Planting the Strip: Pros and Cons

Like most gardeners with small, suburban lots, I’m always on the look out for ways to maximize my annual planting. This year I have my eye on the sidewalk strip, the space between our city sidewalk and the street.

There are several pluses (and a few minuses) to planting there. I’m going to toss out both, and you can let me know what you think.

Pros:

  1. Full sun!  (Need I say more.) We have limited full sun in the backyard. I have a pair of raised beds tucked up against the back of the house and last year added a two moveable City Pickers.  Beyond that, the yard is either landscaped or shaded by large trees, or both. The sidewalk strip is prime, vegetable and flower real estate.
  2. A long, narrow strip. It’s perfect for vegetable gardening due to the already narrow space.  It would be easy to manage the box or boxes planted there.
  3. Water. The existing sprinkler system would be easy to tap into. My handy husband could run drip irrigation directly into the boxes.
  4. The view. I can see the strip from my kitchen window, and from the front deck.  A flower and vegetable bed is infinitely more interesting than grass.
  5. Additional yields.  More dirt, equals more fruits and vegetables.  I can taste those sweet tomatoes now.

Cons:

  1. Cost.  I no longer have the back to dig out heavy sod, nor the means of easily getting rid of it.  I would need to hire someone to dig out the existing lawn.  Additional costs include the raised bed (built or purchased), soil and seeds or plants.
  2. Public access. We have great neighbors who’ve openly expressed enjoyment when we’ve grown pumpkins and tomatoes in the front yard. Not everyone that walks by, however, will  respect the garden’s sanctity.
  3. Street parking.  The space in front of our house accommodates two cars. Maintaining my good-neighbor creed means maintaining continued access to those spots.
  4. Late-season doldrums.  Not everyone appreciates the messiness of a vegetable garden going to seed.
Sidewalk Strip

Sidewalk Strip (to the right of the Chinese Pistache

Lots to think about in the next few months.  I hope you’ll weigh in on the poll below.

25 thoughts on “Planting the Strip: Pros and Cons

  1. I didn’t fully agree with the “don’t do it” response that I chose because I’ve never been one to let the size of the “con” list stop me, but that was the only option for a “don’t do it” vote. I made that selection because of a single “con,” and that is the public location.

    This isn’t just in your front yard, it’s the part of the front yard most likely to be thought of by the public as “public.” About 25 years ago, I planted a plum tree in my front yard because of the full sun. I live on a corner, and this is the area between the driveway and both streets. I make jam every year, so I use most of the plums, including the ones that fall. Despite putting up a sign in two languages (!) that asks people to please not take it, including the ones that have fallen, because we use all of them, every year I watch passersby helping themselves! They almost never take the ones on the ground; they pick them right off the tree! I’ve even seen people SHAKE the tree!

    I think some don’t notice the sign and perhaps others can’t believe anything they can access isn’t “public.” Sometimes I just let it go, other times, I stick my head out the door and tell them they’re taking my food. Occasionally, people come to the door and ask if they can have some. I’m so grateful to those people, I always say yes. If I didn’t put up a sign and stick my head out, I would probably end up with almost none at all. The bottom line is that dealing with alll of this is a bother (not to mention the loss of faith in humanity), and if I had it to do over again, I would not have planted it in an area accessible by the public.

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  2. On the fence here, but I think I’m leaning more towards no. It would be an incredible amount of effort to put into a very small space. I think this is one of those projects that starts small but could quickly become more trouble than it’s worth. But hey, this is coming from a guy whose last attempt at gardening was killing his pea-plant in second grade.

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    • My condolences on the pea-plant, Will. There is another similar conversation going on on my Facebook timeline. So many other things I hadn’t thought of like neighborhood cats using it as a litter box, dogs using it as a urinal, people helping themselves assuming it is public property and finally, the fact that it’s actually an easement (meaning we’re responsible for it, but can be told what to do with it).

      Lots to digest. Thanks for joining the conversation.

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  3. I voted to plant the easement but everyone here has great comments. I’d be tempted to put in a perennial of some kind more than vegetables…a bed that begins with tulips, then lilies then iris’s….I also liked the beds of rudbeckia, alyssum and purple petunia at the Alberta Governor Generals house this summer…that would smell really nice. I don’t think they allow it to be planted in Edmonton…they don’t like the mowers to hit interruptions’ or something of that nature. I would love it if my neighbour made the effort to beautify the street. PS…your front yard is gorgeous. I think a front patio is really cool.

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    • Thanks for commenting, Boomdee. It seems the majority have concerns about people helping themselves to whatever I plant. 😦

      I love your planting combinations. I’ll need to look up redbeckia, but we’ve grown the rest and they are all quite pretty.

      Suzanne suggests using part of the lawn, an idea I would love to explore more.

      I’ve also read that some cities and municipalities actually prohibit growing vegetables in front of the house. Crazy.

