The edible garden on asphalt

woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)June 8, 2010

To answer some of Ei's questions and show how we 'do' veggies...:-)

Since our only really sunny place is in the front yard and most of that is taken up with flowers, we have largely resorted to pots. We mainly grow things for snacking and rely on the local farmers' markets when we need larger volumes.

Peas are the veggies we both most look forward to in spring so that is our #1 priority for sowing in spring. Peas are cool season crops and need to be sown early while the soil is cool. We planted ours April 4th. We planted 6 pots (only 5 showing in the picture below)

Each pot has a different variety, with the varieties chosen based on days to maturity to spread the 'crop' over 3+ weeks. Actually, this spring's odd weather seems to have messed things up because the earliest pot is just maturing now, which is about two weeks late.

Peas do not grow well or germinate in heat so the peas are finished by the end of June/early July. Plant breeding has improved things a bit so there are more varieties now with longer days to maturity and ones that you can plant in mid-late August for a fall crop. We don't bother with a fall crop because we use some of the current year's pea pots to root strawberry runners to keep the strawberries going. The peas fix nitrogen so make good soil to start the strawberries. At the end of this summer we discard the oldest pots of strawberries and add the new ones since strawberries produce their maximum crops in years 2 and 3.

Strawberries grow well in pots. We have about 5-6 strawberry pots and they can give us almost a pint a day when they are at their peak. We mainly just eat them on our cereal for breakfasts so aren't looking for a big crop! They are almost finished producing berries for this year now but they will keep producing runners that we will root into the peas pots in August.

We also have the little alpine strawberries throughout the front flowerbed. Randy picks those as they ripen and freezes them. When he gets enough in the freezer, he makes jam with them! Almost as good as real wild strawberry jam!

Beans are very susceptible to rot if the seeds are planted in cold soil. If the soil is 60F, seed treated with fungicide may do OK but the temperature should be 65F or more for untreated seed - even treated seed is better planted into warm soil. Daytime temperatures are good now but nighttime is still a little cool.

We'll probably plant on Friday. The biggest problems I've had with pole beans in pots is that you NEED 8' poles for them, and two pots produce more than we can eat!

Randy LOVES to grow garlic. It grows well in pots (planted in fall and stored in the garage for the winter) but I also find it tucked into the front flowerbeds anywhere he sees an empty space ! Note the wheeled platform so he can wheel it around to get maximum sun... He's already harvested the scapes from them - they make tasty stir-fried veggies to go with steak or other meat.

We certainly like home-grown tomatoes but have no room for them really. We've never been successful with them in pots. So we just grow a few for snacking, mostly Sweet Million cherry tomatoes, which are the most disease resistant we've found and produce way more than we can eat! This year we're also growing a Brandywine big tomato to see how that goes. There is just a small space at the end of the herb bed where there's room for 4 plants. Since we don't have room for rotation, Randy digs out a lot of the 'old' soil and replaces it with compost before planting the current year's plants.

Window boxes do well for things like baby carrots, lettuce, bunching onions - even leeks one year. Here's two of Randy's neat little mixed veggie pots:

This is probably the last year we will grow blueberries in pots. They do so-so because we tend to forget to keep the soil acid enough! Too fussy to bother with anymore... They have just started to set green berries:

This pot is an experiment - a neighbor grows HOT peppers and puts out his excess seedlings on the curb for anyone who wants to take them. Randy picked up a few and stuck them in a pot with some cilantro. We'll see how they do...

We grow whatever strikes our fancy. We tried watermelons twice but they weren't worth the effort. Zucchini did far too well! Leeks grew well but weren't worth the effort. Strawberry popcorn was fun but also not worth repeating. We have fun experimenting with our little veggie garden!

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Full_Bloom(z5 IL)

Wow Woody...kudos to you on such a creative way to veggie garden.I am amazed at how many veggies can actually be grown that way and admire the way you've kept on with the trial & error to discover what really works for you. That's how I'm looking at my veggie garden this an experiment - learning what will be the most gratifying veggies - the ones I have the most success with and also what didn't do well for me. My garden is kind of a quasi square foot, raised bed organic garden and I'm totally newbie to it, but excited to learn.

