My Great Outdoors: Rachel's Container Garden in Progress

My Great Outdoors: Rachel's Container Garden in Progress

Name: RachelW
Location: Chicago
Type of space: Wooden Alley-Side Deck
Tell us about your outdoor project and how you enjoy it: Nine months of the year Chicago weather is cold and harsh, so once the temperature tops 60 degrees Chicagoans go crazy and are out in the parks, restaurant patios, even fire escapes, and of course the ubiquitous alley-side deck. I'm fortunate to have two decks at my current home, but unfortunately they've been condemned up until a few months ago. Because of that, last year I was only able to use the deck for a vegetable container garden, and not much more. It's still early in the Chicago outdoor season, but this year my BF and I are using the deck to not only grow vegetables, but also spend time in – imagine that?

How did you create it?
While my BF and I really liked our Craigslist-scored pedestal table and benches, they'd finally run their course, were falling apart and needed to be replaced. We replaced the furniture with a new set from IKEA, but the most exciting thing was that we scored the last solar powered garden lights left in the store.

We focused on getting all local low-maintenance plants and flowers; we really like the look of sedum, succulents and flowering ground cover. The one splurge is the gardenia tree at the corner. I absolutely love gardenias, which remind me of my grandmother's garden in Florida. The tree is done flowering for now, but it can taken indoors, and when it's in full bloom if fills the house with a wonderful scent.

This year we've downsized the vegetable garden to three types of tomatoes and two types of cucumbers. We also need to restart the herb garden that died while we were recently gone on vacation.

It's still early in the season, so none of the flowers have started blooming nor have any veggies fruited, but we think it's a huge improvement from the 'before' (see 2nd photo). Our next step is to hang a few more flowering plants between the columns and/or from the railings. Also if anyone has any suggestions for concealing the A/C condensers that would be awesome…

Recommended store, site, product or resource?


  • Grand Street Gardens, Sprout Home and Asrai Garden are by far the best garden stores. The selection is great — lots of organic and local plant varieties, garden accessories, and the staff at the stores are really helpful.

  • Craigslist, flea markets and thrifts stores are great sources for garden furniture and accessories.

  • Finally, local green houses and farmers' markets are the best places to get seedlings to start vegetable gardens. We've gotten ours from Kilbourn Park Organic Green House, Garfield Park Conservatory, and a couple of vendors at the Wicker Park Farmer's Market the last couple of years and have had really bountiful results.

(Images: Rachelw)

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