It appears that the long hot Texas Summer is finally drawing to a close and it’s time to consider what I’m going to do with my deck garden and rain drip irrigation system for Fall. If I can find some tomatoes I’ll plant those. My deck container planter boxes really aren’t large enough to effectively grow leafy plants. Looking back on what I’ve learned, I’m also formulating a new, larger plan for next year’s deck container garden and drip irrigation system.
Survival of Drip Irrigation System Tomatoes
While my tomato plants did manage to survive the brutal Summer, they didn’t perform very well at all. Based on my research, it just didn’t ever get cool enough at night for the tomato plants, which are in the nightshade family, to produce very much fruit. This is the second year of attempting to make this work up on the deck and my efforts to cool the planter boxes and plants, even with extra water from the drip irrigation system, just didn’t produce enough cooling for the plants to thrive.
Drip Irrigation System Attracts Ants
It was horribly dry in Texas this Summer and every critter out there was looking for food and water. Even the ants, which I seldom have a problem with, came looking for water in unusual places – the drip irrigation system for my deck container garden. Not to mention the very hungry birds that robbed my tomato plants every day – despite the watchful gaze of my wire’s worthless cats that hang out on the deck.
Baking Your Drip Irrigation System Planter Box
The tomato plants were about all that survived. I occasionally had some weeds sprout in the drip irrigation system planter boxes but even those didn’t stand much of a chance in the heat. It was so hot that the sun actually took my drip irrigation system and baked my very good potting soil into a hard clay right in the planter boxes.
Headed to Cooler Lands
My next step in moving my deck container garden forward is to move it off of the deck and down to ground level right off the end of the deck. I’ve noticed that the ground temperatures are about 20 degrees cooler than the surface temperature on the deck. The plants should also benefit (or suffer) from a little more shade provided by the house and the deck. This should also be more efficient for my drip irrigation system.
Rainwater Collection and my Drip Irrigation System
In conjunction with moving the deck container garden to ground level, I’m also going to implement a very basic rainwater collection system to provide water for my house foundation and drip irrigation system. My Dad installed a professional grade rainwater collection system at his house because he has concerns about his well possibly running dry in the extended Texas drought. I’m having some issues as well – not with drinking water because we’re on a water system – but with my house foundation drying out and the house moving enough to crack the sheet rock inside my house and make huge gaps in the planks of my wood flooring. It is common practice in some areas of Texas to water your foundation to prevent this problem. I have a problem with paying for water to do this, especially during the horrible drouth we’re having so I’m going to attempt to implement a simple rainwater collection system to provide water for my foundation as well as my drip irrigation system. Yeah, there are a ton of opportunities and issues to figure out – not the least of which is “will it ever rain again?”. My plan is to implement the rainwater collection and drip irrigation system in four phases, each with a 1000 gallon tank underneath my deck. In this picture, you can see two downspouts that collect approximately 30% of my roof run off and they are readily available where I want to install the tank – should be simple, right?
Keeping the Dogs Cool(er)
My Dad made an interesting comment one day about the volume of water that runs out of his air conditioning drain. He claimed to empty a 3 gallon bucket 4 or 5 times per day. I was tired of seeing my wife drain and fill the dog swimming pool with expensive city water and came up with a handy little idea. I ran a bit of extra PVC to extend my air conditioner drain and moved the dog water pool. I don’t get near the 15 gallons per day that my Dad does but it’s enough to keep 3 to 4 inches of very cool water in the pool for the dogs to stay cool. They like it and I like it too!
Deck Garden Drip Irrigation System Summary
It’s been a long hot Summer in Texas and the deck container garden didn’t fare very well. Some plants failed completely, some were ignored and some managed to survive. Even increasing the amounts of water from the drip irrigation system didn’t seem to make a very big difference – you just can’t fight the heat. So, the next phase will move down to ground level in a attempt to find cooler areas and I’ll begin the process of collecting rainwater to supply the drip irrigation system.Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds
Starting a container vegetable garden is simple but it is not easy. I’m going to tell my story using photos of my container garden. There are a number of tips and tricks that you can easily find in a wide variety of books, but nothing compares to tried and true experience. I’m going to walk through the high points of what I’ve learned while starting a container vegetable garden over the past few years. We will cover
- starting a container vegetable garden
- potting soil for container gardens
- container garden on your deck
- drip irrigation for container plants
- full sun container gardens
- partial sun container gardens
By the end, you’ll have a clear picture of the basics of what you need to consider starting a container vegetable garden on your own.
Potting Soil for your Container Vegetable Garden
Potting soil is one of the most critical elements of starting a container vegetable garden. There are a wide variety of potting soils for a container vegetable garden available. When I priced potting soil at the garden centers I was stunned at the high prices! That may work for small planter boxes with flowers but certainly wasn’t an economic solution for starting a container vegetable garden for me. Instead, I chose to call a local gardener who also specializes in garden soil mixes. He delivered a truck load to my back yard for $25. This picture is actually the remainder from last year’s planting so a truck load of potting soil for your container garden will easily last for at least two years, maybe longer.
Plant Containers and Planter Boxes for Starting a Container Vegetable Garden
I found that Tupperware 18 gallon containers worked sufficiently for starting a container vegetable garden. I placed about six inches of empty plastic bottle in the bottom to take up space and make it lighter to carry up the steps to my deck. These plant containers worked fine for the container vegetable garden for the first year and only showed a few minor cracks in the second year. I also took care to drill approximately 8 holes of 3/8 inch diameter in the bottom of each planter box to allow drainage. To support that drainage, and make it easier to bend over and see the plants, I placed each plant container of the container vegetable garden on top of two cinder blocks.
