Transforming Urban Parking Strips

Sprouts are sprouting around Seattle. So are assorted other veggies and fruits, thanks to a city program that allows residents to turn planting strips into mini urban farms.

In addition to edible landscaping, residents may grow flowers, shrubs and trees in the planting or parking strips in front of their property.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) encourages transforming these public spaces into beautiful, bountiful areas, but requires a free permit for some uses to assure compliance with sightline and safety considerations. For example, certain fruit-bearing trees are prohibited because fruit falling on walkways may pose a safety risk to pedestrians. Similarly, gardeners are also cautioned to never leave hoses lying across the sidewalk that could trip passersby.

Also worth noting is that these planting strips are part of the public right-of-way, so it’s hard to control what pets or passersby do in that space.  Additionally, it might be prudent to test soil since contaminants like lead, arsenic, and oil are sometimes found at potentially unsafe levels in some urban areas.

As an alternative to using the public parking strip, Seattle residents are encouraged to partner with neighbors to create a community garden, sign up for a P-Patch garden plot or consider container gardening on a porch or other sunny spot in their own yard.

Learn More

Seattle Public Utilities, the city’s Department of Transportation, and other agencies offer a number of resources for beginning gardeners.  Along with tips for preparing soil for planting and charts that recommend crops for different growing seasons, these resources include links to free brochures and useful websites.

Growing Food in the City, 12-page brochure covering the basics, ideas, when and how to plant,  and other useful information.

Gardening in Planting Strips, 2 page “Client Assistance Memo” explaining requirements and how to obtain a permit.

P-Patch Gardening in Seattle, includes explanation of how it works, locations, resources, useful links.

Growing Food in Planting Strips and Choosing the Right Plants for Your Site, tips and FAQs from Seattle Public Utilities.

Garden Hotline, free individualized solutions to garden problems plus links to downloadable brochures.

Book, Food Grown Right, in Your Backyard, by the co-founders of Seattle Urban Farm Co. , which specializes in designing, installing, and maintaining urban food production systems in the Puget Sound Area.

Gardening in Western Washington, answers to frequently asked questions, presented by WSU Extension.

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