, it does not mean that you have an attractive one or a gorgeous view. Creating a patio garden can be a perfect strategy for improving your view by hiding eyesores behind attractive plants and planters. You can use a variety of ground-level planters to hide imperfections in the patio floor while using vertical gardening techniques to hide unsightly places higher up.

Patio Gardens Create Relaxing Environments

garden fountain

Designing a patio garden for a relaxing environment to unwind in is one of the best reasons for doing so. All too often, people today spend their days running from one task to the next without even having time to take a breather so they can sit down and relax.

However, when you design your patio as a secret getaway, a sort of private sanctuary, then you have good reason to simply sit and relax without worrying about the list of unfinished errands or tomorrow’s to-do list.

In addition to your plants, you might want to consider adding a small fountain or attractive wind chimes. The can add to the relaxing aura of your garden sanctuary. The dulcet sounds emitted from either of these will add to the beauty of your plants and the décor of your patio garden.

Patios Create Spaces to Garden

Gardening can be a relaxing hobby that gets you out into the sunshine for a chance at some fresh air. Even in the city, it is nice to go outdoors and feel the warmth of the sun’s rays on your face while breathing in nearby scents. Just imagine how nice it will be to breathe in the freshness of your personal garden plants!

The patio can be used to create a convenient space for a garden when you have a small yard or live in an apartment or condo. It is convenient because it is typically right outside one of your doors. For those of you who live in the city but enjoy the outdoors, a patio can give you the chance to create your own little getaway filled with colorful plants, decorative containers, and the scents that only Mother Nature can provide.

When you garden, you can enjoy the company of friends and family or you can do it on your own. Either way, you can enjoy a few relaxing moments each day along with the satisfaction that comes from watching plants grow. Patio gardens are great for growing herbs, flowers, vegetables, and fruits. If you are new to gardening, you might want to start out on a small scale by selecting just a few varieties of plants and seeing how well you do. Simply create a garden plan, select your plants, and get started. You can focus on one specific type of gardening or incorporate several styles.

Patio Gardens are Places to Entertain

perfect patio garden for entertaining

A patio garden provides an attractive place to entertain guests. Whether you are into relaxing in an outdoor hot tub or enjoy grilling up a tasty barbecue dinner, the patio garden is the perfect scenario. The style of furniture you purchase depends on the type of entertaining that you intend to do.

If you choose barbecuing, then your focus is going to be on a table, chairs, and a grill. The plants that you include in your garden might include common vegetables found at many outdoor barbecue functions. This can include peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and a pleasant variety of herbs.

If you prefer to do your entertaining from the comfort of a hot tub, then your garden might have a bit more focus on plants that can act as a bit of a deterrent to insects due to their scent. This typically includes a variety of pungent herbs and flowers.

One of the nicest facets to outdoor entertaining is the focus on lush foliage that is attractive and soothing. From the bright colors of the plants to the fresh scents emanating from them, your guests can enjoy a taste of the beautiful outdoors in a relaxed setting.

Grow Fresh Food or Small Kitchen Garden

Since your patio is often used for outdoor dining anyway, it only seems natural to design a small kitchen garden there. This type of garden can be used to provide your kitchen with fresh herbs, tomatoes, and a sprinkling of other vegetables and fruits throughout the growing season. You will cut down on your grocery expenses while enjoying the fresh flavor of homegrown produce.

A well-planned patio garden can provide you with a variety of herbs, vegetables, or fruits despite the fact that you only have a small space to use. One of the benefits of having only a small area to grow in is the fact that you never become overwhelmed as you can when planting in a large plot. Grow just what you need of each type of herb, vegetable, or fruit to sustain your kitchen. Add in a few flowers to attract beneficial insects and provide extra color to the area.

You do not need to worry over the fact that you are relying on containers for some or all of your patio gardening either. Container growing offers the advantages of being able to move your plants around for more or less sun as well as being able to provide extra drainage if needed. In fact, container gardening is often more controlled than plot gardening so you have an easier time of providing pest and disease control.

No matter what the reason is behind your decision to create a patio garden of your own, once you get started, you are sure to discover many more benefits. Get started today and bring your indoors outdoors for a fine taste of sunshine and freshly-grown produce.

Patio gardens might be your sole garden if you have limited space or lack a yard, but that doesn’t mean you have to forgo a beautiful garden of flowers or vegetables. Usually, patio gardens mean growing plants in containers. There are a few differences between backyard gardening and container gardening, but following these general tips will help you grow anything you want in containers on your patio. Soil, sun and water are still the main concern, as with any garden. Place most container plants in a sunny location, unless they are specifically shade-tolerant plants.

Be sure they are potted or planted in loose, rich soil. Regular garden soil is too dense and heavy for potting; it should be loosened and lightened with mulch, peat moss or vermiculite when used in container planting. The containers you choose need to have good drainage, so that water doesn’t get trapped around the plant roots. Fit the container to the expected size of the plant, and expect to water and fertilize more often than in a traditional garden. This is because the water will not only run out the bottom of the containers faster but also evaporate faster, taking fertilizer with it.

watering the garden

Watering a Patio Garden

You will need to plan your patio garden with attention to nearby water sources. Is there an outdoor spigot or hose handy, or will you need to carry water from inside the house? Have a plan ready for watering, especially if you are planning to grow a fairly large patio garden. Since soil in containers dries out more quickly than it would in a regular garden, plan on watering daily in hot weather, and every few days in cooler weather. If you’re not sure, test the soil with a finger. If it doesn’t cling to your finger, you should water.