Starting A Container Vegetable Garden on a Deck
I chose starting a container vegetable garden on my deck. As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, I used to have a raised bed garden out in the yard but it failed due to lack of care. It was just far enough away from the house that I would not take the time to visit it every day and tend it. My deck container vegetable garden is right outside my backdoor and very easy to see, monitor and tend. I also have two dogs and two cats who frequent the deck and they don’t seem to either mind or bother the setup. I believe that ease and convenience are two of the critical aspects and benefits of starting a container vegetable garden.
Starting a Container Vegetable Garden Planting
I over planted my plant containers last year while starting a container vegetable garden with as many as four tomato plants and two dozen cucumber plants. I learned that density was too much for the plants to thrive. This year, I planted only one tomato plant in each container and only six cucumber plants in each container vegetable garden. The plants did much better without the extra competition and actually produced more fruit and vegetables than the more crowded situation.
Starting a Container Vegetable Garden Drip Irrigation System
Another critical aspect of the success of starting a container vegetable garden is an easy, systematic way to tend it. I rely on drip irrigation – a simple system that can stand the test of time. I also advocate simple, incremental testing as an approach to learning. When starting a container vegetable garden, I simply used two hose bib adapters so that I could draw water for the drip irrigation system and still have a connection for my regular hose and the dog watering bowl. This system worked adequately but was plagued with continuing problems of leaks and adequate pressure management.
Drip Irrigation for Container Gardens – the All-Important Timer
A container vegetable garden does not need water all the time. My ideal watering times are 6AM and 6PM for five minutes each when starting a container vegetable garden until the plants reach maturity and then 8 minutes each thereafter. A timer for the drip irrigation system makes this possible and very easy to do. It also has a mode that you can immediately turn it on and off if needed. It runs on a simple 9 volt battery and has worked well for two years.
Fertilizing and Drip Irrigation and Starting a Container Vegetable Garden
Fertilizing a deck container garden can be a challenge. The containers are small and the nutrients available to the plants are very limited by the small amount of soil. Adequate fertilizing is critical for success. But, I didn’t want to have to manually fertilize the plants on a regular basis – that violates my principle of simple and easy. I found a very useful fertilizer injection system and it connects directly into the drip irrigation lines and has a controllable flow. This system worked well into it’s second year. There are a wide variety of drip irrigation fertilizer systems available.
Improved Methods for Drip Irrigation Systems
After a year using the initial hose bib adapters and having trouble with leaks and pressure management, I hired a plumber to build a proper hose bib configuration. This approach has eliminated my problems with leaks but even more, allows me to manage the water pressure to each outlet very easily. I was disappointed that the plumber didn’t accommodate spacing needed for my timer and thus needed to get a short extension hose to connect the timer to the hose bib. I will take some time this winter to build a proper mount for the timer to get it off of the deck.
Protecting Your Container Vegetable Garden
Texas Summer heat is ferocious and the plants suffer mightily. I’ve tried a number of different approaches to mitigate the heat transferred from the deck to the planter boxes. One approach was building individual sun shades for each planter box. This did work and lowered the temperature by 3 degrees but ti still runs approximately 10 degrees or more hotter than the ground temperature. AN added benefit to this approach it that it drastically improves the view of the deck container garden. These simple shades look much nicer than the blue Tupperware containers. I recommend you consider this when starting a container vegetable garden.
Planter Boxes, Soil Temperatures and Full Sun Container Gardens on a Deck
I start with a full sun container garden and then modify from there. The planter box shades installed provide two benefits – lowering the temperature and improving the view. I also recommend, if you live in an area with high heat, that you buy and use a soil thermometer. I made a huge mistake last year thinking that the plant’s poor performance was due to water volume or fertilizer. I finally got an Ag Extension Agent to visit and she identified the problem within about 5 minutes – the soil was too hot. In Texas, this is something that has to be managed on an ongoing basis. I find that the plants do best in a full sun container garden until they reach maturity and then benefit from some shade and coolness as they begin to produce fruit.
Helping Your Container Vegetable Garden Thrive
One of the challenges with tall plants in a container garden is supporting their growth in height. Not all of my plants need this support but certainly the tomatoes and cucumbers. I also tried a patio variety tomato plant and it never required any additional support. It’s stalk and stems were thick enough to support it’s growth. The only challenge I encountered with the patio variety tomato plans was that the fruits got so heavy that they eventually bent and broke the stalks. I solved this problem by using stakes instead of cages. For the cages, I found a hog panel at Tractor Supply and then used hose clamps and some inexpensive conduit. These plant cages have worked well for two years. They have adequate wiring to easily support and train the plants and the holes between the wires are large enough for me to reach my hand through.
Partial Sun Container Gardens and Summer Heat When Starting a Container Vegetable Garden
As the plants reach maturity and the Texas Summer sun beats down on the deck, I add an inexpensive deck shade to convert to a partial sun container garden. While it doesn’t provide complete protection, it does offer some and it also provides some additional shade for the dogs – who *really* own the deck. I continue to use a soil thermometer to monitor and manage the soil temperatures as I move forward with the partial sun container vegetable garden.
