Using old driveway as garden/patio -- need ideas!

javamom66July 25, 2010

We want to use our old asphalt driveway as a garden space and I am seeking ideas. After reading these forums I thought to paint the drive with tennis court paint and use as a patio, but the asphalt is too broken and rough to paint. Eventually we would like to remove the asphalt and replace with pavers, but that is not in the current budget.

The space is roughly 14 feet wide by about 50 feet long (hope to post photos tomorrow if it is not raining). The rest of the yard is an in-ground pool and decking, so this is the only space to add significant "green." One side is bordered by a privacy fence separating our drive from the neighbors. The other side is bordered by a long wooden deck that steps down to the drive the entire length. I can use part of those steps to cluster containers, if needed.

This spring I created some 12" tall raised beds which we placed along the fence separating our driveway from our neighbors. Not bad for a first attempt -- learned a lot! My husband would like to create more raised beds to place in the middle of the driveway, but I am worried about having a hodge podge look. I also learned that the wooden raised beds "leak" dirt on the uneven pavement and create a muddy, dirty mess on the drive. Need to find a fix for that before creating more, or use something else.

We do use some of the drive as a patio space with a firepit and wooden outdoor seating. While this exact same arrangement looked just fine on my old patio, it looks a bit lost and out of place on the larger drive.

After looking through countless books, I think we need to create diffent areas or garden rooms in this space, but I am at a loss of how to do that. It seems to be container gardening on a scale that is a bit overwhelming. Would love to see how others have landscaped a completely hard, flat, and rather long surface! And yes, cost is very much a factor. :-)

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karinl(BC Z8)

First you might consider reading the book linked below... Gardening on pavement, tables, and hard surfaces. I don't have it at my fingertips to flip through it to remind myself of what's in it, but you might find some ideas in it or at least some info on growing plants in those circumstances. Although if your raised beds are deep enough, it might not be an issue. Also look in landscape books and magazines what people have done with long narrow yards - the principles will be similar.

I think your idea of clustering containers at certain parts might work to break up the image of a long narrow space if you put them adjoining "beds" that you create on the drive itself. Then it will look as if the beds extend beyond the boundaries of the drive. I'd also try to create opportunities to cross the drive and be one one side facing across it, rather than opportunities to walk and look along it. You might even create complete barriers between sections, whether with plants or something else, requiring a person to step onto the adjoining steps to get by them.

Making your wooden raised beds dirt proof might be accomplished by putting a bottom layer of gravel before adding dirt, and perhaps by putting (gag) landscape fabric under the dirt on top of the gravel. I hate that fabric, even the feel of it, but if ever there was an application for it, this might be it.

A photo will certainly help with ideas and their application.


Here is a link that might be useful: George Schenk book

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 7:25PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

You can divide the driveway into "rooms" with "walls" of raised beds or occasional plants in large pots.

Your firepit patio area is one of those garden rooms. This is an excellent place for raised bed "walls." You might also use an outdoor rug to delineate the space -- or if the budget will stretch that far, put down some sand or crushed rock (or whatever the experts say is appropriate) to even out the asphalt, and add pavers to make the "patio." The cheap pavers I buy at Lowe's for stepping stones are just under $3.00 per square foot. Probably at the right time of year, theyd be on sale.

If that's beyond the budget, try Craigslist, Freecycle, your local Habitat for Humanity store, etc., for whatever someone's giving away or selling cheaply. If you see a building being demolished, ask if there are any bricks or pavers you could have (this saves on their dumping cost). Mention it to everyone, and you'll have a better chance of finding something.

I've seen photos of hardscape made from mixed types of bricks and/or pavers. To me, it seems to look best if you either have a pattern (for example, one type in the center, another on the outside) or mix everything really well. However, since you'd be working on a hard surface, IÂm assuming it would be difficult to do this unless all your different pavers/bricks were the same thickness.

What are you growing in the raised beds? Veggies, flowers? Is there a purpose for the raised beds other than to disguise and make use of the old driveway? That purpose might be a consideration in designing the "garden."

Plot out possible arrangements on graph paper and see what works best with the space you have. You can cut different-sized beds from colored paper and move them around the graph paper. To avoid boring rows, use L-shaped beds with a path that meanders back and forth between them. Have beds of different sizes and/or heights. Add a change of pace with a large pot in the corner between two raised beds. Or a birdbath at the end of a bed or in a small open area. Or in a larger space, a secondhand garden bench. Add surprises with an occasional bit of garden art (itÂs okay to make your own).