Since patio gardens require more water than a traditional garden, you may want to consider using water-conserving measures to keep your water usage down. One popular way to do this is to create a rain barrel in your yard or garden. Attaching a downspout to your roof gutter system that directs rainwater into the barrel will help you make the best use of rainfall. Be sure any rain barrel you use has a filter that water must pass through before reaching your garden, to keep out foreign objects, unwanted chemicals and dirt or debris.

Another option is to collect “gray” water from your household. This is water that ordinarily gets wasted through normal household processes, or is slightly used but not dirty. For instance, the first few gallons of water that come out of the shower or bath faucet before the water temperature warms up often just go down the drain. Collecting the colder water in a multi-gallon bucket and using that on your container plants or patio garden is more than likely all the water you need to use on your garden that day. If time is a concern, you can try self-watering containers, or for larger planters, irrigation systems like soaker or drip hoses can be a blessing.

Patio Garden Pests

While pests and insects may not have the same access to your plants on a patio as they would in a garden, that doesn’t mean you can let down your guard completely. They will still be found in patio gardens. Check plants regularly for bugs and signs of disease. Another benefit of patio gardening is that it’s easier to check for pests and insects, as the plants are easily movable in their containers, and are more often at eye level. If you do find any pests, separate the plant from the rest of your patio garden, so it can’t spread to other plants, and pick or wash bugs off as soon as you can.

Avoid mildew and many other diseases and pests by being careful not to water the foliage of the plants, only the soil, and ensuring your containers are well-drained. The one drawback you may find with having plants on your patio is that you may attract birds, bees and other pollinators to your back door. If you want to keep these off your patio, try to avoid choosing plants that are very attractive to insects and birds, such as berries, brightly colored flowers, and plants that produce nectar.

Patio Garden Options

Patio gardens have several benefits to gardeners, even those who have the room to grow a traditional garden. If your backyard soil is poor, rocky, or overrun with nematodes, moles or other pests, a patio garden offers a new start with fresh soil. Another option is to use patio gardening as a cosmetic addition to your home landscaping. For instance, you could create a trellis covered in plants on your patio to screen an unattractive air conditioning unit on the side of your house. Or, place several tall containers of plants on your patio surrounding or concealing ugly patio features like broken stones, discolored bricks, or columns, fences and railings that seem out of place aesthetically.

The great versatility of container gardening on your patio is that you can have the containers be whatever you like, to match your home, patio, furniture or landscaping style. Wooden barrels, bushel or wire mesh baskets lined with moss, Mediterranean clay pots, inexpensive colorful plastic planters, or sleek modern metal bins all can house successful patio garden elements. Just make sure whatever you choose provides good drainage, with holes in the bottom and a layer of a loose draining medium like pebbles or gravel in the bottom of the container.

How to Make a Patio Garden Plan

If you want to add some color, amazing fragrance, and beauty to your patio, why not create a patio garden?

This is really quite simple to do once you have a patio garden plan in place. Start off by deciding what you intend to use your patio garden for, how you will plant the area, what practical components you need to consider, and what plants, furniture, and pavers you will select. Of course, you’ll also need to think about a theme or design for your garden.

The three most important considerations that any patio garden plan should begin with includes:

  • ambience that you want to create
  • garden’s purpose or function
  • how to maximize small spaces

Once you have all of that determined, you can move on to the actual purchasing of items and physical labor to put it all together.

Ambience of a Patio Garden

Most home gardeners design a patio garden that features a quiet place to get away and relax. What this aspect involves depends on what you have to start with. Eyesores can be hidden behind plants, trellises, and hanging baskets. Patio furniture can be added for a quiet place to sit and relax. Pavers can be used to create a theme, design, or borders for your garden. The plants, containers, furniture, and pavers are typically selected to match your chosen function of the garden.

Function or Purpose of Your Patio Garden

rosemary container
If you have lots of sun and a container, then you’ll do great growing rosemary.

The basic premise of a patio garden is that you are going to use it to grow herbs, vegetables, fruits, flowers, or some combination of these. In addition to this, you need to decide whether you are going to create a garden solely to sustain your kitchen by growing vegetables, growing a combination of vegetables and herbs, or growing a simple herb garden.

You might decide to use it for some other purpose including an outdoor eating area, an entertaining spot for dinner parties, a place to relax with friends socially, or a family area for relaxing and bonding together. No matter which garden design you intend to make use of, you are probably going to want to include some type of gardening strategy aimed at offering itself as a form of insect repellent in order to keep pests away.

The size of your patio is going to limit exactly what you can do with it to some extent. However, with some careful planning and strategizing, you can create a patio that meets as many of your intentions as you like. You can incorporate more than one purpose simply by dividing your patio garden into more than one open area and using a variety of space-saving gardening strategies.