That pic of you standing next ot your pole beans is *amazing*! I guess I should have mentioned that my beans are "bush" green beans. They are yummy, but now I want to grow some of your pole type beans! :-) How many beans do you have growing in each pot? What kind of pole did you make for your beans? I'm excited to think that I could get all the green beans I want from one pole bean!

I *love* the window box idea...they are very neat and actually I think they make a very attractive and appealing little window box, that I would definitely be proud to hang on one of my windows...maybe with just a touch of something flowering in them. :-)

Why wasn't the watermelon worth the effort? Are they a lot of work? I bought a watermelon plant and a cantalope plant without knowing anything about how to grow them. I hope I'll have some success?

I'm growing blueberries too...really nice bushes I got from a place in Maine; Nourse Gardens. They helped me pick the varieties that they thought would adapt best to my area (my soil pH is 6.5). They did tell me that I may may need to supplement with some soil sulfur, but thought I just might get away with the soil I have and in any case, I should wait to add anything until later in the season. I did buy some blueberry fertilizer from them for later, but can't think of the name of it right now. Anyway, I'm just thrilled with the quality of the plants I got from them. I also ordered asparagus & strawberries from them too. I am totally happy with everything I got from them. The asparagus plants were big with mind blowing sized roots and the plants already made aparagus (although I was told not to harvest and they are already making flowers which I was told not to cut off). The strawberries were also just beautiful and immediately began leafing out...I even have flowers on them now, but I think I'm suppose to pinch them that right? Or, can I let them make strawberries this year?

Geez...I'm sorry...I guess I sound like a veggie nerd; huh? It's just all so exciting and *new* to me! :-)

Anyway, like I said I am just beginning my veggie garden life, so I will probably have other questions I hope you won't mind answering. One thing that has been on my mind. I remember reading that tomatoes should not be grown in the same place from year to year? Now I'm wondering if I should change the soil in the raised where the tomatoes grow next spring? I would like to plant the tomatoes in the same place next year.

Anyway, thanks Woody for taking the time to post this all and sharing it with us, I've *really* enjoyed seeing and reading all about it.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 6:15PM
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gardenbug(Canada zone 5)

Things are looking very good down your way! Here it is cooler and mostly weeds are growing. The tomato plants have a few blooms, the eggplants need way more heat, the beets are up but not the chard. The asparagus is finished and there's way more rhubarb than I can use. I bought a natural sugar replacement I'm going to try for cooking some of the rhubarb. We'll see.
I too gave up on fiddling with blueberries.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 6:16PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Ei - the beans needing warm soil is the same for bush although I think they are a bit tougher. You obviously have a sheltered spot plus the raised beds allow the soil to warm up faster. The pots are effectively raised beds and the driveway collects and retains heat fo that helps the pots.

I used 8' bamboo poles to make a teepee using 4-5 poles. The first year I used 6' poles and the beans spilled over the top and ment roaming around! 8' is the minimum! I way overplant the beans (and peas) in the pots so don't have any idea how many are in the pots - I just cover the top of the pot with beans, leaving some space between them and then cover them with some more soil. (Soak the beans - and peas - overnight in water before planting and idelly add innoculant when planting beans or peas.) In the ground, rows might be easier although a teepee would work nicely too in a square-foot arragement. This year we'll have one pot of climbing green beans and one of yellow.

Watermelons are fussy - need two compatable types for cross pollination, need lots and lots of heat, shouldn't be watered with cold water and need very rich soil. I think the people who have most success with them grow them on the compost heap!

