Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Freeway-side Gardening September 18, 2009

Filed under: flora,veggies — greenwalks @ 8:43 am
Tags: , , , ,

Often, the urge to garden in the city despite lack of an ideal site is just overwhelming. Waits for P-patch slots can be years-long, so sometimes people just get out their shovels and dig wherever they can, whatever the challenges may be.

A few years ago, I saw a guy working on a steep, brush-covered hillside at the corner of a very busy freeway on-ramp here in Seattle. I couldn’t actually believe he was making a garden there, but he was. He cleared the brush and weeds away, tilled the soil, and started planting. And not just tough, easy-care plants, but veggies and flowers. Lots of them.

I used to pass this garden several times a day but hadn’t for a while, and I was delighted to see that it is still thriving despite the daily dose of exhaust it must get from all the passing cars. And despite being at a kind of hard-scrabble crossroads where a lot of down-and-out folks hang out, nobody seems to have raided or vandalized the plot. I don’t know how many people notice or enjoy it as they hurry past, but for me it’s a true testament to the creativity and tenacity of the urban gardener.

(These photos were taken from the car on a blasting sunny day, so are not ideal.)

This is the view you see from the street – sunflowers, amaranth, marigolds, kale, cabbages, rosemary – the works! Red, orange and yellow to brighten a dull stretch of road – what’s not to love?

Streetside Seattle garden by I-5 onramp

In this one, you can see the simple wooden retaining wall the gardener built to hold in soil and maybe keep folks from wandering in from the sidewalk.

Seattle urban garden

The onramp retaining wall is visible in this next shot – no joke, it’s right there!

Farm in the city

Have you ever gone to great lengths to establish a garden in a non-ideal site?


20 Responses to “Freeway-side Gardening”

  1. Bonnie Story Says:

    Wow, I love this! Very inspiring. I’m impressed. I have always had it pretty cushy until now, we are finally getting ready to tackle our landscaping here in the glacial stony, sandy construction-zone “dirt” we have around the new house here. But a freeway??? That guy is great. I’m so glad you pointed this out. I love his style!!!

  2. Grace Says:

    No where is the adage “bloom where you’re planted” more apropos than here! Don’t you wish the gardener was out and you could strike up a conversation with him/her? Love the amaranthus and the retaining wall is a work of art. Kudos to nearby citizens for keeping out.

  3. Robin Says:

    What a fabulous natural “City” garden. I hope the owner hears of your post and sees what joy his paradise has given others.

  4. Georgia Says:

    Am drafting a profile about an SF resident who gardens near a highway off-ramp.
    While in Berkeley, I gardened with a group along a walk-, bike-way (

  5. Megan Says:

    I love gardeners who just can’t help themselves despite non-ideal ground. There are a lot of places around town that I pass regularly where I think someone ought to do some guerilla gardening. I hate to see good soil go unused.

  6. Catherine Says:

    That is so great! I love that he’s chosen such an unusual spot to garden. I bet it brightens the whole area up.

  7. Tatyana Says:

    I’d love to shake his/her hand!

  8. Inspirational, to be sure. Thanks to the heroic gardener for making a thing of beauty in an unlikely place, and to you, for noticing and sharing it with the rest of us.
    I just put up a post of the Reed Hell Strip.

  9. Sue Says:

    Wow! That is one awesome garden in an unlikely spot! A friend of mine and I are planning on doing some gorilla gardening at a local park where the city failed to landscape near a skateboard park like they said they were going to do. We just need to find the time we can both do it.

  10. Thanks for sharing this! So nice to see.

  11. That is so cool. Some people just gotta garden!

  12. Jen Says:

    Excellent! I love to see stuff like this. I’ve never taken over an impossible site, but there is one that’s been tempting me. It used to be cared for and even has a raised bed in the middle, but now it’s all overgrown and sad looking right in front of the shopping center I use everyday. Maybe a little guerilla gardening is in order.

  13. Aerie-el Says:

    Awesome garden! Hats off to him/her and to the locals who respect the hard work this gardener has put in to create this beauty nestled within the concrete surroundings. And Hats off to you for noticing and sharing this with us. It’s hard to get such good photos at highway on-ramp merge speeds!

  14. mothernaturesgarden Says:

    I don’t see how he keeps from having twisted ankles gardening on such an incline. He must be young.

  15. Daniel Mount Says:

    I know what it’s like to garden on a steep slope. You can’t do much changing. Try “Black Gamecock” iris it’s dark enough that you can fool yourself into thinking you have a black iris. I’m glad to be a flat-lander with plenty of water.

  16. That gardener is my HERO…next time I moan about the slugs or complain about the weeds I’m going to remember your post, thanks! Kim

  17. Grace Says:

    Missing you. Hope you’ll be back soon….

  18. 6512 and growing Says:

    Where there’s a will, there’s a garden. Beautiful.

  19. chell Says:

    Beautiful! I started a container garden on my back deck which abuts a parking lot. I’m worried the plants will choke. I keep them as clean as I can and so far so good. It’s no on-ramp, that’s for sure, and it seems to be not that busy so I’m hoping I can make a go of it. That on-ramp garden is gorgeous and makes me feel better for trying to garden in my weird little space. Thank you very much for posting the photos.

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