Gardenless Gardening - 5 Plants to Grow on Your Deck

Love the taste of fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs but don't have the room or knowledge to garden? Relax, you don't need a big garden to test out your green thumb abilities; here's how.

Gardenless Gardening - 5 Plants to Grow on Your Deck
Just about anyone can grow a "gardenless garden" on their backyard deck. (Shutterstock image)

Rob Woodruff is something of a renaissance man, a native Texan turned fly fishing guide turned lodge manager who excels at catching and guiding others to trout, tarpon, bass, and bluegills among other things.

He also loves to cook, particularly with fresh herbs and vegetables, ingredients that fuel his penchant for gourmet outdoor dishes. Challenged for space as he and his wife Jenny Mayrell-Woodruff have lived in lodges and an Airstream trailer in recent years, the concept of gardenless gardening has helped provide fresh produce on a back deck, a patio, or even a walkway.

“It’s seasonal, there isn’t much cost, and you don’t have to worry about too much serious work or pruning,” said Woodruff. “Other than planting, watering, and picking your produce, about the most work you might have to do is adding a stake or two for things like peppers and tomatoes.”

If gardenless gardening is something that you’d like to try, Woodruff suggests several plants as easy to find, simple to grow, and all providing season-long yield that can be enjoyed in the kitchen and on the table:


Ripe cherry tomatoes in a pot.
Ripe cherry tomatoes in a pot. (Shutterstock image)

Tomatoes

When it comes to this style of gardening, few things are more easily grown and readily enjoyed than vine ripe tomatoes. From simple fare like BLT sandwiches to Baja style grilled fish tacos to exquisite pasta dishes and Italian cuisine, tomatoes are a key ingredient in the Woodruff kitchen during the summer months. Even if all he has is a pocketknife, a small plate and a little bit of salt on a beautiful summertime day.


Zucchini/Squash

Perfect for simple backyard grilling, adding to kabob style dishes, or providing a key ingredient for soups, zucchini and summer squash are fairly easy to grow in such backyard gardening. While these plants can spread out a bit, they are a key addition to your gardenless garden each summer.

Peppers

When Woodruff and his wife were in the Caribbean, they supervised the daily cooking of gourmet meals for lodge guests about to enjoy cuisine flavored with such things as Jamaican Scotch Bonnet Peppers. And being native Texans, the couple also has a taste for TexMex dishes, regional staples whose flavor is boosted by such ingredients as the habanero pepper. Whether you like to turn the heat up in the pepper department or opt for milder, sweeter tasting things like bell peppers, such things are easily grown in this style of gardening.

Cucumber seedlings growing in small pots
Cucumber seedlings growing in small pots. (Shutterstock image)

Cucumbers

From providing a nice addition to a dinnertime salad to serving as the main ingredient for a batch of fresh pickles to even furnishing a nice taste to a drink of cool water, cucumbers are easily grown in a container or raised bed. Not to mention being a great vegetable to enjoy during the summer months, no matter where you might live!

Herbs

Woodruff is a big fan of fresh herbs in his cooking, things like rosemary and basil. And during his time in Belize, fresh mint was used almost every day in the bar as fly fishing lodge guests returned from the saltwater flats in time to enjoy a cool, refreshing pre-dinner beverage.

Rosemary, mint, and other herbs.
Rosemary, mint, and other herbs. (Shutterstock image)

Gardenless Gardening Tips

While the sky isn’t the limit in gardenless gardening, there are certainly plenty of plant options available, all starting with the ability for something to be grown in a simple container.

“You can use most any type of gardening container that is sold commercially, the kind of thing that you’ll find at stores like Lowes, Home Improvement, etc.,” said Woodruff. “If you can get access to them, the bigger pots that landscapers get their plants in work well, too. And believe it or not, I’ve even seen old coolers work as long as you remember to pull the drain plug.”

Whatever container you choose, make sure that it has a few holes and maybe some gravel or small rock at the bottom to facilitate with proper drainage.


Once you select a container for growing your produce, then it’s time to get seeds or plants and get started.

“Whether you choose seeds or started plants from a greenhouse, that’s up to you,” said Woodruff. “There are advantages to both.”

For seeds, you can get started in the late winter months by planting them in starter trays and growing them indoors. That can be more economical, it allows you to select the healthiest plants to move to your containers, and you can grow a wider variety of cultivars.

Started plants from nurseries, feed stores, big box stores, and home improvement centers are simpler to use if you choose to go that route. While a little more expensive, they are already established and well on their way to providing seasonal produce. You go to the store, select the plants you want, pay for them at the register, take them home, transplant them into your container, and that’s pretty much it.

