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

Lure Lock Options Includes LED Light Boxes & More

Lure Lock Options Includes LED Light Boxes & More

Pro angler Jonathan VanDam showcases new offerings at ICAST 2019, including the ultra-thin, big bait boxes, LED-lighted boxes and backpack-able gear lockers. With Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

Mustad Skatter Shad Bladed Jig

Mustad Skatter Shad Bladed Jig

As Mustad continues to expand into an all-around tackle company, Reid McKinstry shows off some innovative features that make the Mustad Skatter Shad bladed jig a winner in big bass waters.

Electric Filet Knife from Bubba Blades

Electric Filet Knife from Bubba Blades

As OSG's Lynn Burkhead looks on, Josh Neville shows off the cordless and corded versions of a new electric filet knife from Bubba Blades.

Minn Kota's Brad Henry shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead that there's much to like in the new Minn Kota Riptide Terrova saltwater trolling motor that comes with I-Pilot and an 87-inch shaft.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

Unlike many game fish, catfish can be harder to catch during the spawn. Here are some strategies. Catfish

Understanding Catfish Spawning

Keith Sutton - June 06, 2006

Unlike many game fish, catfish can be harder to catch during the spawn. Here are some...

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures? Other Freshwater

5 Great Lures For Bluegills

Stephen D. Carpenteri - March 10, 2011

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers. Striper & Hybrid

3 Deadly Bait Rigs For Stripers

J.B. Kasper

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers.

See More Trending Articles

More The Deck

Hosting an outdoor party on your deck? Here are some tips to help you decide what size cooler you'll need for the occasion, along with suggestions on ice maintenance and the best coolers for the job. The Deck

5 Best Coolers for Your Backyard Deck

Jessyca Sortillon

Hosting an outdoor party on your deck? Here are some tips to help you decide what size cooler...

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.

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...

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