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How to Create a Deck Garden

Oct 9, 2007
An important incentive for gardening is the pure pleasure it brings but there are other very practical reasons for planting a deck garden around the perimeter of this outdoor living space. Mixed plantings hide the deck's framework and the empy often weed filled space underneath. Plantings enhance the look of a deck whether it is high off the ground or at ground level.

Even with a deck with one end at ground level and the other end several feet off the ground, the height of the plants around it can be adjusted. In beds along the side where the deck is at ground level the tallest plants can reach to just above the top of the railing. Toward the higher end larger shrubs and small trees that mature from 10 to 20 feet can form the backbone of the planting.

In both cases the tallest plants are next to the base of the deck with a shorter mix of perennials, ground covers, bulbs, annuals, herbs and roses placed out toward the edge of the bed where they can be seen and enjoyed better.

Replacing grass around the base of the deck has the added advantage of less maintenance. Getting rid of grass eliminates the aggravating, time consuming chores of mowing and trimming grass and weeds around the deck supports. Plantings also do a good job of blocking the base of a deck and cutting down the amount of light underneath it. This effectively hides and reduces the growth rate of weeds that might grow there.

In addition installing edging strips along the perimeter of the beds along the deck keeps grass separate from ground covers. This method helps to cut down on weeding and reduces the need for trimming since these strips leave a single clean edge to mow. Some homeowners prefer the more formal, tidy appearance of edging strips. This is basically a matter of personal taste.

The process of actually creating flower beds to surround the deck does not differ much from designing plantings for other parts of the yard. Sometimes it is simply a matter of selecting the right plants to convert an idea already in mind into a reality. In some cases the conditions of the site place restrictions on what can be done. In rocky soils, the soil generally has to be prepared first before a decision is made as to how the plantings will be arranged.

There is no one approach to the task of deck garden design. The homeowner can design the plantings on paper, select the plants and install them. A garden designer can be hired to complete the entire job. Another possible option is to hire a nursery or designer to select and install some of the deck garden but leave lots of room in the bed for the addition of more perennials, annuals, bulbs and other plants by the homeowner.

In the initial stage of designing a deck garden it is very important to become familiar with the site. Its soil, exposure and shade and sun patterns need to be taken into account. Then the plants must be matched to the site. Any plants should be chosen because they thrive in the existing conditions and will inevitably grow better, require less maintenance and experience fewer problems with diseases and pests.

Study closely the shade and sun patterns that affect the deck. Make note on the garden plan which areas never get direct sun and which sites get sun or shade for only half the day and at what times.

Consider how the prevailing winds affect the deck site. On a windy site a windbreak of some sort will make planting easier to manage and make the deck more comfortable to use. A mixed planting of evergreens, deciduous trees and shrubs is most effective for wind protection. Another option is a fence which can be a quick solution but provides less protection from the wind.

Become aware of the direction that the site faces. Areas that face south are generally warmer but are more exposed especially in the winter. Since sites facing east recieve morning sun and afternoon shade, they are usually cooler than those facing west which are sunny in the afternoon when temperatures are higher.

Check soil conditions by digging test holes. Soil can be improved by adding organic matter, double digging and mulching. However it is a better idea to start a deck garden with plants that will thrive in the existing soil. Over time the soil can be improved to accomodate a wider range of plants. Building stone walls or raised beds and planting shallow rooted ground covers are practical techniques to deal with rocky soil.

Techniques for developing the shape of a deck bed vary. Working on paper to experiment with the best size and shape of beds around the deck can work. A hose or long rope outlining the shape of the bed on the ground is another alternative. Sprinkling flour around the perimeter of the bed works effectively also.

Another option is to outline the bed shape with a series of stakes and a length of string. The trick is to examine the proposed shape from up on the deck as well as out in the yard. Consider whether the shape manages to accomplish what is wanted. Beds that are wider than 3 feet allow the enjoymnet of some of the plants for people while seated and create the feeling that the deck is surrounded by vegetation.

All that remains to do is make the final deck bed shape and do the actual planting work. The end result will be a deck garden that will enhance the beauty of the entire backyard and become an integral part of the entire landscape design where the house, the deck and the garden are linked.
About the Author
Richard Vande Sompel is a professional deck builder of 35 years and over 850
decks built and is the author of "How to Plan, Design and Build a Deck from
Start to Finish". To Discover More About
Deck Gardens and Claim your 2
FREE Deck Plans, Insider Report, MP3 Audio and discover everything to know about
building a deck visit:
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