Whether you go the seed planting or the started plant route, the next thing to consider is the type of soil that you will use to grow your vegetables and/or fruit. While regular topsoil will work, Woodruff opts to go a different route most of the time.

“I usually buy the better potting soil,” he said. “It’s blended to drain well, it’s generally richer in organic matter, it’s sterilized from weeds and pests, and theoretically at least, it produces a higher yield initially for this type of gardening.”

After the plants have been planted and placed outdoors, care throughout the growing season is generously a simple affair in Woodruff’s experience.


“You can move your containers around as needed and put the plants in advantageous locations for rainfall, sunshine and shade,” he said. “And if it gets too chilly early on, you can even move the plants indoors during the overnight period.”

Woodruff says that with this type of gardening, there’s generally no cutting or pruning involved, only a little daily care to water, provide sunshine, keep pests at bay, and maybe add a little fertilizer as needed.

“You don’t want to overwater,” he said. “Too much water can affect the growth and yield of your plants and it can also affect taste. In essence, it can almost wash the flavor out of certain things.

“Also be on the lookout for insects and pests,” he added. “One advantage to having plants in a container on your back deck is that you can generally remove insects by hand, particularly cutworms, which can be a big problem.

“And remember that one problem in this type of gardening can be birds – you may need some sort of netting or cover to keep them at bay.”

What Woodruff is most convinced of is that gardenless gardening is something that almost anyone can do regardless of where they might happen to live.

With only a little bit of expense and a modest amount of work, growing fruits and vegetables in a container is a great way to keep the kitchen supplied with fresh ingredients that aren’t doused in chemicals, taste great, and provide a season’s worth of memorable meals.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Daiwa Tatula 300 Baitcaster

Daiwa Tatula 300 Baitcaster

The new Tatula reel is perfect when an angler is on the water fishing big baits for big bass!

What

What's New with Abu Garcia Veritas Rods?

There are big changes to Abu Garcia's popular Veritas series of rods. Andrew Wheeler highlights the new features with In-Fisherman's Doug Stange as part of our 2020 ICAST New Fishing Gear Guide.

VMC Crossover Pliers and Rings

VMC Crossover Pliers and Rings

Quick and easy Neko and whacky rigging; ICAST Fishing Gear Guide.

What

What's Next for ASA & ICAST?

American Sportfishing Association president talks ICAST, coronavirus and the fishing industry.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

30 awards presented (virtually) from the New Product Showcase. ICAST

ICAST 2020 Best of Category Winners

Game & Fish Staff - July 16, 2020

30 awards presented (virtually) from the New Product Showcase.

See what made the Old Town Sportsman Autopilot kayak the show's top pick. ICAST

Who Won ICAST 2020 Best of Show?

Game & Fish Staff - July 17, 2020

See what made the Old Town Sportsman Autopilot kayak the show's top pick.

Shad are a big part of the catfish angler's arsenal, as long as you can catch a few that is. Fishing How-To

How to Use Electronics to Catch Baitfish

Game & Fish Staff

Shad are a big part of the catfish angler's arsenal, as long as you can catch a few that is.

We found 10 secret (and proven) catfish baits that have the staying power to attract catfish time after time. Catfish

10 Secret Catfish Baits You Didn't Know About

Anietra Hamper

We found 10 secret (and proven) catfish baits that have the staying power to attract catfish...

See More Trending Articles

More The Deck

Everything you need to know about selecting and installing an outdoor TV and why you should never use a regular television outside. The Deck

How to Choose and Install an Outdoor TV

Steve Kindig

Everything you need to know about selecting and installing an outdoor TV and why you should...

Millions of Americans enjoy watching birds and if you're one of them, here's how to attract more beautiful feathered friends – maybe even something rare – to your back patio or deck. The Deck

How to Attract More Birds Around Your Home

Keith Sutton

Millions of Americans enjoy watching birds and if you're one of them, here's how to attract...

These insect repellents — from sprays to electronics — will help you avoid hungry bugs. The Deck

Keep Bugs From Ruining the Party

Scott Bernarde

These insect repellents — from sprays to electronics — will help you avoid hungry bugs.

Love the taste of fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs but don't have the room or knowledge to garden? Relax, you don't need a big garden to test out your green thumb abilities; here's how. The Deck

Gardenless Gardening - 5 Plants to Grow on Your Deck

Lynn Burkhead

Love the taste of fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs but don't have the room or knowledge to...

See More The Deck

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now