A friendly commenter pointed out here that there may not be as much parking strip gardening going on in Portland (the proverbial “City of Roses”) as I seem to have found in Seattle. I’d love to do a fact-finding field trip to P-town about this subject, but in the meantime I was curious to see if there are different rules, as well as perhaps different attitudes, about utilizing this space.
In Seattle the parking strip is owned by the property owner, and the City expects it to be maintained according to certain guidelines. Of course, there is not a huge amount of enforcement, and I’ve never heard of anyone’s garden being condemned or ordered to be altered for any violation. Most people leave it alone but a growing number are using the space in a more creative fashion.
It interested me to read, on the City of Portland site, that in their city the parking strip is considered “part of the public right of way” but the adjacent property owner is responsible for maintaining it. Perhaps any hesitation by Portlanders to get into digging in this part of the dirt is partly attributable to this, and also to the fact that planting, pruning, or removing a tree out there requires a (free) permit from the city. The site doesn’t give much information about what kinds of plantings are permitted or encouraged – they mostly seem concerned about keeping tree limbs from blocking visibility and signs (hence the site’s depressing picture of a rainy day street scene with an offending tree branch keeping a school crossing sign from view).
Here is a blog post about starting a drought-tolerant parking strip garden – maybe this is just the tip of the iceberg. This one near Reed College sounds like a beauty, too bad they only put in one tiny picture. At least there are lots of plant names and great advice on soil amendments for making it drought tolerant. I think that one’s going to have to go on my field trip list. And one of my fav blogs, Nest Maker, has a funny post about goings on in the parking strip.
Wondering what your city’s regulations are about getting going on a parking strip garden? Check out its municipal web site, sometimes listed under the Department of Transportation, and if you have an Urban Forester or City Arborist, that’s another good place to start.