Who says you can't grow vegetables on a concrete patio? When you use a raised container, it's as easy as spinach pie -- even easier, in fact, than conventional veggie gardening. You can either buy a patio planter readymade or build it as a DIY project. Besides the way it simplifies planting, there are lots of other advantages to this type of patio gardening.
Advantages of Raised Bed Patio Planting
Planters may be purchased or constructed in a wide array of sizes and heights to suit your outdoor space. They can even come with lockable casters, enabling you to wheel your veggies around and catch the sunshine.
This type of planter allows you super-easy access to your vegetable garden from the house. If you have a backyard grill or an entire outdoor kitchen, you will be able to cook and serve your harvest on the spot, without ever taking it inside. You can't get much fresher than that!
A patio planter that can be cared for without bending down to ground level is a back- and knee-saver for gardeners with joint problems. As a side benefit, vegetable-stealing rabbits, moles, and groundhogs won't be able to reach your crop.
Your gardening season will be extended. You can plant earlier in the spring, because the soil in your raised patio planter will warm up faster. In winter, just top the planter with a cold frame to grow kale and other cool-season vegetables. An alternative is a removable fabric frost cover made of breathable fleece. Just zip it open to tend to your plants and afterwards re-zip it snugly closed ... sort of like bundling a child into fuzzy winter pajamas.
Best of all, patio planting will green even the smallest outdoor space. If you don't have room on your patio (or don't have a patio), try placing a planter at the edge of your driveway.
Plan to position your planter on a sturdy concrete or tile surface. A wooden deck is not a practical spot because the weight of the container full of soil may be too heavy, especially right after watering.
If you are making the container yourself, your choice of materials is flexible. Untreated wood, brick, or cinder blocks are good options. Repurposed materials such as metal stock containers are also great. Be sure you have drainage holes in the bottom.
For a fashionable touch, paint the planter to match your lawn furniture. And what about a coordinating compost bin?
Depth: The container should be deep enough to hold at least 6 inches of soil, preferably 12, depending on what you want to grow. (Tomatoes, for example, will do better in deeper soil.)
Height: A planter on legs that bring it to waist level is ideal for watering and tending.
Width: Use a container narrow enough so that you can access it readily -- a maximum of 3- 4 feet if it is reachable from both sides, or 2 feet if it's against a wall.
Length: The length is limited only by the dimensions of your property.
A layer of volcanic rock at the bottom of your planter will improve drainage. Then fill with a good quality potting soil. Poke holes at evenly spaced intervals for sowing seeds or planting seedlings, or broadcast seeds over the surface. Cover with a light layer of fine-textured soil.
Hook the patio planterwith a drip irrigation system if desired. For a small bed, hand watering is fine. Water the bed well after planting your crop.
Almost all vegetables will do as well in a patio planter as in the garden soil, if not better. The only species you'll need to avoid are potatoes, which need enough space to send down deep roots, and corn, which grows too tall to be manageable in a raised bed.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.