Summary for Starting a Container Vegetable Garden
Starting a deck container vegetable garden is simple but it is not easy. I enjoy experimenting and learning and treat my garden like an ongoing learning lesson. I doubt starting a container vegetable garden will out produce the local farmer’s market for you but the joy and pleasure of walking out your back door to make your own salad or vegetable side dish for supper is truly magnificent. The biggest benefit is that the taste and texture of the fruit and vegetables that you produce on your own will far exceed that you’d get from the local market. Take some time, do some research, prepare to learn, take lots of photos of you container vegetable garden and enjoy starting a container vegetable garden!Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds
Drip Irrigation Can be Tough During a Texas Summer
The Texas Summer heat is brutal and most of the plants are suffering. To add insult to injury, my irrigation system for flower boxes and container gardens failed at the drip irrigation check valves and faucet connection as well. Drastic action was needed to stop the drip irrigation system leak. Furthermore, I finally figured out that my fertilizer system wasn’t working properly either! Needless to say, with this comedy of errors, some of my plants just did not make it through June.
The soil temperature in the containers remains in the upper 90′s or lower 100′s every day during the day. Night time temperatures in the soil can drop as low as the mid 80′s (yes, I set the alarm to get up and check them) but this is not enough to withstand the punishment of the daily heat.
In contrast, the soil temperature on the ground, even in a sunny spot, remains in the mid 80′s during the day and mid 70′s at night. My plant shades are not working as well as I expected. While the temperatures are lower than last year without the plant shades, they are not shielding the heat enough. My plan is to try some insulation boards cut to fit inside of the plant shades and see if that has an impact.
Drip Irrigation Liquid Fertilizer and Stopping Drip Irrigation System Leaks
I noticed over two successive weeks that my automatic fertilizer system that uses drip irrigation liquid fertilizer on my inexpensive drip irrigation system did not need to be refilled. That means that it is not siphoning off fertilizer and feeding it into the irrigation system for flower boxes and container gardens. To confirm the problem, I emptied the fertilizer container and filled it just half full. When the drip irrigation system for container gardens is working properly, the only visible change is the change of the color of the water in the fertilizer container from brown (when it has fertilizer) to clear when it does not have any fertilizer. It should remain full of water all the time.
This is my second year using inexpensive AND expensive hose bib adapters to provide multiple outlets at the single hose bib on my deck. I have three devices that I need to connect
- water hose to fill the wading pool for the dogs
- water hose to the automatic waterer for the dogs
- drip irrigation attach to faucet which starts with the drip irrigation system timer and drip irrigation system check valves
I’ve tried inexpensive plastic Ys and expensive bronze Ys. They all eventually begin leaking and then break off completely. With the scarcity and high cost of water, it is very important to stop drip irrigation system leaks. There doesn’t appear to be much pressure applied by the hoses or drip irrigation system to the Y adapter but there must be just enough to put an unnecessary strain on it.
New Drip Irrigation Attach to Faucet
So, I had a plumber come out and create a specialized hose bib system for me to eliminate this problem. This allows me a direct drip irrigation attach to the faucet. It cost about $170, which is about 30 times the average cost of the Y adapters but, more importantly, eliminates the surprise of the plants not having water for a couple of days and the cost of the wasted water that just spills on the ground.
The new hose bib arrangement presented a problem. The orientation of the hose bibs did not make it easy to put the drip irrigation system timer and drip irrigation system check valves back the way it was in the past. So, I used a short hose to connect the drip irrigation system timer to the hose bib and just let the timer unit rest of the deck. This, and the separate hose bibs for each device actually proved to be very beneficial! When I used a single hose bib with Y adapters, the flow/pressure control was very tricky and had to managed across the hose bib itself AND the flow regulator valve on the Y adapter. I found that the system seemed to work best at a lower pressure for the drip irrigation system. Sure, I had some leaks from the drip irrigation system check valves, but who doesn’t? When I changed the setup to the new configuration, I tested it by applying full pressure from the hose bib to the drip irrigation system. Two things happened that pleased me.
- The system leaks disappeared
- The fertilizer system started flowing
I’m not sure if stopping the drip irrigation system leaks and the fertilizer system flowing are due to the new, higher pressure or from the new orientation of the timer unit on the deck which relieves some of the pressure it was causing on the hose bib and Y adapter. Nevertheless, several problems were solved!
Gravity Drip Irrigation Kits?
On a side note, I would love to have a gravity drip irrigation kit to try. My next project will be capturing rain water and creating a dedicated deck container garden drip irrigation system using a gravity drip irrigation kit. If you know of a good gravity drip irrigation kit, please let me know.
I’ve refilled the fertilizer system with drip irrigation liquid fertilizer for testing this week – I have high hopes for a return to successfully fertilizing my deck container garden.
My cucumbers suffered mightily. They developed some sort of nasty looking fungus on the young cucumbers and then failed to produce any cucumbers at all. I suspect the very high heat in the container contributed to this problem.
So, never one to beat a dead horse, I pulled up the cucumbers and let the weeds grow. I suspect that, if I want to grow cucumbers, I need to start them much earlier or later and not try to grow cucumbers in the middle of the summer in a deck container garden.
The tomatoes are another story. While they aren’t producing tons of fruit, they seem to be doing OK and producing enough for a small salad every day across 3 plants. The cherry tomato plant is struggling the most out of all of the tomato plants. Some of this may have to do with the very sporadic watering they received during June when I had drip irrigation system problems.
