Weighing the Advantages and Disadvantages of a Deck Garden


There are many activities to be enjoyed on a deck. Gardening is one of them. But gardening on a deck like every activity comes with advantages and disadvantages. Which must be considered when contemplating a deck garden. What are the advantages and disadvantages of gardening on your deck?

Advantages of a garden deck are aesthetics, health of both you and your garden. Also, a garden deck is convenient and accessible.

Disadvantages of a garden deck include increased risk of damaging your deck. Plus increased gardening costs in soil, fertilizer and containers plus along with a more demanding watering schedule.

That is just to name a few of the advantages and disadvantages of a deck garden. Before you swear off deck gardening forever or run out and buy a truckload of containers, let’s look a little closer at these pros and cons.

Almost every deck can have a few plants, but not everyone is suited to gardening on a deck. All gardening both ground and deck requires work. This work is both rewarding and exhausting. But the process and results of a garden are its own rewards.

So, to start, let’s look at the advantages of a garden deck. Followed by the disadvantages and steps to minimize them. If you can’t tell already, I am a fan of both decks and gardens, and here is why.

Advantages of a garden deck

Improved Deck Aesthetics

Few things improve the look of a deck as much as plants. There is something calming and refreshing about being surrounded by God’s creation. Many of us long to be out with nature and enjoy its beauty. A deck garden brings some of that beauty not only close but right beside our house.

“well looked after plants make a deck even more attractive and provide a greater level of pleasure in the use of your deck.”

All We Do Is DecksOpens in a new tab.

If your deck is looking a little bla, a deck garden may be the answer. Adding colour and life to your deck.

Plants can also change the deck’s atmosphere. Topiary plants neatly trimmed will bring a formal feel to your deck. Or something entirely different having agaves and yuccas plants will create a more modern structural feel to the deck, along with requiring less watering. Swinging to the other side in atmosphere, vines, creepers, geraniums and groundcover overflowing your deck pots will create a playful and whimsical deck feel.

Deck plants can change a wood space to a garden escape, with the garden becoming the focus of your outdoor oasis.

A deck garden will not only transform the deck’s atmosphere but also can be used to define the space. A couple of chairs surrounded by larger leafy plants to the side of the deck make for a more intimate conversation space. Sheltering you from both the searing sun and peering eyes, creating a safe space for conversation on your deck.

Here is a great suggestion I read from Bonnie Plants.

“If your neighbors like to peek at your deck and you’d prefer privacy, create a living screen with vertical vegetables.”

BoOpens in a new tab.nnie Plants

A row of plants is excellent for both sheltering your deck from the elements and others. One of the advantages is in summer, the living screen provides shade for your deck when needed most but allowing sun in the winter when it’s most desired.

Your deck may look great now, but wait till your garden is in full bloom.

Gardens can be healthier on a deck

There are several reasons why a garden grows better on a deck.

The first reason is deck gardens are container gardens. The soil in containers warms quicker in spring, allowing you to plant earlier. Giving your garden a longer growing season then a ground garden. Plants on a deck may be in full bloom before even sprouting in the yard. A deck is no greenhouse, but the additional warmth can do wonders for plant growth, with earlier planting and faster growth during the summer months with the additional heat. Deck garden need not be only for flowers, but you can enjoy a vegetable garden also. Tomatoes and peppers enjoying the extra warmth and extended growing season. Increasing the chance of you enjoying the fruit of your labour.

Container gardening on a deck also removes your plants from dirt dwelling pests like voles, snails and slugs. Safely located on your deck, where any infestation can be quickly addressed or removed from the garden.

Not only is a deck garden removed from pest, but the containers can be moved inside temporarily if a windstorm is brewing. Along with taking the plants in overnight when early frost is threatening. The portability of a garden deck brings many advantages to gardening.

Combining with the flexibility of moving plants for maximum sunlight all year long. Plants buried in the garden must remain. But on your deck, if the location proves not to have enough or too much sunlight, the plant can be moved to a better deck location improving the plant’s health.

A deck garden with potting soils will also have less weeding to do than a ground garden. The soil all cleaned of weeds before being used on your deck. Giving you more time to enjoy your garden, not weeding it, which is good for your health.

