By Natalie Boyack, Conservation Garden Park
The park strip is the area between the sidewalk and the street that the city. However, the homeowner is generally required to plant, irrigate and maintain this area and many of us would like to expend significantly less effort and resources caring for this limited use space. Flipping the park strip from grass to ornamental plants is a great small project to start with when designing or redesigning your landscape. Park strips have land use regulations and unique environmental considerations that vary by location so there are a few things you’ll need to research before you begin.
The first step in planning your project is to check the city ordinances and homeowner’s association (if applicable) where you live to determine if there are any specific standards that apply. Park strip ordinances may restrict the height of plants, types of plants, and if trees are allowed in the park strip. Generally, plants in park strips should remain 24 inches tall or less, so that views from the road and the sidewalk are clear. These plants can include perennials, groundcovers, some ornamental grasses, and some shrubs.
Park strips are one of the harshest environments that plants try to grow in. Since park strips are surrounded by cement and asphalt, which absorb and radiate heat, they can be hard areas to get plants to survive. The application of road salt in the winter can make its way into your park strip and can kill or damage plants so selecting plants which are known to be salt tolerant is also important.
Sun exposure is another important consideration. If the park strip is on the South or West side, it probably gets more intense sun for longer periods of time than a North or East facing park strip. If you have existing trees, you don’t need to remove them. There are understory plants that will thrive in dry shade and around the roots of the trees. Tree lined streets are considered a neighborhood amenity so retain them when possible but make sure to provide extra water to the drip line of the trees to keep them hydrated and healthy.
Consider access to the property when planning your park strip design. You might need to install a few small paths to provide access to your property through the park strip without crushing plants or compacting the soil.
When deciding what plants to install, it is important to remember to use plants with different textures or colors in their foliage. This allows for interest throughout the season, even if something isn’t in bloom. Don’t be afraid to use the same plant in multiple spots. Once you design a section that you like, you can repeat that section multiple times in your park strip. Keep in mind that more densely planted park strips are actually easier to maintain than sparsely planted ones as the plants will shade the soil, reducing weed seed germination.
This is the year to “flip your strip.” Download free park strip plans on our website or register for our “Creating Waterwise Park Strips” class online at conservationgardenpark.org,