The patio tomato plant is the winner by far. No matter the heat or water it just continues producing very nice and tasty 2-3″ tomatoes. Probably the biggest weakness for this plant is it’s apparent inability to fully support it’s fruits. Even though the stalks are very thick and short, it has problems with stems bending and breaking approximately half of the time.
The patio tomatoes are absolutely the most delicious of the three. They are sweet with thin skins and a tangy after taste.
The Yellow Pear tomatoes continue to produce but struggle. These tomatoes are also very delicious and very very sweet. They start out with approximately 10-12 little tomatoes in each bunch but only 3-6 will survive to ripening.
The chile pepper plants are abundant and love the deck garden setup. That said, I’ve determined that I have little or no interest in the peppers in my daily diet. So, I’m letting them ripen fully and then dry and die just to see what happens.
The strawberries are gone. My daughter was sad but asked me to continue watering it and let the weeds grow as some sort of cemetery for the departed strawberry plant.
Summary of an Inexpensive Drip Irrigation System
June was a tough month in the deck container garden. Drastic action was needed to stop the drip irrigation system leak at the drip irrigation check valves. Two of the six plants did not make it. Two of the six plants are thriving and two of the six plants are surviving. The heat is expected to continue through at least August. My next experiment is to try some insulation board on the inside of each plant shade to see if that can reduce the brutal heat. The dramatic, if expensive, improvement to the hose bib where the drip irrigation attaches to the faucet and inexpensive drip irrigation system should stop drip irrigation system leak at the drip irrigation check valves and ease the suffering of the plants and resume regular fertilizing.
Being successful with a deck container garden and drip irrigation system in the brutal Texas heat is tough.
I’m convinced, that without my inexpensive drip irrigation system, my plants would just wither and blow away. I’m also very grateful that it was easy to install my home garden drip irrigation system, simple to maintain and quite inexpensive. The planter boxes irrigation is going well, plants are all growing well and starting to produce – although not at the level that would seem to make this anything more than a hobby. I’m still not sure of the tricks needed to fine tune a drip irrigation system for container garden to reach a steady volume of enough to put food on the table.
Drip Irrigation System Planter Boxes
The cucumber plants love the plant cage in their container garden. They are flowering prolifically and producing small cucumbers consistently. I only have a total 10 vines in the pot – 5 of each variety – and still some perform very well and others do not perform very well. I’m unsure why this might be or whether or not it’s related to my drip irrigation system.
I had a number of early cucumbers make and removed all except one. This cucumber appears to have done well for a short period of time but then run out of something – not sure what – that it needed to produce a full sized fruit. One of the emitters was actually over watering the vines so I don’t think it was lack of water from the drip irrigation system. I have no way to test the content or value of the soil though so I’m operating in the dark there. I suspect that I might not have enough soild for the plants.
The cherry tomatoes are doing well enough. Once I allowed them to flower and produce fruit they seemed to take off and get busy. I expect these plants to ripen quickly and the plant to continue to grow. The soil appears dry in this picture but this year I’ve been very careful to direct the emitters right onto the plant stalk and roots to minimize the amount of water I use from the drip irrigation system.
The patio variety tomatoes are going gang busters! I find it very interesting that this plant is still no taller than about 24 inches and the main stalk is very thick. I’m quite impressed with this variety and anxious to see how they taste. The plant seems optimal for a container garden in that it requires very little water from the rain drip irrigation system, nor does it need much maintenance and is starting to get heavy with young tomato plants.
The yellow pear tomatoes are interesting. They appear to be very slow to mature. There are a ton of young fruits on the plant and the plant is very viney, not very compact at all. The young tomatoes have been on the vine for about two weeks and have yet to run yellow, as expected when they are mature.
The cowhorn peppers seem to love the planter box and the irrigation system. They continue to grow heartily and mature quickly. I haven’t picked any yet but plan to within a week or so. I expect these make a pretty good chili relleno.
The jalapenos have really come along in the past few weeks. The overall plant size has not increased very much but the peppers are very abundant. This pepper plant, like the cowhorn pepper, seem to require very little water from the drip irrigagtion system or much maintenance – making it a great candidate for a container garden. I’m beginning to think that a big part of the success of a deck container garden is in the accurate selection of proper species and varieties to thrive in a planter box.
My youngest is thrilled – her strawberry plant produced a strawberry. This plant is behaving almost exactly like the plant from last year – which was generally a failure – by producing only a few small fruits. I think strawberries are best left to the folks who know what they are doing.
I began adding fertilizer three weeks ago and it seems to work well in conjunction with the irrigation system. I like Medina Hasta Grow liquid because it works well in my liquid fertilizer feeder, it has a built in measuring cup and pours and mixes easily.
Inexpensive Drip Irrigation System Fertilizer Feeder
I use a liquid injection fertilizer feeder that adds a fertilizer mixture directly into the drip irrigation system water line. You can vary the volume settings, it requires little or no maintenance, works consistently well and fits easily into my budget for an inexpensive drip irrigation system. I highly recommend this fertilizer feeder if you install home garden irrigation system. It takes a little experimentation to find the right settings so that fertilizer is fed evenly during the week without running out.
