Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Sweet Cylindrical Planters April 21, 2010

Not everyone would think to put a galvanized planter in their parking strip. It might be too easy for someone to dump the dirt out and walk off with, right?

Not these ones!

Super sunny stock tank site

See how they are cleverly bolted to 2 X 4s that are sunk into the ground? These babies aren’t going anywhere!

I have been thinking about adding stock tank planters and these seem like a good size, not going to cost an arm and a leg or require too much soil to fill. Perfect for a few veggies, herbs, and edible flowers, like in this one:

Round stock tank herb garden

And an inexpensive trellis makes the vertical space usable. Wonder what will be on this one come summer?

Stock tank garden bolted down in parking strip

(After seeing Loree’s comment, below, I am not sure these are stock tanks after all. I will try to find out what they could be. Dang, they seemed like exactly the size I wanted, too…)


Raised Bed Cover and a Couple of Crows January 11, 2010

The uncharacteristically deep and long freeze Seattle endured in December subjected winter veggie gardens to a real beating. Many unprotected plants, including some that were hurriedly swaddled in floating row cover, did not survive. Even some carefully shielded by a pro gardener under the warming embrace of a hoop house just couldn’t hack it after days in the 20sF or lower. This was one mean frost!

That’s why, when I saw this plastic tent-like structure in a parking strip recently, I wondered if its contents had made it through okay.

Hoop house for winter greens

Looks like it might be a pretty easy DIY project, just a few lengths of PVC and some heavy-duty plastic. I wonder if the low and compact shape, as compared with a hoop house, trapped warm air inside more effectively and helped to keep things alive? The lettuce seems to have survived:

Lettuce through hoop house cover

Are the crows just decorative or do they deter potential pilferers? I took them as a warning and didn’t poke my camera inside for a closer look.

Crow guards for raised bed

Later, some real corvids were spotted on a house’s rooftop. They like to look in rain gutters for tasty tidbits.

Crows on roof


Still Shining November 10, 2009

This is one for the flower-lovers (you know who you are, and aren’t).

A year or so ago, a simple raised bed appeared in the parking strip a few blocks from my house. Good soil went in, things were planted, I didn’t go past for a while, but when I was out for a walk the other day, we’re talking almost-mid-November here, I almost fell over when I saw this.

Parking Strip Flower Explosion

What are they feeding those things? The good stuff, obviously.

My cosmos are long gone, at least I think they are – maybe I should look again! These ones are not only still blooming, they are forming new buds even as the evening temps dip toward freezing.

Cosmos and Zinnias

Massive orange dahlias abound:

Lion-ish Orange Dahlia

Guess I’m not the only one who plants stuff and forgets what it’s called (this was attached to one of the massive dahlia stalks):

Dahlia Tag

I loved this tattered but still-glowing zinnia, its charms a bit faded but still cheerful on a cold fall day:

Aging Zinnia

My sunflowers are long gone too, and yet here are these, still standing proud and topping out at probably 11 ft. How they survived the previous night’s wind storm, I have no idea.

Towering Sunflowers in Mid-November

Well, mostly survived:

Broken-necked Sunflower

This gardener chose not to rip up the entire parking strip, just a small patch of sod for the raised bed. But man, you can fit a lot of loveliness in a small space if you get it right. I can’t wait to see what they get up to next year!

Just one house over, strange things are growing in the lawn…

Skeleton in the grass


Streetside Potato Farm June 22, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, I took a stroll to the public library to return some overdue books and on the way I saw a raised bed in the parking strip I hadn’t notice before. It was a biggie, most of the width of the property, and pretty much a monoculture.

Potato/rhubarb planter box

As of a few months ago, I might not have recognized this crop, thinking it looked a bit like tomatoes but not quite (they are both members of the nightshade family, along with tobacco, peppers and eggplant). Now that I am a potato farmer myself, on a much smaller scale, I realized right away that this gardener is gunning for a really big crop o’ spuds.

They were all planted in nice neat rows and hilled up (the new potatoes form between the original seed potato and the top of the hill).

Potato farm on street

Potatoes do take up a bit of room, so I can see why the streetside planter box was tempting to build. OK, it wasn’t quite a monoculture – there were some really massive rhubarb plants at the end of the rows.

Rhubarb forest

I’d seen rhubarb on the street before but not potatoes. Urban farming is really catching on in Seattle, as is parking strip gardening. I love it when I see people combining the two!

(Oh, that whole signing off for the summer thing didn’t last long, did it? I guess I must be addicted to blogging. Not going to be a daily thing but when I can get to it, I will.)


Raised Beds Sprouting in the Parking Strip May 23, 2009

I saw this while driving home from the school run last week. I had to stop and take photos, the sight warmed my heart so much.

Parking strip raised beds with fresh soil

This is a corner lot on a fairly busy thoroughfare, but the beds are located on the side street. Five of them! No idea what’s going in but I’m going to be keeping a close eye on them to see how they are planted.

Looks like the sod was maybe smothered with cardboard and then stripped and turned over in the spring.

Parking strip raised bed with busted sod

Then, in with the black gold!

Shovel in fresh soil

The guy who made them was in his garage, headphones on and table saw blazing. I didn’t have the nerve or heart to hover and stop him to ask about the raised beds, but it looks like either he or someone else there is already an avid structure-builder and gardener, judging from the house-side street garden.

Streetside trellis and Mexican feather grass

Pot of coleus, black mondo grass and ?

Spirea &  hydrangea?

Purple flowered vine

Forget-me-nots & ?

Golden perennial

A little leftover good soil, dumped into the arterial side of the parking strip. Guess maybe something’s going in there too!

Compost piles on parking strip

Extra wood, board ends or fodder for the next garden building project?

