Decorating The Deck
Decking Out The Deck For Summer
We spend lots of time on our backyard deck during the summer. Being a school teacher, one of the perks is about 10 weeks off when the kids are out of school. Much of that time is spent outside in the yard and on the deck.
There are many meals shared there under the umbrella while we watch the parade of birds who come to enjoy the free meals they get from our bird feeders.
We also take advantage of the full sun and proximity to the kitchen by planting lots of herbs to be used in summer meals. Whenever we need fresh herbs, one of us just pops out the door to our kitchen garden and, voila, we have fresh, organic veggies and herbs.
Feature photo and all photos are by the author unless otherwise stated.
Decorating The Deck
Focus on the practical
The first step in getting things looking better involves a bit of energy and elbow grease. After a few months of idle neglect, my patio and deck need some TLC, so I usually start by doing a good D & C (dust and clean). This includes the deck and railing as well as all the planters that have been left alone to grow undesirable weeds.
There are a couple of rocking chairs and a patio table with umbrella and chairs that will need the most attention. Those get a good scrubbing and hosing down. With just a little care, these will last several years and still look great.
About every 3 years, the deck and railing will need to be pressure cleaned and stained. This is a week-end DIY project best done in the Spring before the summer heat sets in. It's not difficult at all. The pressure washer can be rented from your local home center, the same place you buy your stain.
Note: The stain on this deck is Behr semi-transparent. It has served us well because it is waterproof and resistant to mildew/mold growth.
Image - Amazon
Deck Plan - Simple but Functional
The rear of the house faces west. In the summer, by 9:30, the whole deck will be in the sun, so flowers and food plants will have the benefit of full sun.
The grill is in a nook when not in use, but wheels make it easy to move around.
Most of the deck plants are in self-watering pots, so maintenance is easier just in case I miss a day or two of watering. The ones that need more attention are the planters on the railing and the hanging baskets. Those need water every day.
Not shown in the deck plan is the River Birch tree which offers shade for the patio table.
In addition, birds are invited to join us at the bird feeders which are under the Birch Tree. We see lots of typical backyard birds, including Cardinals, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers, Chickadees, and Hummingbirds. They are fun and enjoyable to watch, but they do tend to scold us if we are too close for their comfort.
Kitchen Garden Convenience
What better place to grow your kitchen vegetables and herbs than your deck?
The goal for the planters is to provide beauty and functionality. That's why we plant the kinds of things that will either look good (flowers) AND taste good (herbs and veggies).
The bonus comes when they are both beautiful and healthy.
In this photo, one corner of the deck, we have lots of good stuff growing:
Heirloom tomatoes right outside the door.
Other herbs and vegetables that are grown in containers are
- Broad leaf parsley
- Lemon Thyme
- Heirloom tomatoes
- Cherry tomatoes
Sounds like a lot, right? But the containers, pots, and planters do not take up that much space, and they are quite prolific, producing enough produce so that we have plenty to share with friends.
Add Planters Where They Make a Difference - We love flowers!
This is the type of planter I used to transform into a wood box.
These wrought iron frames add a natural look to your deck.
The liners should be replaced yearly to look fresh and new.
A Little Semi-Homemade Project - Deck Railing Planter
There is a fairly new product you can buy for your deck railing. It is a planter that fits snugly over a nominal 6" wide board. You don't have to fasten it because it fits perfectly, and the weight of the soil and plants keeps it from moving.
The planter is not ugly, but it is made of plastic. I wanted something that looked a bit more natural.
Let me say first of all that "hindsight is 20-20". If I do this again, I will buy a planter that does not have such a wide radius at the corners. That curve made the job take much longer than if the corners had been square.
I bought the planter at a local nursery for about $19. I paid about $8 for some two 1x3 and one 1x2 rough cut cedar boards. I used the 1x3 around the body of the planter and the 1x2 around the top. I attached the boards to the body of the planter using 5/16" pan-head screws that are supposed to be rust-proof.
As you can see from the photo, it turned out really nice. I just have to fill in the areas around the top with some colored caulk to hide the cut marks.
Construction time to cover the main body of the planter was about an hour, including the planning, cutting, and attaching.
Time to do the top was about 2 hours. I had to come up with a way to get the board around the curve. Eventually, my neighbor suggested I soak the boards in water and bend them, which is what I did. Again, I would get a square planter for the next one :-)
How To Keep Your Plants Beautiful
Do this and everything else will be fine
Add water and fertilizer regularly.
Sounds easy, I know, but this is the number one reason for not having a good looking deck.
Flowers and veggies need water. We all know that. The problem is that when planted in small containers, the water evaporates much quicker than when planted in the ground.
Mostly, you should water every day that there is no rain, and during the summer, you may have to water twice a day if you live in a climate that does not have much humidity. No humidity in the air leads to quicker drying out of your planters.
Add fertilizer regularly, too.
Before I discovered this "secret", I had mediocre results with my flowers. But since I began using water soluble fertilizer every two weeks on my plants, it's as if I have been transported to "plant heaven." Seriously, I never would have thought that what happened was even possible.
I always started my plants in good, store-bought soil. I thought that would be enough to grow good looking stuff. But when my friends Bob and Cheri came to visit, they gave me an education that was short and sweet. You see, they own a plant nursery which has grown (pun intended) into the largest in the state of Montana. Using the right fertilizer (and good customer service) is their key to success. And it can work in a home garden or deck situation just as well.
One thing Bob told me is that when the perfect fertilizer is not available, is a really good substitute. I started using that until he sent me "the right stuff" and my plants took off! I included a photo of my Climatis just to show off this concept. In years past, this plant produced spotty results, but this year it is loaded with blooms. Miracle-Gro All Purpose Plant Food
Self-watering Plant Container - They allow you some freedom to wander
I have built several self-watering flower pots, and they are definitely plant savers. I used planters that I purchased at either Wal-Mart or Home Depot. Very inexpensive but effective. They allow me to visit the family for a couple of days without worrying about my deck plants.
Hints For Successful Bird Feeders
First, squirrels love bird food. And they are smart. And they are persistent.
You have to play the game long enough to beat the squirrels!
In my case, I used a piece of copper tubing to hang my squirrel-free bird feeder. The tubing is too skinny and slick for the squirrels to hang on and reach the bird feeder at the same time. Prior to the copper method, the squirrel would reach over and get as much food as it could devour, because the feeder is designed to close up if there is too much weight on the perch.
You can also buy baffle domes and spinning feeders to deter the squirrels, but they are much more money than the $20 Perky bird feeder (shown above) and a piece of copper. I bent the copper tube at a 90 degree angle and used a brace at the corner.
Second, you can make your own hummingbird food. You do not need the red powder sold at bird stores and online.
The recipe for humming bird food is simple... a 4 to 1 mixture of water to sugar. So if you have a 2-cup feeder, just mix 1/2 cup of sugar into 2 cups of warm water and stir. They will find your feeder, trust me. They don't need the red food dye.
Also, ants like the sugar water too. You can use regular Vaseline to deter the ants. I put a gob of the greasy stuff around the pipe that holds the feeder when I see that they have discovered the "pot of gold" at the feeder.
Can't Live Without This Remodeling Tool
Whether I am building a deck or simply hanging a picture, my DeWalt cordless drill and impact driver are right there with me.
I LOVE THESE TOOLS!! Can't imagine working around the house without them.