And the fertilizer feeder works great until it doesn’t work. The first week, it fed exactly zero fertilizer. I didn’t do any maintenance over the winter, in fact, just left it on the deck, and I suspect that something is clogged up. I changed the feed setting from minimum to maximum to see if that made a difference.
Changing the flow setting on the fertilizer feeder didn’t make a difference – nothing changed over the week so there is still some sort of problem. When I filled it initially, I just added fertilizer to the water already in the fertilizer feeder. This week, I completely emptied all of the water to see if the drip irrigation system will fill it like it is supposed to.
Install Home Garden Drip Irrigation System Emitters
I suspected that my emitters in the planter boxes might be having problems and the video shows that one of them was flowing far greater than it should. I still have some extra emitters left from when I install home garden drip irrigation system. All of the other emitters are flowing nicely at 0.5 GPH. I use one emitter per plant and direct the drip flow right onto where the plant stalk meets the dirt. The emitters are a challenge to change in that they are difficult to remove from the hose. I think the tradeoff of being hard to remove versus popping off very easily under pressure is a good one. I had some problem last year with loose emitters that popped off and water would spray every where – the dogs liked it but it wasn’t really what I wanted.
The Texas heat has climbed into the 100s every day and the plants are looking a bit sickly. I increased the watering duration from 5 minutes twice daily to 10 minutes twice daily to provide them with more water in this brutal heat. We’ve also had little or no rain in the past nine months and the general environment is probably sucking water from any place it can be found – including plant leaves.
The plants continued to look sickly so I got out my soil thermometer to test soil temperature again. I had this problem last year and then built plant shade boxes to help minimize the heat transfer and reflection from the deck onto the plant containers. Nevertheless, when I tested the soil temperature, it was 98 degrees at 7PM in the evening.
In contrast, the soil temperature on the ground off the deck was a mere 82 degrees. Even thought the plant shades looked like a good idea, I don’t think they are performing as intended with the drip irrigagtion system. I wish I’d waited a bit to further test the prototype before building out all of them.
Gardening by yourself is not nearly as much fun as gardening with a helper. It’s brutally hot in Texas so we provide our helpers with an easy way to jump in a cool off. This actually started me to thinking about a new approach for next year – rain water collection and drip irrigation system.
I’m learning a ton and having fun. I’ve learned that some plant species and varieties perform much better than other so plant selection is important to be able to thrive and produce in the tougher conditions we have on the deck. Rather than trying to modify too much to accommodate the environment, I’m going to think more carefully about adapting to the environment I have. I also think I may branch out next year into a raised bed garden but want to couple that with a rain water collection and drip irrigation system so that it doesn’t require water that I purchase.
Drip Irrigation System Deals & Discount
I get my supplies for my drip irrigation system for deck and containers from a specialist who has great products and great deals. This week, they are offering some amazing discounts and free shipping.Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds
Texas Heat and Drip Systems for Decks and Containers
The deck container garden is coming along nicely. It’s been quite hot and dry in Central Texas and the drip system for deck and containers that I use has been very helpful. Every plant, except the strawberries, has a planter box irrigation emitter and has bloomed. For container gardening, should they bloom this early/young and should I allow them to keep their blooms? Even through the dry weather, the drip system for decks and containers that I use for planter box irrigation has continued to be set on 5 minutes twice daily and the soil moisture appears to be sufficient. I don’t have anything to test the soil moisture in the irrigation planter boxes but it appears to be OK.
Early Blooms in the Planter Boxes with Drip Irrigation
The cucumbers were the first plants in the container garden to begin blooming. Some of the blooms even progressed far enough to start little cucumbers. I’ve read that cucumbers will start blooming first. Since this is supposed to be a high volume/space deck garden, I think it is more important for the plants to invest in size rather than reproduction at this point. I have a fertilizer feeder for the irrigation system but have not yet added any fertilizer to the mixture – the plants are receiving tap water only at this point.
Then, within a day or so, the cherry tomatoes started blooming as well. This is going to be a great cherry tomato plant when it matures but I think it is still too young to spend its energy on blooms and reproducing. In the past, I’ve been told that container gardening or changing the water schedule for a plant pot can cause plant blooming. The water schedule has not changed and there has been no rain to speak of.
Even the small variety patio tomato plan start producing blooms. In fact, it produced the most blooms of all. Sure it is too early and young for beginning to produce fruit. I use a drip system for decks and containers in this container garden for all of the plants in the garden and they all receive the same amount of water at the same time and frequency.
Actually, I’m kind of impressed with the close up quality of these pictures. Each planter box irrigation setup in the deck garden has one one gallon per hour emitter dedicated to it. This is a picture of the blooms on the patio variety tomato plant, which is dramatically shorter but stockier than the traditional variety tomato plants. Nevertheless, each tomato plan is receiving the same amount of water from the drip irrigation system.
The yellow tomato plant pot was the last plant to produce blooms. This tomato plant is also a cherry variety but has yellow tomatoes instead of red ones. This tomato plant is the thirstiest of all of the plants.
Even the pepper plants started blooming. All of the plants in planter boxes in the container garden receive the same amount of water from the drip irrigation system and are planted in identical containers. Nevertheless, I rigorously hunted and plucked each of the blooms on a weekly basis.
New and More Shades to Protect Soil Moisture for the Irrigated Planter Boxes
The plant box shade that I built as a pilot project seem to be working well. Additionally, the Texas Summer heat is starting and I want to avoid the soil temperature problems I had last summer. So, I built out the balance of the planter box shades and installed them on each plant box. The plant box shades are only three sided to avoid any problems or interference with the drip irrigation system for decks and containers that runs on the back side of each plant box.
