How does your garden grow? UP!

by Kate Djupe

We did not buy our house for the back deck.

I think that the wood was mostly rotten under its new coat of paint back when we moved in. For years, we were so busy ripping out decades old landscaping, improving the soil quality in the areas we wanted to garden, growing hundreds of different varieties of vegetables and fruits from seed, and painting that we managed to avoid the deck altogether. 

One breezy, sunny day, we tried to let two babies play on the deck. The wood was mossy. It was split. It was sagging and bubbling all over the place. We finally noticed our deck for what it was: a safety hazard.

One day, while Paul was on a trip to Minnesota, I called my dad over to the house and the two of us ripped the entire deck out.

The guys came up with a plan for the deck while I was busy imagining a way to expand the garden into that same space. This is what we came up with:

Obviously, my favorite part of the deck is my own contribution: "the wall".

I love that the herbs are just a few feet from my kitchen.

I love that there is more room for my garden to grow.

I love that it makes our deck feel like a lush room.

I love having people join us for a meal in the "board room".

I love that it blocks my view of the neighbor's yard.

I have two friends in the process of building their own walls. Here are the details of what we did:

We buried two 4x4 treated wood posts into the ground with cement to help anchor them. 

For the top three planters, we built a frame from two 1" x 6" x 12' and two 1" x 6" x 4" cuts of untreated cedar  

For the bottom planter, we used 8" boards instead. (If we were to rebuild this wall, I would use all 8" wide boards because it gives more room for dirt and dries out less quickly.)

Additional 4" wide cuts were used to close each section of planter by the support posts. We did not want the treated support post wood to leach any non-food safe chemicals into the dirt.

The remaining 4" wide cuts were nailed into the bottom of each box at staggered intervals in order to provide support.

Each planter was lined with window screen before being filled with dirt and plants. One alternative build would be to make wider planter shelves and set plastic/ceramic planters or pots inside (instead of window screen and dirt).

(before window screen, dirt and plants were added)

We are in our second year of planting.

Lettuces, basil, chives and citronella geraniums have all worked well.

Parsley and sage and other herbs that are fairly large have not done so well. Yet.

The top planter has been the most difficult to fill successfully because it dries out the quickest and receives constant sun. We are trying some dwarf tomato plants and hardier lettuces this year.

If you have any questions or advice, let me know. 

UPDATE: If I could do this all over again, I would make all rows 8" deep and the entire thing 6" wide instead of 4". If I could do this all over again, I absolutely would.