Health Advantages of a deck garden

Plants are a natural distressed and an antidepressant. I cannot explain the science behind it, but I do know I feel better out in the garden. Watering, inspecting and just enjoying their presence is satisfying. I have seen many a person step out to have a smoke, but stepping out to be in your garden will do more for your lungs and health than any cigarette. 

“lush plants create a sense of pride and accomplishment.”

DIY Home Garden Opens in a new tab.

The pace of gardening is calming on your mind. Allowing you to focus on the moment, not the million things demanding your attention. Along with meaningful physical activities to keep your joints and body mobile.

A deck garden can also improve your health by what you eat. Having fresh produce just out the door allows you to step out to add to your salad easily. Or snip a few fresh herbs for your sauce in the kitchen. Listen to any chef; they will rant about how much better food is fresh. How fresher can food be than from just outside your door?

Convenience and Accessibility of a deck garden

Having your garden right outside on the deck makes it easier to enjoy. No need to grab your boots to go out and water. On your deck, this can be done in bare feet. Stroll out, grab the water hose or pot and enjoy.

“So many vegetables can be grown in large planters and having the garden so nearby makes this much easier to manage.”

CarolOpens in a new tab.

Individuals with limited mobility can more easily enjoy gardening from their deck, with raised garden beds minimizing squatting and kneeling on your deck. Also, the level deck is more comfortable to navigate than the ground. A walker is out of the question in the yard. But will work on your deck, allowing you to move around and attend to your garden. Well placed benches to sit on while pruning the plants will also increase comfort and reduce strain.

But a garden deck is not all “roses” there are some disadvantages of a garden deck. That will need to be considered and minimized to enjoy your deck and garden for years to come.

Disadvantages of a garden deck

The single most considerable disadvantage of a garden deck is cost. A deck garden will cost more to set up and maintain than a ground garden. Cost is compounded if the garden prematurely damages the decking. The cost to replace a rotten deck will dwarf the other gardening disadvantages, which is why we will look at the risks of damaging decking first.

Water damaging the decking

The most significant thing that will damage your deck while gardening is water. A deck garden will need to be watered regularly to keep the plants healthy. This frequent watering can stain and rot wood decking. Even with composite deckingOpens in a new tab., pooling water will grow mould and stain the decking.

To minimize decking damage, make sure that all containers are raised off the decking to allow airflow underneath. Airflow will help to dry the decking, reducing rot and deterioration.

Along with airflow, garden containers on a deck should have a drip tray to reduce water from pouring on the deck. The health of the plants require drainage, but that drainage should not be on the decking. Drip trays allow the water to evaporate without dirtying or wetting the decking.

With a built-in planter, holes should be drilled to allow water to drain off the deck. Few things will encourage rot more than pooling water under a planter. Raise it and drain it.

Regardless of how much you water your garden, make sure the decking can dry off. Decking which can quickly dry off after getting water on it will not rot. It is when water pools or decking is unable to dry that damage occurs.

Which brings us to our next disadvantage, watering.

Deck gardens will require frequent watering

Few things will make your deck look in distress than wilting, distressed plants. A deck garden will require frequent watering. Containers on a deck have smaller reserves than the ground and will need water frequently. Pots just dry out that quick, and all the more as the sun comes out.

“In fact, once temperatures rise over 85 F. (29 C.), many container plantings will need to be watered at least twice a day to keep them happy and hydrated”

Nikki TilleyOpens in a new tab.

Not only is this more work but can limit you. A deck garden needing water twice a day can dampen weekend excursions. As you will need to be home daily to water or arrange for someone else to.

Self watering containers can help but are limited to how much water they can hold. Once the reservoir is drained, which can happen quickly in the summer, it needs to be refilled.

Automatic drip irrigation can be utilized to water the deck, but this will increase both cost and risk of unattended water on your deck.

Another option to reduce water demands is to grow succulents and other drought-resistant plants in your deck garden, but that will impact the deck’s atmosphere. As the type of plants on your deck contribute to the feel of your deck.