We also have a deck shade, not for the plants, for the dogs, and my wife noticed that the plant cages were too tall to accommodate the shade. It’s getting hot enough now that the dogs need more shade and the kiddie wading pool to keep cool during the long hot Texas Summer. It also helps the gardener while container gardening. So, it was time to trim back the plant cages. It was easy enough because I had the foresight to use hose clamps to hold the plant box cages together so it was a simple matter of moving the hose clamps downward approximately twelve inches and then trimming the tops of the cages. The cages are mounted high so they also don’t interfere with the planter box irrigation.
Here, the plant cages for the container garden have been trimmed and the planter box shades have been installed. Both the shades and the cages avoid any interference with the drip irrigation system for the container garden on the deck.
The deck shade has been install and the dogs now have a cool place on the deck and the shade won’t get torn up on the ragged tops of the plant cages. It’s interesting to note that I had this same shade last year but it did not prevent the planter boxes from overheating. I’m betting on the plant box shades to prevent overheating this year. I haven’t yet measured the soil temperature with a soil thermometer but will do so prior to my next post.
The Irrigated Planter Boxes Flower
The cucumbers continue to grow and flower. Since the plants have been planted 9 weeks, I’ve decided to let them flower and product fruit to see what happens. I’d prefer that they be larger before producing but will experiment to see what happens. I expect that I will need to increase the watering cycle in the irrigation for planter boxes soon to accommodate this change in growth and the smaller planter boxes I use in container gardening.
The cherry tomatoes have continued flowering as well. This is a smaller plant than the yellow tomato plant but seems to produce denser blooms. I double checked the planter box irrigation emitters to make sure this plant was receiving the same amount of water as the others.
The patio variety tomato plant does not seem to require a container garden plant cage for it’s plant pot. It’s stem is very thick and strong and it’s branches are short and dense. It will be interesting to compare this plant to the other tomato plants in terms of production as well as drip irrigation water usage.
The yellow cherry tomato plant is the fastest grower of the bunch. It’s stem and branches are slimmer but does not seem to use any more drip system water than the other plants.
The pepper plants are going gang busters. In one case, I already have a very small pepper already. This planter box has two planter box irrigation emitters to provide one for each plant in the box.
The strawberry plant continues to lag the field in the container garden. It does show some growth but not very much. The soil appears to be quite dry but the drip irrigation emitter is sitting directly on top of the root system and all of the water from the irrigation system is going directly to the plant’s roots
Drip Irrigation System Deals & Discount
I get my supplies for my drip system for deck and containers from a specialist who has great products and great deals. This week, they are offering some amazing discounts and free shipping.Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds
The deck container garden has done very well during it’s first month. The container gardening drip irrigation system appears to be working without any problems or major leaks. The planter boxes are holding up well. The plants appear to be growing healthily with just enough water to each plant pot. The heat hasn’t been bad enough to restart the problems from last year. In fact, I’ve even avoided turning on the drop fertilization system thus far.
Managing water while container gardening can be a challenge. I have a drip irrigation single emitter on the planter boxes with a single plant and double emitters on the plant box that has two plants. I’ve been very careful to make sure that the emitter for each plant pot is well positioned and that there is plenty of dirt dammed up around the emitter to make sure that the little bit of water that is applied goes straight to the plant.
My container garden pepper plants are a great example of a drip irrigation dual emitter situation. The only other container gardening dual emitter setup is for the cucumbers. I have noticed that the cucumbers, which are at the far end of the drip irrigation chain may potentially be receiving less water in their planter box than the strawberries and peppers plant pots which are further up the chain and thus closer to the actual hose bib.
One of the drawbacks to using last year’s container garden dirt is that it has weeds in it. I tried to avoid them as much as possible when getting the dirt in the first place but wound up with a few weeds that sprout in each planter box. It’s not a big problem when container gardening but definitely something that needs doing at least weekly to prevent each plant pot from being over run with weeds.
I’m not sure when tomato plants are supposed to bloom or even what causes them to bloom or if they behave differently in a container garden. Nevertheless, each of my three tomato plants will occasionally show a single bloom or a small stalk of blooms. Since the plants are still young and have a lot of room in the plant pot, I make it a point to pinch them off whenever I find them. I want the plants in each planter box dedicated to growing and strengthening rather than bearing fruit right now.
Last year I had a big problem with the deck container garden over-heating due to what appeared to be heat reflected from the surface of the deck onto the dark blue sides of the planter boxes. I didn’t realize that heat management would be such a challenge when container gardening. I didn’t want to abandon the deck container garden nor did I want to invest in a total sunshade to cover every plant pot so I devised a simple sunshade cover that sits in front of three sides of each plant container. It’s a simple construction and something that my youngest daughter and I made in about 20 minutes. We used extra, leftover and scrap lumber to prototype a sunshade or shield. Our goal was to have it be as light and cheap as possible. I think we met that goal!
The wood I used has a weather proofed side and an untreated side so it looks nice from the front and is light in color to help reflect the heat away from each of the planter boxes that is bound to come later in the summer. The only problem I’ve found thus far with this setup for container gardening is that the dogs and cats can easily tip them over if the get to messing around very close to the sunshades for each plant pot in the container garden.
