How do I turn a driveway into a veggie garden?

tsheets(5)May 3, 2009

As strange as it sounds, the subject is pretty much spot on!

I went over to till up a new garden spot for my girlfriend today. It turns out that the chosen spot used to have a dog kennel there with rock/gravel as a base. She knew there was some gravel there, but, it had grown over with grass and some dirt...if you didn't know it was there, you would never guess there was ever a bed of rock in that location.

Well, anyway, I start tilling and it's probably 80% gravel. The kind of stuff you would see in a gravel driveway, probably about an inch in size on average.

Now, we're trying to figure out what to do. I was thinking we could either haul out the rock and replace it with something, or just add something to amend it and have the bed raised a bit. I wondered if the gravel would be good for aeration / drainage, or would be detrimental to the plants.

Which direction would you recommend? And in either case, what would you replace / amend with?

Thanks much for any help, and feel free to let me know if there's a better forum to ask or if I haven't provided enough information.

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I'd go with a raised bed.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2009 at 10:05PM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

It really does sound qutie ideal for a raised bed particularly if your in a clay or bad drainage area it will not harm the plants any

    Bookmark   May 3, 2009 at 10:11PM
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yeah, i agree, i saw a thing on tv where some people pretty much buried a gravel parking lot in compost and railrd ties, their plants are thriving. the compost will break up soil below, and keep gettn better everyyear. do some good research on organic practices, cuz it tends to focus on the soil, and this is something you need to focus on.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2009 at 10:13PM
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I think I would remove about 4" of gravel and bring in 12" of topsoil. I guess you would need to tell us what your long-term plans are. Do you use a tiller? Do you have a compost pile? How much compost to you make?

If you're not a somewhat serious composter, I'd dig the gravel out and bring in some good quality topsoil and plan on running a tiller to maintain the soil.

By the way, what is your native soil like? Clay? Loam?

I make about four cubic yards of compost a year and I amend my clay soil with it, so I don't use a tiller. My beds are raised, not because I intended to have raised beds, just because of the amount of material that I've added. I scratch compost into the surface in the spring and fall.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2009 at 11:25PM
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Thanks for your responses!

I was kind of thinking of going with slightly raised beds (not the ones that are completely above...just 6" - 1ft).

The actual dirt there, *looks* pretty decent, just not much of it. :-) *My* garden spot, on the other hand, is mostly clay. Been working on that a little each year.

I don't think she really had plans to be strictly organic. But, aside from the learning curve, don't think she'd be against it, either.

I was thinking of removing several inches of the rocky stuff that is there, but, it seems like a lot of work (will have to do it by hand..shovel and wheelbarrow) and I got to wondering if it would be just fine with some compost thrown over / mixed in.

I do have a 24" front tine tiller, but, no compost pile. That is something I was looking into over the Winter and going to try and get going this year. I don't have a lot of material myself, though. So, will have to scrounge for it to have enough to get a decent pile going.

So, at this point, the plan would be to contain the area with landscape timbers/railroad ties, maybe 6-8" high, fill with compost (probably 1 pickup load for starters) and till it in. We may remove a couple of inches of the rock.

Any other thoughts / ideas? Does this sound like a good plan?

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 12:55PM
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If you fill the 6-8" raised area with compost you probably don't need to mess with tilling or removing the rock.

You may want to check out square foot gardening.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 3:13PM
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I just started my veggie garden in the place where a driveway ran 120 years ago and as recent as 15 years ago. We tilled it, removed gravel chunks as much as we could and keep our sanity, added a truckload of B.S. (aged) and 2 truckloads of compost from the city. Not only was there gravel, there was lime (I think it had been "lime rock" at one time). The plants have been in the ground for a week and are thriving.

I did not, however, bother to grow carrots as the roots would have been cattywumpus.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 12:30AM
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mattjjd24(4 upstate NY)

I faced exactly your situation when I built my garden. I had a compacted gravel driveway. What I did was build some raised beds out of 2 X 12 boards. I then dug down through all the rock, which was about 6-8 inches, to the subsoil below. I broke this up with a garden fork, and then had my topsoil brought in. I then ammended it with composted cow manure.

It was a TON of work. GREAT exercize. (I like to look at the positives). I didnt want to leave any rock becaue I wanted the roots to have as much room to expand as they wanted. Now I've got at least 3 feet of friable soil in a raised bed which drains very well. I'm happy.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 10:50AM
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