Driveway Container and Straw Bale Gardening

Turn your sunny driveway into a garden plot by gardening in containers and straw bales.

| December 2018/January 2019

  • Herbs and vegetables will grow well in pots and straw bales situated on a sunny driveway.
    Photo by Craig LeHoullier
  • The author transformed his driveway into a garden plot by planting in containers and straw bales.
    Photo by Craig LeHoullier
  • With proper care, tomatoes will thrive when planted in straw bales or containers.
    Photo by Craig LeHoullier
  • Hot peppers planted in containers require lots of water and nutrients in the summer heat.
    Photo by Craig LeHoullier
  • If growing bell peppers in containers, plant them in 5-gallon pots, because they have significant root systems.
    Photo by Craig LeHoullier
  • Plant no more than two tomato plants per straw bale for best results.
    Photo by Craig LeHoullier
  • Squash can either be direct-sown or planted as seedlings in straw bales.
    Photo by Craig LeHoullier

I was smitten with my driveway last summer. For several weeks, it produced tasty tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, summer squash, basil, bush green beans, and cucumbers. Throw in some lettuce, Swiss chard, and beets, and I ended up with much more than a garden; it’s also a conversation piece, a local gathering place for neighbors passing by, a teaching center for children, and a chance to spread the joy of gardening.

But wait! The driveway surface is concrete. What’s the secret of succeeding with an annual garden bounty — a ton of fresh produce — in such a location? Why turn an automobile parking place (or basket-ball court, as the case may be) into a garden? Well, necessity is the mother of invention. You could also use a deck or a patio, or any place in your yard that gets good sun exposure.

Location and Creativity

When we moved from Pennsylvania to Raleigh, North Carolina, 26 years ago, one of the first jobs on my to-do list was to remove a 30-by-50-foot patch of sod on the side of the house for our new garden plot. The sun shone well on the spot we chose, and for 15 years we had a traditional dirt garden. Then, because of the ever-growing trees in the yard, our garden spot began getting less and less sun, and production began to drop off.  An area that gets at least six hours of direct sun will work for a garden plot, but when that hourly exposure drops to four hours or less, it can devastate a harvest.

Not having a productive garden was too depressing to consider. Scanning our property for a place where the sun shone adequately revealed that our driveway was the prime location. Clearly, removing concrete wasn’t practical, but using the space by growing our garden in containers was just the ticket. Then, a few years ago, we added straw bales to the mix.

Anything and everything that can be grown in a traditional dirt or raised-bed garden can succeed when using containers or straw bales. The key to success is in understanding the needs of the particular crop type: its optimum root zone (dimension-wise), watering and feeding needs, and means of support (if it’s a vertical or vining crop). Figuring all that out took a few years of experimentation along with a bit of logic and research. We’re so pleased with the results that it’s hard to imagine going back to the typical dirt garden plot.

Planting Options and Growing Techniques

Traditional dirt gardens, raised beds, containers, straw bales, hydroponics, greenhouses, and vertical gardening arrays are some of the many options to adapt your gardening plans to the infinite possibilities of yards, conditions, and growing zones. Any of these options will work well given some trial, experimentation, and patience. Most gardeners are familiar with an in-the-ground dirt garden, and many install raised beds. Adding containers and straw bales to your gardening tool belt will increase your options, and allow you to grow something great wherever the sun shines best in your yard. Just make sure you jump into new growing techniques gradually, as each has its own set of considerations to learn for maximum enjoyment and success.



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