Ornamental and edible gardening adventures.

Everything you need for growing edibles in your driveway

All these plants were grown in containers in my driveway.


Sometimes you need to make the most of the space you are given. For most fruit-bearing veggies (such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and cucumbers), the more sunlight you have, the more successful your yield will be.

It didn't take long for me to notice that the most sunlight on my property happened to be along my driveway, and it felt wasteful to not take advantage of it.

If you also have a sunny driveway that is long enough to accommodate plants and your vehicles, you can also grow a variety of edibles successfully!

Here's what I have learned over the years to maximize the harvest.

Taller tomatoes are further back along the driveway.

Lighting and plants

Figure out which way the sun moves over your property, and line up your plants accordingly.

For me, the sun is brightest closest to the front of the house, so I make sure the taller plants are further back along the driveway so that they do not block sunlight for smaller varieties. (This means I can grow most of my taller tomatoes closer to the garage.)

Whichever way you line up your plants, you will want to make sure that you are maximizing your setup to catch as much sunlight as possible. And if you have a spot that does get a bit of shade (let's say from those taller tomatoes), use it to your advantage, and plant a leafy crop that wouldn't mind a break from the hot summer sun.

You can pretty much grow any annual plant in a container as long as it is large enough to accommodate the roots. So if you want to grow a huge, indeterminate tomato, use a larger container.

The easiest way to start out is to choose edibles that are marked in seed catalogs as "container gardening friendly." These plants have been bred to perform well in smaller spaces.

Also, not all the plants in my driveway are edible. Some are just pretty flowering annuals that I intersperse into the group, which also helps to attract pollinators.

Choose your container and soil

I use an assortment of containers in my driveway, including:
  • a container/trellis combo that stores water underneath
  • the Eco Garden System (I agreed to demo the Eco Garden System out in 2017 and now it has become a permanent growing area. More info on the unit can be found here.)
  • a Garden Tower 2
  • fabric grow bags
  • and glazed planters.
Chard in a glazed planter. 
For the grow bags, I use a variety of sizes: 15, 20 and 25 gallon size bags. I use the smaller bags for crops like peppers, and use the largest bags for indeterminate tomatoes.  I use bricks to help elevate the grow bags off the ground — which seems to help on the hottest days. Depending on the size of the grow bag, I use 2-3 bricks along the edges of the bag. 

I also try to plant more than one type of plant in all my containers when possible — if they are large enough of course. If plants are companions (which means they mutually benefit each other) and will fit in the grow bag, I plant them together. (If you google companion planting you will find a lot of info on this practice. In the future I plan to share my plant combos that I have used successfully.)

For soil, I look for organic potting mixes when filling new grow bags. To refresh my older grow bags, I added compost at the beginning of the growing season.

Between containers and soil, this is the most expensive part of setting up your growing area. I've been working on my collection for 10 years, so each year I purchase a few new grow bags to expand my growing area. 

Watering

The Eco Garden System has a built-in water reservoir.
Growing plants on black asphalt can be tricky. While the driveway heat can stimulate growth, it can also make your containers dry out faster. (This is why I now use the bricks — mentioned above — to help elevate the grow bags.)

A drip watering system is the best way to provide constant moisture, but I have gardened in the driveway without using one.

On my outside water faucet (I only have one), I have a two-way splitter: one spout connects to the hose used in the back garden and the other connects to an extended hose that runs along the side of my house facing the driveway. This connects to a hose reel that I then use to water my plants with. In 2018, I traded out my garden hoses for a "drinking water hose" — which means it is lead-free.

You'll need to keep an eye on the plants to see how quickly they dry out. I try to water in the morning and only along the soil line, but sometimes if it is an especially hot day, I come home from work and need to water again.

The Eco Garden System has its own water reservoir built in, which keeps the plants happy, even on the hot days. I water this setup less than my grow bags. I also have a rain barrel that collects water from my front water spout. I use this water on my non-edible plants.

Fertilizing

The one downside to container gardening is that nutrients can be "washed out" with repeated watering. This past growing season I made an effort to fertilize my plants more regularly with organic fertilizers, including Organic Plant Magic and Espoma's Tomato Tone. The plants did perform better than in previous years when I relied on compost alone.

Beware of critters: groundhogs, chipmunks and squirrels

I have groundhogs in my area that can wipe out plants fairly quickly. Since the driveway cannot be fenced off, I need to improvise to keep them out.

One trick I use is repurposing an old puppy gate (it stands about 36 inches tall) and place that in front of my grow bags that line the house. (As seen in the photo below.) This provides enough of a deterrent to keep the groundhogs moving along. I keep their favorite plants further away from the fence so that way other growbags stand in the way (mainly the tomatoes are the barrier plants).

The tomato jungle growing in the driveway this past August. 
The Eco Garden System also keeps groundhogs away, thanks to its height. This past growing season the squirrels became a bit craftier and realized they could climb up the Eco Garden System, so I used a small border fence to discourage them from entering. (It worked.) These were separate metal fence panels were 24 inches tall and I used them as a border around the top growing area.

Another garden critter that takes advantage of the driveway setup are the chipmunks. They loved the ground cherries I grew last year in the grow bags in the driveway, and while I could have came back this year and critter proofed the containers further, I decided it was easier to move the plants elsewhere than keep battling the chipmunks.

Cut your losses, right? 🤷‍♀️

What about the cars?

They still fit! As a rule I don't let cars idle in the driveway due to fumes. And I park heading in, so that way the exhaust pipe is not aimed at the plants.



Do you garden in your driveway? I'd love to hear about how it has gone for you. Tell me about it in the comments below.



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