Making Driveway Gardens (With A New Rototiller)

May 29, 2015

I’ve had driveway gardens on my mind a lot lately.  We featured the makeover of Jim Douthit’s driveway in the summer issue of PITH + VIGOR — and then I was asked to be a contributor for Martha Stewart’s Website (a bit of exciting news for me!) – I’ll be sharing some of the Before & After projects that I have done for years.  As a kick off post, I decided to share more of Jim’s story over there too (I’ll share that post as soon as it is live!).  But also, I am reworking my own driveway gardens.


Here in New England (and anywhere else that has large amounts of winter snow) the garden areas around driveways (or any area that will be plowed or cleared of snow) need special consideration as the plowing, snow removal piles, remnant debris, and general winter traffic flow have big impacts on plant choices and layout.

My driveway is non-standard – it is long and at some points quite steep and it requires a sharp right hand turn to get into the garage at the top.  It drains at the turning corner and the snow plow pile that also sits in this area is epic (this year it was more than 25 feet tall).   When we bought the house 10 years ago, this snow plow area had lots of plants and was some of the few garden areas that we inherited from the previous owners.  But, because of the snow, these gardens are constantly damaged and filled with debris and weeds that I am tired of fighting.


I’ve been working with Troy-bilt this year to tryout some of their new equipment and removing these gardens and preparing them to be replaced with a more manageable grass strip seemed like the perfect project to test out their new Bronco Axis Vertical Tine Rototiller.

I have never been a garden rototiller using person.  I rented one many years ago to create my first vegetable garden and I have never been inclined to put myself through that physical torture again.  If you are a rototiller user I am sure you can relate to the jerking and bucking that is common and which requires a firm hand to manage.  That day is seared in my mind as being particularly unpleasant; I’ve since opted instead for a methodical shovelling regime whenever I have needed to really work the soil.

But there are advantages to a tiller.  It is faster, it is more consistent and I am happy to say, that with this new tiller it is possible to do the job without feeling like you’ve been in a car accident at the end of the day.

Here is the difference – The Bronco Axis has completely changed the way a tiller works. Instead of tines that are back to back, positioned at the front of the machine, and which twist in a way that causes them to come in and out of the soil as they turn, the new tiller is more like egg beaters.  The tines (which really do resemble egg beaters more than traditional tines) are at the back and once they sink into the soil (digging in from the top and never coming out until you are done) they basically self propel through the soil. By comparison, it’s like cutting butter with a hot knife.

There are a few drawbacks to the new tiller but I am, regardless, a convert.  This machine is much more powerful than any other tiller on the market, but that means that the equipment is much heavier.  I am constantly wanting to manhandle the thing and physically force it to move nimbly.  I’m a strong gurrrl, but this isn’t possible.  It is too heavy and it also has brakes that must be released to get things to roll freely.  It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it (and stop trying to fight it) and use the forward and backward controls as they are meant, it is easy.  Just don’t ask to borrow it, because I don’t know how we would get it in and out of the back of a truck (w/o some serious man-muscles).

The driveway bed is about half cleared.  I am awaiting the end of bloomtime for some Peonies and Allium before I transplant them elsewhere (they don’t generally want to be moved while in flower). I’ve already moved a huge hydrangea, lots of daffodil bulbs, sage, Sedum, carnations, irises and Euphorbia and then I took after the invasive matt of gooseneck loosestrife that remained with the tiller and solved that problem really fast.  Once the remaining plants are out-of-the-way, more grass seed will be planted so that the edge of the driveway will be a much less precious patch of turf – ready for the beating it will endure.  No longer will I worry over the Hydrangea getting pummeled with the plow, or the incessant weeds and leftover muck that strangled less hardy plants. And no longer will my barefeet have to traverse a hot driveway to get from one side to the other.  I look forward to keeping this area nice with a swipe of the mower and I’m not sure I would have done the work without the tiller – it was quite alot of clearing and it was a whole lot easier than with the shovel.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Troy-bilt.  I am not an employee of Troy-bilt and all opinions are my own.  Images: Rochelle Greayer and PITH + VIGOR

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  1. That’s beautiful Rochelle! We’re moving to Maine soon and I’m going to keep this idea in mind. And congrats on rubbing elbows with Martha! Very nice!

  2. Hi Rochelle! It seems that you have worked really hard and I’m eagerly waiting to see the blooms in your garden. Hope you’ll give an updated article on that. And congrats!

    • The Editor says:

      Hi Nowshin – I will give an update when things grow in a bit (it all dirt right at the moment) – but I did rip out alot of perrenials to replace with lawn….perhaps not the blooms you are expecting.

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