Blueberries are a nostagia thing for me. I grew up with wild blueberries all over the place and my summer job after year 1 of university was working on a blueberry research project crossing high and low bush types and assessing previous crosses. Since the research facility was in 'the middle of nowhere', I boarded for the summer with a local dairy farmer and family. He told all his diary-farmer friends that I did AI (Artificial Insemination) on blueberries! Highbush blueberries tolerate less than ideal acidity better than lowbush but definitely do better with proper pH. In the pots we use the soil acidifier sold to make hydrangeas blue. But it needs to be repeated several times over the summer as the pH drops - the water here is on the alkaline side so you have to keep checking the pH of the pots - and I forget to do that... It's easier to just buy blueberries from the farmers' market. We have to have blueberries from somewhere to make 'grandma's blueberry shortcake'. Yummy stuff!

Asparagus is GB territory :-) I've never grown it....

Strawberries - yes, you shouldn't let them produce the year they are planted (but I always cheat and at least let one produce... :-) You need to do some reading on how to set up in an efficient way to grow them because they only crop well in the first year or two after planting and then the mother plants need removing. If you set it up right, the daughters (runners) are ready to take over by the time the mothers get removed. (The blueberry project was located in the facility that also provided/multiplied foundation strawberry plants for commercial sale...)

Tomatoes - and many other things - shouldn't be grown in the same ground each year or diseases and pests will build up in the soil. That's why you do crop rotation. In a small enough planting you could replace the soil but that would be a PITA/impossible for a bigger area. Pay attention/learn how to 'read' the initials after variety names that indicate what they are resistant too and buy the most resistant varieties. Will you be growing them from seed?

I forgot to mention - we tried cucumbers in the pots but they didn't like it - too many disease problems. They used to grow well in the ground at our previous house. Chelsea, our Golden at the time, loved them and we'd often catch her coming out of the garden with a cucumber in her mouth, trailing 8-10' of vines behind her!

GB - I've been buying rhubarb at the farmers' market - and trading Zoe's owner dog cookies for rhubarb! Our rhubarb has petered out - too much shade... but rhubarb is one of those things I MUST have! We went looking for some non-dessert recipes to use rhubarb. We tried one that put it under the skin to bake chicken - odd but not bad. Then we tried one that was a beef stew with lots of rubarb in the sauce - tender meat but distinctly odd! I'll think we'll stick to dessert:-)

    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 9:39PM
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Woody, what an interesting essay on your methods of veggie gardening. I appreciated the info on the strawberries. I planted some in Kenzie's garden 2 years ago. I also have some of the alpine strawberries also. You are creative and sure have gotten it down to a science.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 11:04PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Michelle and Ei - I went looking for a link that would describe the easiest way I know to grow strawberries in the ground and keep them renewed. I couldn't find what I was looking for. It's a variation on a matted row system. I'll try to describe it in words... Plant the mother plants in rows spaced 3-4' apart. As the runners develop, train some of them to fill in around the mother plants in the first year and direct the others into the center of the space between the rows (so you end up with a third row - daughter plants - between the two rows of mother plants). In the second year direct most of the runners into the daughter plant row. When the mother plants finish cropping in the third year (or fourth if they're still producing well in year 3) dig out the mother plants, refresh the soil with compost and start training the runners from the daughter row (now the mother row) into the space you just refreshed. When the new daughter row has cropped well for a few years and the starting rows are filled again and starting to crop, remove the center row of now older plants, refresh the soil and start training the runners back into the center row. Once you understand the concept, you can adjust it so it's not going from two rows to one and back to two but two rows to two rows and back to two rows in the original place. It's all a matter of where to train the runners to. You can of course simply cut off rooted runners and move them to were you want the daughter rows to be. And in a small space garden, that is in fact probably the easiest thing to do. June bearers produce more runners than everbearing so it's easier to grow everbearing ones in mounds and transplant some rooted runners to where you want the daughter mounds to be. The main issue is that if you don't plan to eliminate the older plants every few years, the bed will decline in productivity and berry sizes will shrink as the plants exhaust themselves. My pot system works very well to easily manage the process - just label the pots with the year the runners were rooted and compost the contents after they finish cropping after year three. How you manage the process is flexible - do what works for you. The important thing is knowing that you can't just let them run wild and expect to keep having good crops.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 10:06AM
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Full_Bloom(z5 IL)