The finished sunshade looks reasonable enough and hides the ugly planter boxes in the container garden from normal view. It’s not horribly ugly, it was easy and inexpensive to build and I believe it will serve it’s purpose to reduce the heat in the planter boxes in the container garden. The weather isn’t quite warm enough yet to actually test the soil temperature differences with a soil thermometer but should be by the next update.
My plants are beginning to get tall enough that I’ve brought the plant cages for the container garden I built last year back up onto the deck so that they will be ready to install on the planter boxes when the time is right. There are a lot of unique challenges that have to be managed when container gardening!
My container garden cucumbers are doing well and starting to develop “real” leaves. I only planted 6 seeds in each of two mounds in the planter box and it appears that all except one have sprouted.
My tomato plants are going gang busters. Container gardening tomatoes is quite an adventure, especially when you use a wide variety of varieties! This one is going to need a plant cage around ti’s planter box pretty soon so that it does not outgrow the container garden.
This is my container garden specific tomato plant and the difference between it and the two other non-patio varieties is striking. This plant , specifically for patio or container gardening, invests the majority of its effort in developing leaves where the other plants invest heavily in growing stalks. It also appears to have more than enough room for roots in the planter box.
My youngest’s yellow tomatoes are doing very well. They are not specifically designed for container gardening in a planter box but she wanted them and she was with me when we were selecting the plants.
My two container garden pepper plants are doing nicely. I’m a bit concerned at their apparent slower growth rate but we still have a long growing season in front of us. The water also appears to distribute very well in the planter box.
Container gardening strawberry plants continues to be a challenge. My youngest’s strawberry plant still lags behind all of the other plants. It just looks like it is never going to grow big enough to fill the planter box. We failed miserably with strawberries in the container garden last year and the outlook for this year does not currently hold a lot of promise.Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds
Spring time has arrived in Central Texas and it’s time to take all the lessons I learned from last year’s deck container gardening and apply them to a new round of education, fun and starting a deck garden. I had some success last year and am excited to get started again and take advantage of everything I’ve learned as well as try a few new things for my container garden on the deck.
What I Learned Starting a Deck Garden
I’ve summarized what I’ve learned starting a container vegetable garden but here are my key learning’s from last year:
- monitor and manage the soil temperature using a soil thermometer – a deck garden can get very very hot
- don’t over water the plants in each planter box – be more sparing with the drip irrigation kit
- don’t over plant any of the planter boxes
My goals for this season are
- is to determine the ideal plant/water/temperature ratios for my deck garden
- teach my daughters the benefits of having a regular container gardening project that produces real results
- have fun, learn and enjoy fresh food from my deck container garden
The deck garden sat idle through the winter season so the first step in starting a deck garden is do do a quick inventory of what we have and what needs to be done to restart our container gardening.
Drip Irrigation for Container Plants
I use a drip irrigation system to provide a regular a measured amount of drip irrigation for container plants to each planter box. I tested the drip irrigation system and everything appeared to work fine except for a leaky backflow preventer. I replaced it for about $4 and tightened all of the connections before starting a deck garden.
Potting Soil for Container Garden
Container gardening can be very tough on soil and planter boxes. The soil in each of the planter boxes has become dry and hard and will need to be supplemented with some new potting soil for my container garden. This is the first step in starting a deck garden. Some of this is due to the very dry winter we’ve had and part of it due to the very high temperatures from last year. I’m going to be much more rigorous measuring soil temperature in my deck garden with a soil thermometer this year.
Container Gardening on a Deck
The planter boxes from last year’s container gardening on a deck remain in relatively good shape but definitely show some wear and tear. They will probably last at least one more year but will need to be replaced after that if they continue to deteriorate and before I consider another year of starting a deck garden.
Potting Soil for Container Garden
I have some great potting soil for my container garden left over from last year’s container gardening when I filled the planter boxes but it is covered over with grass. If you order potting soil in bulk, you can get it cheaper and it will always be ready when you are ready for starting a deck garden.
Planter Boxes for Starting a Deck Garden
Each planter box for starting a deck garden is about 18 gallons and weighs approximately 125 pounds when completely filled with dirt. I filled two planter boxes with new, fresh soil and lugged them to the top of the stairs. It was tough but sometimes, starting a deck garden can be a challenge. I then distributed the new soil across the 6 planter boxes to top them off.
Full Sun Container Gardens
I filled the planter boxes for the full sun container gardens fuller with soil this year than I did last year. Underneath the soil in each container is a set of empty plastic bottle as a space filler. I have no idea about the condition of those empty bottles or what the temperature may have done to break them down. Last year, I measured the temperature with a soil thermometer. This year, part of my plan in starting a deck garden is to monitor the soil temperature much more closely.
Photos of Container Gardens
The planter boxes for starting a deck garden are filled and ready for planting. This year, I’m planting
- one planter box of cucumbers
- three containers of tomatoes
- one planter box of peppers
- one container of strawberries
I’m a big believer of taking a lot of photos of container gardens – from starting a deck garden to the very end – to help me document my progress and learn from my mistakes.
Cucumbers in a Container Garden on Deck
Last year, I planted two types of cucumbers in the container garden on my deck and they did fairly well until the heat got them. My mistake when starting a deck garden was that I over planted in two dense rows, one of each type. This year I’m still planting two types – Sugar Crunch and Early Pride – but I’m planting them in two small mounds centered in the planter box with only 6 seeds in each mound.
