Breaking News Bar
posted: 6/24/2014 5:30 AM

Hellstrips: Challenge lies beyond the sidewalk

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • In this curbside garden, a gardener uses perennials to soften the look of the narrow area between sidewalk and street. The day lilies and ornamental grasses are attractive, easy to maintain and low enough to the ground that they don't block sight lines.

      In this curbside garden, a gardener uses perennials to soften the look of the narrow area between sidewalk and street. The day lilies and ornamental grasses are attractive, easy to maintain and low enough to the ground that they don't block sight lines.
    Associated Press

  • This Hellstrip garden includes flowers, trees and shrubs planted between sidewalk and street. Frequent watering is often difficult at these curbside plots. Slow-release water bags can be placed at the base of the newly planted trees until their roots can become established. The bags only need to be refilled once or twice a week.

      This Hellstrip garden includes flowers, trees and shrubs planted between sidewalk and street. Frequent watering is often difficult at these curbside plots. Slow-release water bags can be placed at the base of the newly planted trees until their roots can become established. The bags only need to be refilled once or twice a week.
    Associated Press

 
By Dean Fosdick, Associated Press

Making a yard and a community more beautiful begins at the curb. But that narrow space between sidewalk and street -- sometimes called a boulevard, median, hellstrip, parkway, verge or tree belt -- is a gardening challenge.

For starters, it's probably owned by the municipality but falls to the homeowner to maintain. So the first step in caring for it is to sort out what local rules allow.

Order Reprint Print Article
 
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.
Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Success - request sent close

"You need to go to the city's website if there are any questions about who owns what," said Evelyn Hadden, author of the new book "Hellstrip Gardening" (Timber Press). "The zoning laws should be posted online."

"Some cities have regulations where there can only be lawns there. Some say there can't be vegetables, but allow some kind of lawn alternative," she said. "Some communities change their rules when people start growing gardens and the community gets behind them."

Curb appeal can increase property values for the whole neighborhood, Hadden said. "Curbside gardeners are pretty generous that way. They're working for the benefit of everybody."

Even seedy-looking parcels can become natural welcome mats when integrated with front yards. Curbside spaces are often heavily trafficked, however, making them tough to cultivate. The ground is hard-packed, and plants can be crushed underfoot. Rocks might add character to the landscape but will dent car doors if placed too near the curb. Tall, dense foliage can be a traffic hazard, preventing passing motorists from seeing pets and children.

Here are some tips for creating a well-tended "hellstrip":

• Talk with neighbors before getting started. "The tension will come when somebody complains," Hadden said.

• Be aware of sight lines, especially at intersections. Drivers may have trouble turning safely if something tall is in the way.

• Go with perennials rather than annuals, said Fred Rozumalski, a landscape architect with Barr Engineering Co. in Minneapolis, Minnesota. "Then the soil is only worked once and it's more secure," he said. "Dirt won't run into the street, clogging gutters and storm sewers."

• Avoid growing vegetables at roadside sites because of pollution, Rozumalski said. "They collect elevated levels of road salt, lead from gasoline and copper from brake linings. I certainly wouldn't want to eat any food that came off a boulevard."

• Tree planting is the city's job, he said. "I've seen people make bad choices, planting trees like sugar maples that are difficult to maintain and push up sidewalks. Shrubs should be kept low, no more than 18 inches in height."

• Be cautious about displaying yard art, Rozumalski said. "You don't want to distract drivers. It's probably better if you put those kinds of things deeper into the yard."

• Boulevards typically are too narrow to be turned into full-blown rain gardens, but they'll be more environmentally friendly if the soil level is kept at least 2 inches below the curb, he said. "Then the water will collect instead of running off."

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.