How to Maximize Small Spaces in a Patio Garden Plan

You can maximize small spaces by planting smaller varieties, limiting the number of varieties that you grow, utilizing companion planting, limiting the number of plants for each variety, using container gardening, practicing vertical gardening, and raised bed planting. One of the benefits of each of these types of gardening is that it makes good use of small spaces efficiently and easily.

Planting smaller varieties can save space since you can use smaller containers or take up less ground. If you limit the number of varieties that you grow, you can reduce how much space you need to plant your veggies and herbs. If you utilize companion planting, you can combine more than one variety of vegetable or herb in a single container or plot of ground saving space. Following that train of thought, if you limit the number of plants for each variety of plant, you can save on the space needed for planting.

Using container gardening strategies allows you to use every nook and cranny of the garden since you can find planters, baskets, and boxes in so many different sizes from large to tiny. Today’s technology has even made it possible to plant in those hard-to-get-to spots by giving us self-watering planters and containers. If you practice vertical gardening, you can grow vining plants such as cucumbers and beans upward rather than along the ground.

Raised bed planting involves a bit of work since you need to construct a box for planting and growing. However, this practice makes it possible to grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers in locations that were once unusable for gardeners. A variation of the traditional raised bed design is the elevated patio garden design. This strategy offers a unique method of gardening that does not involve tearing up the ground, but rather incorporates the use of a garden bench, table, or elevated planter for gardening purposes. It is perfect for individuals who have difficulty bending or kneeling down on the ground, including those who are handicapped.

Patio Design with Pavers and Furniture

Depending on your existing patio and its condition, you might need or want to incorporate patio pavers to define certain areas or create pathways throughout the garden. Patio pavers are durable and easy to repair should they get damaged. While brick pavers have been the most popular style, several others are available allowing you to create your own sense of style in your patio garden. Of course, if you don’t have a patio yet, you can use pavers to create a durable floor for it.

Once you decide the primary use of your patio, you can set about staging it with furniture. If you are using your patio garden primarily for dining purposes, you should look for a set of patio chairs and table. Pick a size that is going to be large enough for your typical gathering event.

If your patio garden is designed primarily for relaxation, then you can eliminate the table and select a variety of patio chairs. If you prefer, you can include a patio glider or sofa that will accommodate more than one individual at a time. If small children are going to frequent the patio garden, consider purchasing furniture intentionally designed for small children.

If you have a pre-determined wall or corner area, you can incorporate built-in seating in that area. This allows you to keep the remaining portion of your patio open for other uses. Consider incorporating container gardening along the remaining perimeter of your patio as well as at the ends of each seating arrangement.

You can create dramatic and elegant focal points using fountains, garden urns, spiral herb gardens, or fancy companion gardening containers. One of the benefits of this type of garden is that it only takes a few minutes to change the entire look of your patio garden by moving your furniture and planters around.

Selecting Patio Garden Plants

When you are still in the planning stages, you should carefully consider how much of the patio receives full sun, partial sun, and no sun. If you want to have a successful crop, then you need to select plants that can do well given the conditions that you have.

It is important to take note of where the sun shines when gardening on a patio. Certain plants require full sun for 6 to 8 hours a day so it is important to ensure that they obtain this amount for a healthy growing season. One of the benefits to container gardening is your ability to move plants around from place to place to give them a chance at a bit more sunshine. If this is not an optimal strategy for you, it is best to choose plants that can do well given the conditions that you have. If you do intend to move your containers to catch as much sun as possible, make sure that you purchase ones that are lightweight and easy to move.

If the existing soil near your patio is unsuitable for growing, you can create your own mix using soil, compost, and fertilizer purchased from the store. Raised beds, elevated beds, and container gardening can all be used to make up for poor soil conditions.

You can either water your patio garden on a regular basis, use self-watering planters, or use a combination of both methods to provide your plants with the moisture they need.

Design your garden so that you have low-maintenance plants around the borders. Mulching provides protection from too much or too little heat while also retaining moisture. Consider using a weed-resistant cloth beneath the mulch to reduce the need to weed. Perennials are perfect choices when selecting low-maintenance plants for your garden.

You can create a border for your patio using a cluster of containers in different shapes and sizes. Use a variety of plants for a nice visual effect. Alternatively, you can use a row of identical containers. Just remember to plant a variety of vegetables and herbs or you will be eating the same type of produce each night.

Use tall plants to hide less-attractive areas of the yard or views. If you are close to a noisy highway, the thicker your growth, the better it will block out the noise.

Select fragrant colorful varieties that your guests will find enjoyable to look at as well as smell. Scented plants such as lavender attract beneficial insects. Herbs are terrific for repelling unwanted insects from the area.

If you plan to host dinner parties, plant a wide variety of produce either in containers or a raised bed that you can cook with or make a salad from. Add is some herbs for an added taste of flavor.

Designing Patio Gardens with Dining Patios

If one of the primary purposes of your outdoor garden/patio area is to enjoy dining among the beauty of your plants, then you need to take a look at how much room you are going to have left once you place your table and chairs. In order not to have to sacrifice room that could be used for growing, consider purchasing a table with storage areas built into it.