Partial Sun Container Garden Tomatoes
In my partial sun container garden tomato planter boxes last year, I planted four tomato plants and a pepper plant in each planter box. The result was that the tomato plants tended to grow tall and stringy. This year in starting a deck garden, I’m only planting a single tomato plant in each planter box. I very much like the “grape” style tomatoes and the Juliet variety is well suited to this area.
Full Sun Container Garden Tomatoes
How could you have a deck garden without having a Patio variety tomato plant? These prefer a full sun container garden so we’ll make sure they are placed on the end of the line. Again, only one plant per planter box. Last year, when starting a deck garden, I planted as many as four plants in a planter box and they were too over crowded.
Pear Tomatoes in Container Garden on a Deck
My youngest daughter loves little yellow tomatoes in the container garden on the deck and she had the advantage of going with me when I purchased the plants. So, she selected the Yellow Pear variety for this planter box.
Chili Peppers in a Full Sun Container Garden
I love fresh Pico de Gallo – a typically Mexican relish with tomatoes, peppers, onions and cilantro. It’s not salsa, which i usually chopped very fine and even cooked sometimes. Pico de Gallo (chicken scratch) is a much coarser relish and made/served fresh. I want to be able to make my own so I considered planting everything I needed to make it when starting a deck garden. When I thought about it, though, I decided not to plant onions because they are soil depth intensive and I chose not to plant cilantro because it is so easily available at the store. Neither of those appeared to be well suited for a full sun container garden. So, I’ve only planted peppers and tomatoes. This is a mild jalapeno variety. Pepper plants don’t grow very large so I elected to plant two pepper plants in this planter box.
I’m not really sure about this pepper but the description intrigued me and I didn’t want two jalapeno plants and I wanted to try this one more than I wanted to grow my own serrano peppers. This is a cowhorn pepper.
Drip Irrigation for Strawberry Plants
I’m not a big strawberry fan. I like them but it seems silly to grow them when they are so easily available at the store. They also seem to require enormous amounts of drip irrigation for container plants and that makes it tough to manage when you are starting a deck garden. That said, my youngest daughter wanted one for “her” container gardening and she was with me when we bought the plants so she got what she wanted!
Drip Irrigation for Container Plants
I set the drip irrigation system watering timer for twice daily, 6AM and 6PM for five minutes. Each plant in the deck garden has a 1 GPH emitter. Some planter boxes have two plants so they have two emitters. I have not utilized any fertilizer at this point and I have not measured the soil temperature with a soil thermometer yet.
Starting a deck garden is fun but it can be a lot of work and hopefully, it will pay off with lots of learning, enjoyment and delicious vegetables.Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds
Winter is quickly drawing to a close here in Central Texas and it is time to begin thinking about planting a new deck garden. My deck container garden ended poorly last year, primarily due to very high temperatures from the heat radiated from the deck back into the planter boxes. I used a soil thermometer to record temperatures well over 100 degrees in each planter box.
My plan this year includes building light weight wooden shields for each of my planter boxes in my container garden. This should help me reduce the reflected heat from the deck back into the plant pots. I will continue to monitor the soil temperature each week with my soil thermometer.
I also learned last year that I probably put too many plants in each plant pot. So, this year, instead of 4 to 10 plants in each plant container, I’m only going to plant a couple in each plant pot.
I have 6 plant pots on my deck and each is watered with a drip watering system. I plan to plant the following plants in my container garden.
- 3 containers of tomatoes – one plant in each plant pot
- 2 containers of cucumbers – no more than 4 plants in each garden container
- 1 container of peppers – probably two different types of peppers
My peppers in my container garden last year did quite well. If they do well enough, I may just convert the whole thing into a pepper garden!
My single plant container garden tomatoes did very well when they weren’t crowded by other plants.
Once again, I’m only going to plant a container garden. I am not going to plant a raised bed garden for comparison this year.
The weather is warming up quickly and the garden stores are starting to show their early delivery of plant containers. Unfortunately, I have such a busy schedule that I won’t be able to get to the initial planting of the container garden until the last weekend in March.
Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds
Soil Temperature Problems Start Arising in the Deck Container Gardens…
I asked the County Extension Agent to visit one day and help me find out what might be holding back the growth of my plants in the deck container gardens. The typical summer temperatures in Texas in the Summer range from 80 in the morning to well over 100 in the afternoon. The County Extension Agent thought that the soil temperature may be too hot from the reflected sunlight heating up the sides of the deck containers.
I purchased a soil thermometer from Amazon to test the soil temperature in the deck container gardens.
I measured the temperature of the soil in the deck container gardens and the temperature at 6PM was 104 degrees.
I measured the temperature of the soil in the raised deck container gardens and the temperature at 6PM was 82 degrees.
It is clear that I need some way to shade or cool the soil for the deck container gardens to be successful.Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds
Since the spinach has died completely – it is dead and probably better in a raised bed garden – I decided to replace them with some smaller tomato plants.
These are of a variety that seem to be optimized (or advertised) as being good for container gardens.
The support systems I built last week for the tomatoes and cucumbers are doing very well.
My pepper plants, located in between my tomatoes in the planter boxes, are beginning to show. This one is an anaheim.
Now that the tomato plants have supports, I’ve stopped pinching the buds and tomatoes are starting to sprout. This one is Porter’s Dark Cherry.