How to have Endless Fresh Herbs & Beautiful Plants on Your Deck, Patio or Porch Without ENDLESS Watering!!

Everywhere I look these days I see gorgeous plants for sale; herbs, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc.And then there’s the flowering plants: oh my, the selection is amazing in every color of the rainbow. Theybeckon me, beg me and entice me to give them a home. They all want a place on my sunny back deck which becomes an additional living space here at The Café during the spring, summer and fall seasons. 

I don’t have any problem with their call. Actually their “wish is my command”, as I love merely stepping out the back door and clippings sprigs of basil, oregano, thyme and a myriad of other delightful fresh herbs. I wait eagerly for the the first juicy, succulent tomato and watch from my kitchen window for the beginning of a delightful supply of crunchy seedless cucumbers, sweet bell peppers still warm from the sumer sun.  I love the beauty and cheer the hanging baskets and pots of flowers impart.

 I love it! But it wasn’t always that way. Although always eager to purchase the lovely green folliage , several seasons of failed results began to make me a bit reluctant to invest in more plants. The failed results were most often due to a few days of missed watering. A vacation, a busy schedule at work, guests from out-of-town or lots of activities with the kids …………… before I’d know it, my gorgeous green garden became a brown, shriveled, VERY sad mess. Plants are not cheap, and their premature demise always made my heart sick. Have you ever had this dilemma?
Guess what? I no longer have that problem and the little nagging voice that used to say “why would you spend your hard earned money on these ……………”, well, that little voice has just disappeared FOREVER! You see my husband is quite the genius and came up with an amazing system for……………..
…………….. keeping my lovely porch garden green and growing and amazingly healthy ALL SUMMER LONG! With NO EFFORT! Even when we’re on a vacation, have a busy schedule at work, entertain guests, etc. etc., our plants stay healthy and well watered. It’s wonderful, amazing, incredible, spectacular …………… can you tell I like it? Okay, so I’ll stop gushing and turn this post over to him. He actually wrote the post several years ago, in the early days of The Café, but since we’ve had thousands of new readers over the past two years, I wanted to share it again ………………

Hi Café fans, this is Scott, Chris’ resident photographer, editor and confidante (translated – husband!). Chris has always love to use fresh herbs in her cooking and wanted me to share our way of growing them quite effortlessly with an Herb Rack Drip System.
Years ago, as a Mother’s Day gift, I wanted to build an herb garden for Chris. As I was planning it, I realized that there were several flaws to the designs I had previously seen in magazines and gardening books. Most people grow their herbs in a regular garden, a raised bed, or in pots directly on their patio or deck. Each one of these plans was OK, but had serious shortcomings. I also noticed that if we put herbs out in the backyard garden, Chris would seldom walk out to get them because when she was cooking she usually needed them ASAP.
Now, if you were a fly on the wall in our house, you’d know that Chris and I run on two wheels most of the time, so expedience is of the utmost importance! When I tried to move some of the herbs to the deck, they left it a total mess with water, mildew, plant parts and dirt all over. The other major problem was that, if we went away for more than two days, the herbs in the pots committed hari kari and didn’t recover, all due to lack of water. Consequently, our hard work at the beginning of the season was for naught.
One day I was out on the deck and had an “Aha!” moment. Why not create an herb rack drip system that would be attached to the deck railing?
By doing that, Chris would have her herbs within easy reach of the kitchen (no muddy, wet feet!), the deck would stay clean AND… no “sudden death” plants when Carolina summers reach their zenith. Two other advantages: No rabbits and other little rodents AND the plants in the gardens below the herb rack thought they were in seventh heaven, since they received the secondary benefits of all the watering and fertilization above them.
By utilizing the very economical standard drip systems available at Home Depot or Lowes (or many hardware stores for that matter) you too can easily build a system like this for under $100.

Each pot has one or two drippers depending on the size of the pot and the water needs of the plants. I also attach a pressure regulator and a timer to make the system foolproof (see photo).
The timer turns the system on two or three times a day for 5-10 minutes (6 a.m., 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. )to make sure the plants are happy and not H2O stressed. The pressure regulator keeps the water pressure from your garden hose at the very low rate required by drip systems. If you really want to get sophisticated, you can install an additional water valve in your lawn irrigation system to feed the drip system thus avoiding using a standard garden hose connection.
As the system has evolved throughout two houses and many years, I’ve let my imagination run wild. “What if all the plants in and around our house could get regular watering like the herbs?” You guessed it !- Now we have an “expanded” drip system that feeds water to over eighty plants, shrubs and flowers, including the knockout roses and topiaries in the front of the house! Chris has learned to expect little drippers to appear almost anywhere around our property.
Three Cautions
First – Check the drippers periodically to make sure they’re not clogged – If you see a stressed plant, that’s a give-away. The little dripper tips are very cheap to replace, some of the new ones even have “bug” catchers since some bugs, especially spiders. like to try to move into the water source and make a home! Not a particularly bright move.
Second – Because the plants are in the restricted space of a pot, fertilize them regularly (every other week). The daily drip system tends to wash out vital nutrients all plants depend on from the soil. I use regular Miracle Gro and mix it up in a sprinkling can.
Third – Spray regularly with environmental pest spray (The kind that can be used right up to the day before harvest). If your plants are producing faster than you’re using the herbs in your cooking, give them what Chris calls a “haircut”. This promotes new growth and you can “donate” the extra “hair” to your friends, neighbors and work buddies who like to cook. They will love you for it!
Happy Herbing!
Scott
P.S. – Feel free to leave questions in the Comments section below!


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