This provides a handy set up for storing essential garden tools without sacrificing room that is better suited for growing. Since you limit your space, also consider relying on vertical and container gardening. You can purchase seating that includes hidden storage compartments. These storage areas can be used to store cushions or garden tools.

Soften the edges of your patio area, especially near your entertaining or dining area by planting a variety of herbs and/or flowers. What you select primarily depends on whether you want herbs to sprinkle on your food or flowers to brighten up your gathering.

Designing a Family Patio Garden

If your patio garden is going to be used by all members of the family, you need to design it in a way that it is functional for everyone. Plant some taller plants or use vertical gardening to provide shade for the very young as well as for anyone who prefers to get in out of the sunshine. Plant a variety of herbs to repel insects so that you can have a relaxing environment for family gatherings.

Set a small portion of the patio apart for a children’s garden and plant hardy plants such as tomatoes so that your children can enjoy gardening with a high likelihood of having something to show for it. Include an area for adults and older children to garden planting vegetables if you want fresh produce and flowers if you want color and fragrance.

Social or Entertaining Patio Garden Designs

If your patio is utilized mainly for entertaining and socializing, you can design it for privacy as well as for beauty. In order to create natural privacy, you can plant a small grouping of trees provided you have the soil to do so. If you are confined to concrete or macadam, a user-friendly alternative is to take advantage of vertical gardening so that your plants grow up toward the sky rather than along the ground. Not only will this type of gardening provide you with some privacy, but you’ll be able to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the growing season.

Design lounging areas so that they enjoy partial shade at least part of the day. This will avoid the need to relocate your furniture. If you already have or intend to get a hot tub, an herb garden offers an excellent way to repel unwanted insects without resorting to harsh chemicals. Trellis panels can provide the same semblance of privacy as a patio wall. Plus, they offer a finished look to the area. The trellis should have a finish that blends well with your patio garden whether you are using container, vertical, or raised bed gardening.

Designing L-shaped Patio Gardens

Many urban patios are L-shaped, limiting what you can do with them. With the clever use of your space, you can create a peaceful resting spot as well as a dining area. You can have a wall put in along the border to provide some privacy as well as definition to the patio area. Make sure that the wall is painted white to provide an added touch of brightness. You can plant along the side of the wall using raised beds, an elevated garden design, or containers.

For an outdoor patio garden, planting several vegetables using the vertical method of gardening along the walls can save space while providing you with fresh cucumbers, string beans, peas, and cherry tomatoes. Use the narrowest end of the patio for benches, a glider, or several chairs for relaxation. The wider end of the patio can be used for outdoor dining.

Patio Gardening in Containers

If you find yourself wanting to experience the joys of gardening but think that you don’t have enough room because you don’t have a real yard, you should consider container patio gardening. It allows you to make use of the space that you do have to create a small mini-garden full of nutritious herbs, vegetables, and fruit along with a bevy of colorful flowers.

Choosing Patio Garden Containers

One of the most important considerations during your planning stages is determining the type of containers that you are going to use for your container patio garden. Since you can select almost any size container in almost any shape and made out of almost any material for your patio garden, you have lots of options. It is important to consider a few points regarding how much time you want to spend in the garden, whether you want to create a theme for your garden, and how large of a container patio garden you want to create.

Choosing Container Sizes

The size of the container that you select is going to depend on two main facets ― what type of plant are you growing in the container and the location where the container is going to be placed. You need to select a container that is going to be large enough to hold a growing plant while being the proper size to fit in the spot that you need to place it.

Containers with a five-gallon capacity are going to be the most useful for your gardening needs as far as most vegetables are concerned. Smaller containers in the one to two gallon range are best used for herbs, leaf lettuce, and radishes.

You want to select a container that is going to be roomy enough to allow your plants to grow properly without being so large that they appear out of place. For roomy areas of your patio garden, you can select wooden half barrels, plastic tubs, bushel baskets, large drums, planter boxes, and ceramic pots.

Some of your vegetables need deep containers to grow properly while other varieties can make do with a shallow container. For example, radishes and green onions can grow nicely in a shallow container whereas carrots and potatoes do best when growing in containers that are deep.

Choosing Porous versus Nonporous Containers

Another consideration that you must think about is whether or not you want to use porous or nonporous containers. Nonporous containers are going to retain moisture better than porous ones. If your patio takes in a lot of sun, this is an important consideration for you. Either way, you need to provide adequate drainage for your containers. If they do not have drainage holes set into them, you need to make them. For the best results, place a few drainage holes about ¼ to ½ inch above the container’s bottom on the sides of the container so that it can drain freely when necessary. Adding a proper lining of gravel or coarse pebbles in the bottom of the container is also beneficial to the plants.

Types of Patio Garden Containers

Wood planters are sold in cedar, teak, and redwood. Each of these woods is durable, rot-resistant, and long-lasting. Offering a natural color, wooden planters blend well in most gardens. Wooden trellises can easily be combined with wooden planters to create a space for vertical planting. The use of plastic liners and drainage holes will extend the life of your wooden planters. You can treat your planters with a waterproofing agent, paint, or a non-toxic stain to extend their life.

