Monday, September 07, 2009

Garden Where You Can!

Guest blog by Rachel Shaw

After several years of struggling to grow tomatoes in a backyard that’s just a bit too shady, I’ve started a driveway garden for my warm weather crops. We have a gravel driveway that gets lots of sun, with more than enough room for our one car, so this location works pretty well.

Planting tomatoes in pots wouldn't be my first choice, especially as I want full size indeterminant heirloom tomatoes, not the more manageable patio size plants. This means the tomatoes have to be supported in the pots. I used tomato ladders, tall/narrow u-shaped cages. They worked pretty well, though when the vines got heavy they had to be tied to the cages to keep them from breaking under their own weight. Next year, I’ll try a little more aggressive pruning when the plants are small. The other disadvantage of pot growing is the necessity for daily watering; on very hot days two waterings may be needed.

The upside of growing in pots is that the tomatoes get a steady supply of moisture, which they like, and which helps prevent blossom end rot. And it's easy to provide good soil -- I used half finished compost and half potting soil for mine. Fresh soil means there's less likelihood of fungal diseases that affect tomatoes. These can remain in regular garden soil over a period of several years, once tomato plants have been infected. The recommendation for in-ground gardens is to plant in different locations from year to year, but that can be hard to do with a small yard.

The really fun experiment has been growing watermelon and butternut squash in containers. The vines spill over the containers, of course, and spread out along the ground. I don’t exactly have a prolific crop: two “Moon and Stars” watermelon and two butternut squash. I think the watermelon will be harvestable. The squash are still small, but I’m hopeful.

All in all I’m happy with the driveway garden, and plan to expand it next year. Okra, Malabar spinach, even beans – why not?

Rachel Shaw gardens in Rockville, MD and blogs at Rachel is on the Washington Gardener Magazine's Volunteer Reader Panel, a group of readers that review books for the magazine, tests products, gives content feedback, amd much more. To join the Volunteer Reader Panel or to submit a Guest Blog, send a note to

1 comment:

Ginny said...

I love the idea of maximizing space by using containers. For two years in a row I've grown cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets on my front porch -- but this year they did very poorly. Any advice on varieties that would work better?