Woody I am so appreciative of you taking all this time to help the newbie. Thank you soooo much. I had to print out the strawberry information and re-read it a few time. You did a great job explaining the strawberry thing to meI just have always had a hard time with comprehension of written instructions. But I think I get it now. The daughter runners should be planted near the mothers and when the mother runner is out of steam you use the daughter runner to take her place. And then you just keep repeating the process. It sounds pretty simple..we'll see how I! Wow Woody, you've certainly led a diverse and interesting life. How nice that youÂve helped blueberries to produce :-) I can see I will be off to get some 8 foot bamboo stakes... Again, thank you so much with sharing all your knowledge and experience it means a lot to me.

BTW your peas look *wonderful*. Mine are looking quite so robust, but they are flowering.


    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 8:30PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Ei - you're welcome - I'm glad you find the info useful - I hope it works for you. Think of the strawberries as generations of people - mothers have daughters who grow up to have daughters of their own while the mother ages and ultimately fades away and dies. It's the 'wheel of life' thing. There's always some in the prime of life, some fading away and some youngsters waiting in the wings. Your job is to manage the manage the transitions to get the most out of the natural aging process. Good luck.

Yes, my education and career took some odd turns:-) When I went off to university at 18 in 1975, I intended to be a vet. When my career ended in 1997 when I went on LTD, I was one of those reviled things - a titled officer in a bank...:-)

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 9:23PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Ei - the pea harvest from today:
In the shell:


The earliest maturing pot of peas is now finished and we're working on consuming the next two which are ripening pretty much together. Peas grow well in the pots. So do the climbing beans - they sprouted about 2 days ago and are growing rapidly. How's your veggie garden growing?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 9:21PM
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gardenbug(Canada zone 5)

Fresh peas would never last til photo taking time at our house! Mmmmmm....

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 6:26AM
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deanneart(z5Southern NH)

Wow Woody!!! You've really gotten this down to a science! Love your methods of growing veggies in pots. Terrific! Thanks for the photos and information. Fantastic

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 6:38AM
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Thanks for sharing. I really like some of the ideas you present and can see us using some of them. We have been battling the deers which love our veggies, but you've given me great ideas for growing on our raised deck where they would not be able to munch on our goodies.

A couple of questions...
What type of soil do you use? Would one be able to 'cheat' on the soil quantity by filling the bottom 1/4 of the big pots with shredded leaves or a filler of sorts?
Do you fertilize your contained veggies and with what?
Would sunshine from noon until 6 pm be enough for most things? I'm presently growing Dahlias, Petunias and the like on this deck so I figure this amount of sunshine would be OK for most things.

Thank-you!! :O)

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 9:27PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Tiffy - I'm glad you find the ideas useful... The soil in the pots is ordinary potting soil that has the 'water crystals' in it, mixed with some home-made compost so that it's about 2/3 potting soil and 1/3 compost. If you add more compost than that, the soil can get very heavy and not drain well. If you want to use more compost, get some bags of perlite to mix in to aid the drainage. I use some slow-release perennial fertilizer for the strawberries and fertilize the blueberries with rhododendron fertilizer. I also use the soil acidifier used for turning hydrangeas blue for the blueberry pots. For the annual vegetables, we just use some slow-release annual fertilizer, except for peas and beans which don't get fertilized because they make their own! It's not very precise - we just 'wing it'... Re light - more would be better but you've nothing much to lose by trying. Tomatoes have never done well in pots for me and I doubt that they, and other hot season veggies, would be happy in that amount of light. But I'd guess that some of the cool season crops like lettuce and peas would be fine.

Our peas have been finished for a couple of weeks now and Randy has harvested the pot of garlic (but not the garlic in the ground). In early August we will root strawberry runners into some of the pea pots. The pole beans are climbing fast but the cool weather in early June set them back a bit. The carrot crop has been excellent this year as has the lettuce, although the lettuce will be bolting soon in this heat.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 10:13PM
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