Terracotta pots are sold in true terracotta as well as faux terracotta. Terracotta planters are porous so they dry out faster increasing the need to water your plants more frequently. Try to purchase terracotta pots that are thicker to minimize chipping and cracking. Since terracotta planters are among the heavier ones, they withstand windy conditions quite well. Their warm, earthy tones blend well in most gardens.

Ceramic planters include a wide variety of earthenware, stoneware, and glazed planters. Since ceramic planters are nonporous, they tend to retain moisture longer minimizing your watering needs. If your patio containers are going to be exposed to low temperatures, you should look for ceramic planters that have been labeled as frost or freezing resistant. Since ceramic planters are sold in an attractive assortment of colors, using them for your plants is a great way to add extra color or blend a theme in your garden.

Concrete planters are more traditional in style. They are also heavier and more difficult to move around, so you might want to consider your purchase carefully. However, this makes them a great choice for patio gardens that are exposed to windy conditions.

If you decide to use concrete planters, you need to seal them to minimize damage due to weather and soil. Of course, you can always purchase faux concrete planters and avoid the need to use any treatments to protect the planters. Fiberglass, fiberstone, and resin planters are easy-to-care-for making them an easy choice for the patio gardener with limited time.

Stone planters offer the same traditional look as concrete planters, and are just as heavy if they are made from natural stone. Faux stone and fiberstone styles are not as heavy as true stone or concrete and so they make more sense for patios that are suspended into the air such as those found attached to apartments and condos. If your patio garden is located in an area where heavy winds are going to occur, choose heavier planters that can handle the wind.

Although wall planters are attractive and can be used to save valuable ground-level space, your use of them is going to be limited to whatever walls are present in the patio area. Since these walls typically include windows and a door, you need to make your selection carefully with size and style in mind so that your wall planter looks good wherever you position it without looking out of place. Wall planters are sold in an assortment of styles and materials including cast iron, wrought iron, wood, and terracotta.

Metal planters are attractive, shiny, and stylish. This type of planter is perfect for lounging patios or those on which you intend to do quite a bit of entertaining. Metal planters are sold in copper, wrought iron, zinc, and stainless steel. They hold up well to the elements of weather and require little care. They can also be used as “cache” pots, which means that they hold a smaller planter that is often less attractive. This avoids the need to fill the metal planter with soil.

Self-watering planters are perfect for the gardener who has limited time to spend tending to his garden. Even though you must supply the water occasionally, you need to do so far less frequently than you would when watering plants. Self-watering planters are perfect for those hard-to-reach areas of a container patio garden. This style of container is a bit more expensive, but the convenience you get is well worth the price. You can find an attractive assortment of styles including hanging baskets and terrazzo models.

Window boxes can be used to add a touch of color to your apartment or house walls while also giving you added space for gardening. Window boxes are sold in different sizes, styles, and materials. Wrought iron, fiberglass, hayrack, and wrought iron are among the most popular materials used to craft window boxes.

Garden urns are sold in a wide variety of materials including stone, concrete, resin, and terracotta. They offer a decorative way to showcase your favorite plants, placing them well above the ground.

A growing market of unique planters features some clever designs. If you are planning your container patio garden with a contemporary look, you might want to include uniquely designed planters that portray modern themes, shapes such as mailboxes, and split pots.

Growing Vegetables in Containers on the Patio Garden

Although just about any vegetable that you can grow in a traditional garden can be grown in a container patio garden within reason, it is important to consider just how much space you have when you select your plants so that you can choose wisely.

You should stay away from vining plants unless you intend to use vertical gardening strategies. A trellis, fence, or vegetable cage can be used to support your vining plants so they grow above the container rather than trailing over it. Vining vegetables that you might want to consider since they typically produce bountiful crops include: cucumbers and pole beans. You’ll want to plant such varieties near any fences or walls in order to keep your garden looking neat and attractive.

Vegetables that are well-suited for container gardening include: tomatoes, peppers, leaf lettuce, squash, beans, green onions, mini-carrots, and radishes. It is important to consider the type of vegetable that you are planting when you select your containers. The following chart provides a handy guide with suggested container size for various vegetables.

Vegetable # of Plants Container Size Suggested Varieties
Broccoli 1 plant 2 gallons Bonanza, Packman, any
Carrot 2-3 plants 1 gallon Baby Spike, Little Finger, Scarlet Nantes
Cucumber 1 plant 1 gallon Burpless, Crispy, Early Pick, Liberty, Salty
Beans 2-3 plants 2 gallons Blue Lake, Contender, Kentucky Wonder
Onions 3-5 plants 1 gallon Evergreen Bunching, Beltsville Bunching
Leaf Lettuce 2 plants 1 gallon Buttercrunch, Romaine, Bibb, Ruby
Pepper 1-2 plants 5 gallons Jalapeno, Keystone Resistant
Radish 3-5 plants 1 gallon Scarlet Globe
Tomato 1 plant 5 gallons Patio, Toy Boy, Saladette

Growing Herbs in Containers on the Patio Garden

Selecting the herbs that you are going to plant depends on how you intend to use them. If you intend to use herbs to sustain your kitchen’s cooking needs, then you should plant them where they are readily accessible such as closest to the door. The easier it is to harvest your herbs, the more likely it is that you will use them regularly.