Karen makes a good point about disguising the boundary between the former driveway and the rest of the yard: try to create opportunities to cross the drive and be on one side facing across it, rather than opportunities to walk and look along it. You might even create complete barriers between sections, whether with plants or something else, requiring a person to step onto the adjoining steps to get by them.

If the wooden deck doesnÂt border the entire driveway, another way to do this would be to place some of the raised beds so they are partly on the driveway and extend a few feet beyond the driveway. Or plant a tree next to the driveway that will hang over the driveway and blur the boundary.

With the right tools, you could even excavate part of the driveway and plant a tree there!

A possible answer for the leaking-dirt problem is to make mulch "paths" between the raised beds. When the mulch decays, add it to the beds. [You may be able to get free mulch from utilities pruning around power lines; or ask your countyÂs Cooperative Extension Service for possibilities in your area.]

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 11:19PM
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Thanks for the helpful replies! The book is very interesting! I'm trying to learn how to post photos because that will better illustrate some of the parameters I have to work within. The drive is bordered on all sides by stuff -- no land.

I so wish pavers or mulch were an option for the overall space. I might be able to somehow enclose the fire pit area and add some sort of mulch or pavers for that area.

The front of the drive is bordered by an open metal fence, so we have issues with needing the gate to swing open and mulch leaking out beneath the fence. The back of the drive is bordered by a dilapidated garage that houses bikes, mowers, kayak, etc., so we need to maintain some sort of clear pathway to move stuff from from the back to the front.

I am growing mostly veggies and some flowers. I like a casual approach, mixing flowers and veggies together. Anxious to post photos because there is a lot going on in this rather small space and I'm afraid of making things look too cluttery. I think some strong, clean design is needed to make everything work together and not feel hodge podge.

In doing some research it looks like "asphalt farming" or "rooftop farming" are the most analogous to my situation, but we also need the space to function as a patio, not just plant production.

I'm struggling with finding containers that work well and look nice but are also budget friendly. Would love ideas!! I'm open to construction, but am not super skilled.

One resource suggested lining the bottoms of raised beds and containers with the dreaded landscape fabric to keep dirt run off to a minimum. I'm going to try retrofitting my existing beds with the fabric as I get them ready for fall planting.


    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 10:29AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Inexpensive ideas for raised beds or large container gardens:

= DIY self-watering "Earth-tainer" containers. The preferred Rubbermaid brand storage containers aren't cheap, and in sunny climates are quickly degraded by UV rays. Many cover these containers with plastic bags, mylar "space blankets," foam insulation, etc., for a longer life. (I don't know how the generic storage containers rate for UV-resistance.) You can find detailed construction instructions on the Veggie, Tomato, and probably Container Gardening forums. If your containers don't need to be self-watering, you will save a lot on construction costs, time searching for parts, and construction time.

Also, Search "cheap," "inexpensive," 'homemade," etc., on those forums and see what comes up.

= Livestock water troughs; large plastic bins in which livestock salt/mineral supplements are packaged (kind of like giant washtubs). The main question is whether you can find any of them cheaply (you have an advantage because yours don't have to be water-tight).

= Barrels or similar containers: plastic/metal/fiberglass/cement. Generally, the food-grade ones aren't cheap, and the others may be too toxic, depending what they were used for and what they're made of (don't grow anything you intend to eat in rubber tires).

= Old hot tubs and wading pools. The shapes are often odd, and it's very difficult to disguise them.

= Chunks of old concrete sidewalks as a stone substitute You'll need some sort of liner to prevent dirt leaking out. Cinder blocks leak less, but may be beyond your budget. Used bricks probably need to be cemented together.

= Used large plastic pots from the garden center. May be cheap or even free.

Check garage sales, estate sales, etc. To make a variety of items seem more unified, paint them a single color.

Aha: so the real difficulty is that this space isn't truly available to become a patio-and-garden: it must still function as a roadway. The first thing you need to do is figure out how wide a path you need for conveying the bikes and equipment from the garage to the front yard. Then design the patio and garden areas around that need.

I'd still recommend making the "path" meander a bit. That will make it seem less like a disguised former driveway. Consider an arrangement like this: periods are the open asphalt path; each column of U's is a single raised bed along the side of the driveway; each row of ='s is a single raised bed perpendicular to the side of the driveway (these are in 3's, with narrow aisles between them to maximize growing space):


    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 7:36PM
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