The parking strip – that generally unused sliver of grass between the street and the sidewalk – is often overlooked as a location for growing edibles.
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Yet as more and more people are aiming to transform their homesteads into units of production, unused space is getting noticed: What if the parking strip could be both beautified and productive at the same time?
Minding the Urban Strip
Ron Finley caused a stir a few years ago with his guerrilla parking strip gardens in Los Angeles as a way to combat urban food deserts in his neighborhood. He is famous for having said, “Growing your own food is like printing your own money.” Be sure to watch his inspiring Ted Talk!
The Suburban Strip
The trend for planting productive gardens hasn’t skipped the suburbs, however. This article discusses how to farm your parking strip, highlighting a charming suburban residence in Seattle, WA. Aesthetically-built raised beds tastefully mix growing edibles with pollinator gardens and other features, while allowing easy access between the street and the sidewalk.
Imagine the yields our cities could produce–increasing national food security–if we simply grew edibles in the parking strips!
This got me thinking about our parking strip project at Tenth Acre Farm. We began in 2011 by planting three ‘North Star’ dwarf cherry trees. In our yard, the parking strip happens to get the most sun, so why not put it to good use?
In their second year, our young cherry trees yielded two pounds of cherries. They made the most wonderful pie filling and smoothies! By their sixth year, they produced 27 pounds of fruit!
By farming the parking strip and reducing the lawn, not only are we increasing our edible yields, but we’re also adding beauty, providing habitat for pollinators, and increasing biodiversity. Read more about planting cherry trees and how we ensured their growing success:
Would you like to learn more about making the most of small-space gardens?
You’ll find loads of information just like this in my book, The Suburban Micro-Farm.
Planting Considerations for Parking Strips
1: Follow the Guidelines
Seek out the planting guidelines for your municipality. In the city of Seattle, garden beds should respect the pedestrian by being built:
- Three feet away from the street
- One foot away from sidewalk
- Three feet apart from one another for pedestrian access to street
- Less than 18 inches tall
2: Consider Water Access
Does your hose reach? If not, are you up to lugging watering cans? Plant according to the site. Does it collect water and remain soggy for some time after a rain, or does it remain dry if not irrigated regularly?
3: Avoid Dog Pee
The fruit will be safe on dwarf fruit trees (our choice), but the same can’t be said for low-growing vegetables and herbs. Consider building a raised bed for low-growing crops.
4: Locate Utility Access Areas
We spaced our cherry trees to keep access available to the utility pipes and cables that run underground through the parking strip.
5: Expect to share
Parking strips are prime picking spots for pedestrian grazers. Be happy that someone gets to eat fresh, chemical-free produce instead of whatever else they might eat!
Read the story of when someone harvested from my parking strip without asking.
If growing edibles in the parking strip makes you nervous, the book Hellstrip Gardening will show you how to create a garden for beauty and biodiversity.
What do you think? Would you farm your parking strip?