Most herbs require a minimum of 4 to 6 hours of sunlight each day. Container-grown herbs accommodate any size patio. Edible herb container gardens are those that include a variety of herbs for use in salads, cooking, and teas. It is one of the most popular garden designs. Planting an herb garden according to a theme is popular. The idea is to plant herbs that accommodate your style of cooking.

One example is to grow an Italian herb garden that includes oregano, basil, rosemary, and parsley. An Asian herb garden includes lemon grass and cilantro. A French herb garden includes thyme, tarragon, marjoram, chervil, and fennel. A Mexican herb garden consists of lemon verbena, spearmint, sweet basil, and bay.

Growing Flowers in Containers on the Patio Garden

Flowers are the perfect addition to any container patio garden. Not only do they add a nice touch of color, but they also provide sweet fragrances. Just imagine a bevy of lush foliage and bright blossoms cascading over your patio containers

One of your most important considerations is to select the proper container for the type of flowers that you plant. For example, trailing flowers should be planted in hanging baskets. Next, you need to follow proper planting instructions as provided with the specific plants that you select. This includes selecting the proper size container, soil, and fertilizer.

If you live in an all-season area, then annuals or plants that survive through one growing season only are going to be your best choice. One of the benefits of using annuals is that you can choose new flowers each year, changing the appearance of your garden almost effortlessly. Annuals that are well-suited for container growing include begonias, marigolds, salvias, petunias, and caladiums.

You can use flowers in a vegetables and herb container garden to attract beneficial insects including pollinators to your garden in order to create an optimal growing environment. Simply incorporate them into your patio using separate containers. In the case of marigolds, you can even include them in containers with certain vegetables through companion planting.

Companion Planting within Containers

Companion planting combines two or more varieties of plants together that grow well together. Typically, the combination reduces pest infestation and treatment. This occurs because some plants attract beneficial insects while others repel harmful ones.

The pairing of plants is critical to the success of companion planting. It is important to combine sun-loving plants with tall growth with shade-loving plants with a shorter height. In this way, they each get what they need without infringing on the other.

If several varieties of plants are going to share one container, then the container needs to be sufficiently large to accommodate all of them. Choose your container wisely, making sure that it provides sufficient growth for each variety of plant that you include.

Vegetable Gets Along Well With Does Not Get Along Well With
Beans Carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, marigolds Chives, garlic, leeks
Beets Lettuce, onions, sage Pole beans
Broccoli Celery, dill, rosemary Strawberries, oregano
Cabbage Oregano, sage, potato Strawberries, tomatoes
Carrots Beans, lettuce, peas, onions, radishes Radishes, chives, parsnips, dill
Cauliflower Celery, beans, oregano Peas, potato, strawberries
Cucumber Beans, peas, lettuce, celery, radishes Potatoes, cauliflower, basil
Lettuce Carrots, strawberries, celery Beans, parsley
Onions Broccoli, cabbage, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce Peas, beans
Peas Beans, carrots, cucumbers, radishes Onions
Potatoes Beans, cabbage, peas Cucumbers, squash
Tomato Carrots, celery, parsley, marigolds Potatoes, fennel

Raised Beds on the Patio Garden

Why use Raised Beds?

Creating raised beds around an outdoors patio garden may seem like more trouble than it’s worth. After all, you can use small containers, trellises and so many other forms of gardening on a patio. But raised beds can reward your time and effort with better drainage, easier growing, better harvesting and most of all convenience for many gardeners.

Raised beds are especially popular with gardeners who have knee or back problems, or who are elderly or disabled. They make a good companion to existing container gardens on a patio, as they have similar watering and fertilizing needs.

Since you’ll have complete control over the soil that goes into the beds, you also can be sure it is free of rocks, well-mixed, and rich with organic matter. Raised beds provide a structural limitation to weeds and pests, and allow plants to root deeply for better growth and health. They are ideal for patio gardeners, as they create a little garden directly on the patio where you can grow just about anything you want.

Types of Raised Beds

Raised beds can be placed in a number of locations, whether it is in a rooftop patio garden, just off your ground-level patio, or even on top of rock or concrete. Consider what type of raised bed will work best for your patio garden before beginning.

Here are some raised bed ideas:

If you are simply planting a variety of herbs for a little kitchen garden on your patio, choose half-barrel planters used in landscaping to give the herbs vertical drainage yet limited surface area, as several herbs can be invasive and should be given limited space. Walled raised beds will be the most common for patio gardeners, as they are quite versatile and can be built out of a variety of materials to match your patio or home.

Building a Raised Bed Garden

Make sure when planning your raised beds that they will be made of a non-toxic material that won’t leach chemicals into your plants’ roots. Stone, cinder blocks or bricks are common raised bed materials, and untreated lumber is another choice for those who are handy with carpentry. All of these should be available at garden or home improvement stores, and the stone and brick options come in a variety of shapes and colors for gardeners who want to have their beds match their patio or outdoor furniture.