Deck Garden containers can be expensive

Unlike a ground deck, the soil on a deck will need to be contained. A planter can range from a couple of bucks each to a few hundred depending on size and look. Even if you only pay five bucks each which is unlikely by the time you have filled out your garden deck you will have paid a few hundred. Especially since your deck and garden need to be both functional and attractive. An old five-gallon paint bucket may hold the soil and be cheap. But that is an old five-gallon bucket sitting on your deck. It will affect the look and atmosphere of the deck.

Buying potting soil to fill those containers is expensive

Soil taken from your yard will compact and not provide proper drainage for a deck garden. A deck garden needs potting soil for drainage and reducing weight. Potting soil is designed to help your deck plants to thrive, but it will add to the cost of the garden. Potting soil is not free, it will cost you.

Not only will you initially need to buy potting soil but many plants will grow better if repotted regularly. Increase costs as more soil needs to be purchased. There are some innovative ways to revitalize potting soil but that will also cost money.

Compounded with the fact that often plants do better in larger containers, especially vegetables. Increasing the amount of soil needed and cost.

Another advantage of larger planers is decrease frequency of watering as more soil can hold more water. As long as you are not drowning the plant.

“simply doubling the pot size allowed plants to grow 43 percent larger.”

GaOpens in a new tab.rden Betty

Which is great, but it will cost you. Adding to soil cost is fertilizer cost.

Garden decks’ need more fertilizer

A deck or container garden requires all nutrient to be purchased. With a ground garden mother nature will do most of the work providing nutrient for your garden but not so with a deck garden. The container not only removes the soil and plants from pest but also much of the nutrients that is naturally added to the soil.

Also, the constant watering that a deck garden requires will leach out many of the plants nutrients out the drain holes. Planters must drain for healthy plant life but it is not just excessive water that is running out. Plant nutrient is also. Plant nutrient that you paid for and will need to buy again as the soil becomes depleted.

It is hard to give a number on the extra cost, as it depends on the number of pots, and type of plants. But be forewarned it will cost more and that is part of the cost of having a garden so conveniently close.

Deck Garden disadvantage to be aware of

These are not as clear as costs. But things that I would hate to surprise you with after having set up your deck garden. Not deal-breakers but still disadvantages.

Weight of planters

A small flowering pot sitting on your deck weigh less than 12 lbsOpens in a new tab., will not impact your deck. A deck is built for at least 40 extra lbs per square foot your good to go. But a larger planter box will add significant weight especially after watering. A fifteen-gallon planter will add a couple hundred pounds in a very small area. Yes, less than a person but the constant strain will build on the deck. If your deck garden includes a tree or a large vegetable pot your deck will need to be reinforced to account for the additional weight. Remember its not just the plant but you also are standing right beside it, watering it.

Pollinating Insects on your deck

My wife reminded me of this over breakfast this morning. Flowers are beautiful on your deck but along with flowers comes bees and other pollinating insects. Which is good, they are good for your garden and the environment. But if you get skittish around bees, this is going to be hard.

My experience is do no harm, and they will do no harm. Let them do their job undisturbed and most of the time they will leave you alone. Last year we had this huge sunflower that at any given moment would have a half a dozen bees or more crawling on it. I loved watching them work, standing less than a foot away. But I was always careful not to poke, prod or sit on them. It was better for all of us that way.

Garden decks are great, but bees don’t care if the flowers are on a deck or in the field. They just see nectar that needs to be collected. Adding flowers unto your deck will bring them also.

Conclusion of Gardening on a deck

A deck garden will improve both your deck and life. Adding beauty and satisfaction to your life. But it will cost you, in additional expenses than a ground garden. Costing both money, time and limiting your schedule.

I hope I have not discouraged you from gardening on your deck but helped you to become more keenly aware of the advantages and disadvantages of deck gardening. If you are ready to get started, I recommend reading The Complete Guide to Container Gardening for Beginners. Click hereOpens in a new tab. to go to The Well Essentials website to read it.

My last piece of advice, dream big, start small. Start with a few pots and enjoy the process before tearing down your deck to build the BEST GARDEN DECK EVER! That may happen later, but for now, enjoy your deck.

Ryan Nickel

A Red Seal carpenter, passionate about building decks to be enjoyed.

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