The Q&A Archives: Growing Vegetables In Shallow Deck Planter

Question: I built a small deck planter at the top and bottom of our deck railing. The planters are about 5 inches deep, about 4 inches across and about 16 feet long. I would like to grow vegetables in the planter but I am concerned about root growth since the depth of the dirt is only about 5 inches. Will tomatoes, cucumbers or peppers grow in such shallow soil? Are there other vegetables that might grow better? The bottom planter would even support vines growing on the bannisters.

Answer: Unfortunately, the larger the plant the more root run is needed. In general, a five gallon bucket or even a half whiskey barrel is a better size for a husky tomato plant. Your planters might support some of the smaller leaf lettuces and early greens, radishes and probably a number of different herbs, but I think they are going to dry out too quickly to keep tomatoes and green peppers (and especially those water-loving cukes) happy. You might try a little experimenting with some of the smaller compact varieties intended for patio containers, along with using a waterholding polymer mixed into the potting soil, especially if you don't have an automatic watering system.

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