Be sure if you are using lumber that you secure the corners of the boards well with braces, screws or reinforced blocks. There also are raised bed kits or snap-together frames available, which sometimes have the benefit of being easily taken apart for movement or storage. A popular material for raised beds in backyard gardens is old railroad ties, but these may be too large for use on a patio. However, most lumber and home improvement stores sell cut lumber in nice four-foot and smaller lengths, making it easy to replicate this look on your patio.

Designing a Raised Bed Garden on the Patio

Most raised beds should be between one and two feet high, but make them a height that you will find easy to work with, so that you don’t have to bend or kneel as much. As for width, if the bed is accessible from both sides, you can make them as wide as four feet, assuming you can reach two feet in from each side. If they are only reachable on one side, don’t make them much wider than two feet, as it will become difficult to reach in and tend the farthest plants. Rectangular shapes are the easiest to build, but you may choose other shapes based on your patio design and DIY capabilities.

Note that the location should be well leveled first so that the bed isn’t deeper on one side than the other. Check it with a level first to be sure all the water won’t drain to one side. Many gardeners also prefer to line the bottom of raised beds with black plastic or landscaping cloth to keep weeds from growing up through the bottom of the bed. If your bed is taller than about two feet, you will want to provide more support for the walls.

When using wood, you can drill holes vertically down through the wall, and insert stakes, rebar or other sturdy supports to keep the walls standing straight and even over time. When using brick or stone, be sure to mortar uneven stones and set uniform blocks offset from one row to the next, for better stability.

Placement of Your Raised Bed Patio Garden

Of course, you’ll want to place your raised beds in an attractive location around your patio, not just haphazardly. But while you’re considering placement, also choose a sunny location. Most plants will benefit from full sun, and will need it to produce their full potential at harvesting time. For maximum landscaping effect, try creating different heights, sizes and shapes of beds. You could, for instance, create a low, border-style bed to the outside of your taller main bed. Or, plan on growing your flowers in one raised bed as a focal point to draw the eye, and allowing smaller surrounding beds to grow vegetables and herbs.

Try to place plants you know will grow taller to the middle of the bed, and low, ground-level plants on the outsides, for ease of watering and tending throughout the season. One no-no for raised beds on your patio, however, is to build them right up against the house or shed. This will attract moisture– and eventually rot –to the side of the building, and shade the bed more than is healthy for most plants.

Soil and Water for Raised Bed Patio Gardens

In raised beds, you need a lighter soil than in the garden, similar to container gardening. If you already have a soil mix that you use for other containers on your patio, the same mix is good to use in raised beds as well. If not, choose a soil mix that is loose, rich in organic matter, and lightened with mulch, vermiculite or peat moss. It should be well-mixed, not layered.

Throughout the season, pay attention to the soil moisture. Raised beds on patios will dry out more quickly than garden soil, and keep heat from the sun longer. Water when the soil is dry, which may be daily in hot weather. Always use a thin layer of mulch on top of raised beds around the base of plants, to help them retain moisture better. As for fertilizer, a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer should be good for most plants in raised beds. Apply lightly in the spring and once a month for the first three months of the growing season, if desired.

What to Plant in your patio garden

You really can grow anything you care to grow in a raised bed, even trees and shrubs if you desire. They are most commonly used for vegetables and fruits, herbs, and flowers, for various purposes. A raised bed planter on your patio that is full of colorful flowers and accent plants is certainly a delight, especially if you use your patio for relaxing, entertaining and recreation.

Consider the uses and attributes of your patio when planning raised bed gardening on it. If it is a small patio just outside your kitchen, mostly used for grilling, a kitchen vegetable garden might be perfect. If you have a small balcony or upper-level deck used for sunning or reading, a small herb garden can serve multiple purposes; to spice up cooking, to add herb fragrances to the air, and to serve as an ornament, perhaps in an attractive round or corner bed. Raised beds of trees or shrubs should be saved for ground-level patios, as they benefit from deeper rooting. However, take precautions to limit the direction of the rooting, as you wouldn’t want tree roots to upturn your patio stones when they grow older.

Whatever you plant, be sure to check the sun requirements and consider that in your choice and placement of the plants, or of the beds. You can determine how much sun your patio gets by observing it over the course of a few sunny days; between 6 and 8 hours of direct sunlight is considered a full sun location, while less than that is partial sun. Some patios, if you have a pergola or roof, may be fully shaded areas, in which case you will need to select very shade-tolerant plants, or consider altering your patio so that more sunlight reaches your garden.

Vertical Gardening on the Patio

The most common reason gardeners try out vertical gardening is to make the best use of a small or limited space. You can combine vertical trellising with container gardening on a patio to grow great plants in a tiny amount of space.

Using upwards space rather than outward space is particularly important for vining plants or very fast-spreading plants in small areas, since they can otherwise quickly take over a small container or spread across your patio. Vertical gardening also provides convenience to many gardeners.