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      • Does seem a bit much doesn’t it. A neighbourhood we like near the river valley has many beautiful side yards that have been tended lovingly, maybe they have their own community league that manages them? It’s a shame really, all the newer neighbourhoods don’t even have a boulevard. Your sidewalk ends on the front street…developers don’t want to make the investment I suppose.

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        • That is disappointing, not to mention unsafe. The strip is a nice barrier between pedestrians and passing cars. People walking dogs, babies in a stroller, or even a toddler, or force to walk that much closer to cars. Sad.

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          • I never thought of it that way but you are absolutely right Alys. The city is all on board with the new building regime, less public space means more houses, means more taxes. Last year half a neighbourhood of brand new houses burn’t down when one caught fire…they are built so close together. We would never invest in a home in those areas but I understand why they appeal to young families

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  4. I had to vote “no” but not because I personally think it’s a bad idea. I think it’s a great idea. However, after living for 20 years on a rural road, at the dead end turn around, I’ve seen too much of how disrespectful a lot of the public is of our natural spaces, let alone our own private property that butts up against it. Sorry, but that’s just the ugly truth of it at this point in time. Hopefully more people will become a liitle more enlightened as time goes on.

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    • I love your handle, ‘sensiblegardening’. Thanks for weighing in.

      It’s disappointing to hear so many stories like yours. I’m sorry to hear strangers have disrespected your private space as well as the nature around you. In the end, I’m saddened at the general disrespect, period. We sure weren’t raised that way.

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  5. Thoughts on planting the strip – Dogs and passers by – Dogs will leave deposits – and not the bank kind – passers by will pick your flowers. In looking at your photo of your lovely front garden I notice that you have a lot of LAWN – how about converting your lawn to something else? You could plant veggies mixed with flowers closer in to your house in your current lawn area (full sun) – and thereby thwart all but the most brazen flower pickers and fruit/veggie thieves…

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    • Hi Sue! Thanks for commenting. I would be happy to do away with the lawn altogether, but my husband feels differently. When the boys were young it made sense. They ran, skipped, slip-n-slided, etc. and the grass got lots and lots of use. Now they are far more attached to anything with a small ‘i’ in front of it.

      I’ll explore this with hubby again. I think it’s a wonderful idea.

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  6. I think the idea is lovely but I voted no…. I try not to sit on the fence anymore as my bum gets sore!!! Over here we usually have enclosed front gardens so it’s so much easier to grow edible plants and keep dogs, foxes and exuberant teenagers from spoiling the produce. I agree with Suzanne – how about planting beans to climb over your side gate and put some hanging baskets of herbs and trailing tomatoes by the door?
    You could try underplanting the tree with flowers and see if they survive first… I wouldn’t plant edibles there as dogs love trees LOL!! I must confess however that I am biased – being English I can’t resist a nice bit of lawn! Interesting post Alys and your poll will be useful x

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    • PJ, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I love English gardens. They are all so lush from the damp and rain. Yes, dogs do love trees! Good point. I’ve also learned that heavy plantings at the base of a tree aren’t always a good idea, either, from a water perspective. Flowers need a lot more water than an established tree, so if you plant under the drip line you end up stressing the tree.

      There surely is a lot to think about and many votes. Last I checked they were close to even, with yes pulling ahead by two votes. Lots of comments on Facebook, too.

      Glad you are “staying off the fence.” 🙂

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      • This is SO interesting Alys and it shows you what a varied bunch of nice people gardeners are. What I failed to take into consideration was your climate! Because it rains a lot here and keeps the grass green I forgot that other people have sunny, dry weather 🙂
        Whatever you choose to do will be good – just doing something different is exciting! I have a bed to plant next to the garage and I’m going to do a post and ask for opinions too – as I’m rather stuck so thanks for the idea.

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        • Thanks for saying so, PJ. I love the outpouring of ideas people have shared. It’s great to get so many opinions. Lots of things I hadn’t thought about. I’m going to write a follow up post.

          By the way, when I asked my husband if he read it he said “yes” he had and that he voted ‘no.” That generated even more conversation, thought it seems he was worried I was planning on growing meandering pumpkins on the strip.

          Hee!

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  7. I voted ‘Go for it’ – You cannot go wrong by giving it a try – otherwise you will never know if it would work or not. It might be great or there may be other reasons that you have not listed why it might not be a good idea. My reservations if it were here would be the dogs having a wee over my veg as they do the shrubs that we have that are next to the pavement at the bottom of our front garden. If you do it then others may follow and people will then begin to treat those verges differently. Happy New Year by the way x

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  8. I thinking starting small is a good way to go. I had another idea too – In England people used to surround their beds with a low hedge of clipped Box or Yew called a Parterre which they then grew veg, herbs and / or flowers inside. This way it creates a bit of a boundary between your garden and the public and it is quite decorative and suited to a more formal front garden. Just try Googling it. You may have these over there anyway but thought I would mention it.

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  9. Pingback: Planting the Strip: The Results are In! | gardeningnirvana

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