Extra wood

I know, I’m a freak, but stuff like this just sends me over the moon. There are so many folks in my neighborhood adding raised beds, ripping up sod, and otherwise making more space for gardens right now. It’s a revolution!


Agent 0001 May 10, 2009

On the way home from the Tilth plant sale last weekend, I made my family do a pull-over so I could go back and photo a planter box on the street that I’d spotted. It was in a rather sad and lonely stretch of cemented-over parking strip, just placed on top with a square-foot-gardening overlay. I thought it was pretty brave of whomever had put it out there, they must really really want some extra space!

"Square Foot Gardening" raised bed on concrete

Of course, once I was out of the car, I had to look across the street and see what was going on over there, where the cement was confined to the sidewalk and the parking strip was completely planted up. I was admiring this kind of naturalized-looking garden on the corner…

Nicely naturalized parking strip garden

when the biggest parking strip planter bed I’ve yet to see in my entire life caught my eye, just one plot over:

Mondo giganto raised bed in parking strip

I didn’t do a very good job of capturing the immensity of this thing – it’s easily 20 feet long, and probably a good 18″ high, fully planted with a tree, flowers, veggies… like a mini farm right there on a semi-busy street.

Long and deep raised bed in parking strip

Basic but super sturdy construction, using 2 X 6es and posts, nailed together. This is quite a pea patch for a street garden! Collards too.

Peas galore in parking strip raised bed

Salad greens galore, plus marigolds to keep the baddie bugs away:

Lettuces and marigolds in parking strip raised bed

The iris, tulips and tree are permanent residents, with veggies and annual flowers rotating in and out with the seasons:

Veggies and flowers in big raised bed

Looking down the street, it seems the neighbors have gotten into the act too, with similar, although smaller, beds.

Raised beds in parking strip

While I was out there admiring and photo-ing, the owner happened to walk by. I always feel a little funny when my stealth missions turn out not to be so stealthy, but this fellow was friendly as could be and actually seemed excited to talk about his street garden. Turned out his story was pretty interesting, so I’m really glad I happened by at that exact moment and met Gary.

When I asked him about his really impressive raised bed, he said it used to be even bigger, and stretch all the way from the sidewalk to the street. This was many years ago, before planter boxes in the parking strip were anything but extremely rare. Someone from the city saw it, didn’t like how cars couldn’t open their doors if they parked next to it, and cited him and requested it be removed. He said okay, how can I get a permit and do it right? The city didn’t have a permit for sidewalk raised beds at that time, only some rules which weren’t so easy to work within. So Gary helped get the permit process shaped up and ended up with Seattle parking strip raised bed permit # 0001. To me, that makes him a legend.

Why does he garden on the street? To get more space and sun, to make something beautiful, to have more home-grown edibles, to meet neighbors and passers-by, to spread the word on gardening in this way. How cool is that? I hereby dub him Agent 0001, Licensed to Till!

Parking Strip Raised Bed Gardener #1


Greening Up a School With Bamboo March 28, 2009

Filed under: grasses,raised beds — greenwalks @ 2:01 pm
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Nobody likes a “portable” classroom, basically a stopgap measure for school over-crowding that amputates the kids and their teachers from the body of the school as a whole. It can be an isolating and disconnecting experience foisted upon a school by a cash-strapped district such as Seattle’s, which can’t find enough money to balance the budget this year without closing schools and cutting staff.

At my daughter’s school, an extra class “bubble” got added last year and there simply weren’t enough rooms left in the school to house them. So, the portable which had housed the music program was re-purposed as a 4th grade classroom and the school had to decide how to help the students there feel really a part of the whole.

Happily, parents and staff worked hard to secure grant money and donations to transform this space into a “green” classroom, and the kids and their families are putting in a lot of sweat equity to make it happen. One major project has been the addition of a bamboo garden to screen the exposed outbuilding, provide shade and help mitigate pollution caused by fume-belching school buses and other vehicles. This ties in directly with the class’s overall theme of study this year, Bamboo and Sustainable Resources.

Back in the fall, the kids visited Boo-Shoot Gardens bamboo nursery in Mt. Vernon, WA, to learn about bamboo, perform tissue cultures, and come home with their very own bamboo plants. Boo-Shoot generously donated further plants for the school garden.

For weeks, the bamboo garden (which had to be made on top of existing playground blacktop) has been taking shape. First, the galvanized stock tanks were delivered.

Behlen Country stock tank

Then, a giant pile of manure-rich soil/compost was delivered (and classroom ambassadors visited the younger grades to respectfully request they not play in it, for obvious reasons). Finally, the tanks were laid out and plastic wood benches (with bases that raise the tanks up off the ground to allow drainage) were attached.

Row of bamboo bench planters

Finally, soil added, the bamboo arrived and students and volunteers planted several varieties this past week. I was there just as they were finishing up (sans camera, alas) – the look of pride on their faces was priceless. Their singing teacher came out with her guitar and they consecrated the garden with a few songs. It was truly inspiring.

When you sit on the bench and breeze comes along, you can close your eyes and feel that you are in the high mountains of China, watching for a panda to come along.

Bamboo and brick

Yellowish culms of Bissets bamboo (Phyllostachys bissetii), a running type so good thing it’s in a container, will eventually turn greener as they mature.

Recently planted bamboo

Another variety with very skinny culms, for now at least. The plant tags had been removed, so I’m sorry that I don’t know what this one is.

Dwarf bamboo

I am so happy that our school places such a high value on community and earth stewardship in addition to the three R’s. I hope other schools will encourage their kids to take up shovels and dig in the dirt a little bit. Maybe the class that is helping out in the White House garden will help to inspire more school gardening projects around the nation and the world!