There’s less bending and weeding, and tasks like pruning, watering, harvesting, and checking for bugs are easier when the plant is growing vertically. Another benefit is that air circulation and sunlight reach the plant more evenly. Most of all, you get much larger yields of vegetable or fruits when these plants are grown vertically. Be aware, though, that these characteristics bring with them other possible issues unlike backyard gardening. Vertical gardens need more frequent watering and fertilizing to keep up with the air and sun.

Vertical Garden Setup

When you are planning your vertical patio garden, think about what plants should go where, You can maximize room on a small patio even further by adding hanging baskets or upside-down style planters hanging from eaves, railings, arbors or canopies. You also can have a few levels of vertical gardens, such as a tall row and a short row of plants.

However, if you place the tall plants in a location that will block the sunlight from reaching the other plants, you must choose a shade-tolerant plant to accompany it, or else adjust your patio garden layout accordingly. Observe the movement of the sun across your patio so you know how much sun your plants will get, and be sure you choose plants that prefer that amount of light.

Most vertical gardens, and certainly all patio gardens, will rely on structures and containers. You have the chance to design the look of your patio to your liking using vertical gardening: you can use arches, arbors, trellises, pyramid-style pole arrangements, planters, wire cages, and even fencing.

What to Grow in a Vertical Garden?

Very few plants can’t be grown in a vertical fashion. The most popular plants for vertical trellising are vine or creeping plants. Most every gardener who grows beans and peas uses some type of vertical support, whether it is a wire fence, beanpoles, or a trellis of some kind. Other vines include flowers, ornamentals, pumpkins and gourds, cucumbers, zucchini and melons. Vegetables and fruits that vine are particularly well suited to vertical growing because of the higher yields.

Other plants that are not exactly climbing plants but tend to need vertical support for their best growth include roses, tomatoes and raspberries, all of which would make excellent additions to a patio garden. Examine each variety of plant before choosing if for a vertical garden, however.

Tomatoes should be of an indeterminate variety, which are better for vertical gardens, since the stems continue to grow rather than stop when they are a few feet tall as determinate varieties do. For gourds, cucumbers, melons and their relatives, choose small-fruited varieties, as the jumbo or large fruits can be too heavy for vertical trellises to support well.

Medium-sized fruits and vegetables can be supported with the use of slings tied around the bottom of the fruits, cut from rags or old pantyhose and tied to the trellis or support. Of course, you also could use more decorative patterned fabric to accent your garden. You can even find columnar, or vertical, varieties of apples and evergreens if you want to add trees to your patio.

Purpose of Vertical Gardens

Besides maximize space, vertical gardens can have a list of other benefits and specific purposes for patio gardeners. On a hot, unshaded patio, a vertical trellis creates much-needed shade. The best plant to choose for this setup would be one that thrives on full sun and warm temperatures, since it will get lots of those things. Or, if your patio is one of many in a communal area, choose the placement of your vertical gardens to screen your door or patio from neighbors’ eyes and create some treasured privacy. Small trees or shrubs can help with these two purposes, and are their own little vertical gardens without much work on your part.

Other plants that serve as great shade or privacy screens include heavy-leafed, lush-growing vines, berry bushes or canes, or any flat-leafed vegetable like pumpkin, melon or squash. Several vining plants make great ornamental covers if you have an unattractive wall or fence you’d prefer to have hidden. Morning glories, silver lace vine, and other flowering or ornamental vines grow quickly, and with some training will cover any vertical surface, using it as a trellis and adding beauty where there was ugliness.

Trellis Options in a Vertical Garden

To a certain extent, the type of plant you want to grow may determine the type of trellis you use. Beans and peas do very well with bamboo canes or plastic beanpoles, either standing alone or arranged in a teepee-like configuration. They also will grow on wooden arbors and trellises of any kind.

The heavier fruiting vines like gourds and melons need sturdier trellising, such as wood or metal. As they grow, use soft rope or cloth ties to fix the vines to the trellis. For lighter or smaller fruits like cucumbers, try metal trellising arranged in a pyramid or A-frame shape, and again, use soft cloth or rope ties so you don’t cut into the plants.

For some serious vertical gardening, you could put up a section of wire mesh fencing along your patio. Add stronger supports like iron or wooden stakes or poles to keep it upright with the weight of plants on it. The effect would be that of a green, leafy wall once the plants grow enough to cover the fencing.

Want to learn more about vertical patio gardening?

Check out these sites for more information.

Washington State University’s Clark County Extension talks about vertical gardening.

Growing vertical gardens is explained in detail by the University of Vermont Extension.

The University of Illinois Extension offer videos and information on growing vines vertically and in containers.

Want to learn more about raised-bed gardening?

Check out these sites for more information.

The University of Illinois Extension has a good resource on benefits of building raised beds.

Iowa State University Extension provides a PDF on building raised bed planters.

The University of Missouri Extension has a complete guide on raised beds.

Want to learn more about patio gardening?

Check out these sites for more information.

Check out these container gardening basics.

Texas A&M University’s horticulture department talks about growing vegetables on a patio.

Mother Earth News explores how to garden organically on patios with containers.

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“Starting a Garden on Your Patio or Deck” was first posted here

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