Though historically foresaken, the strip of land between the street and the sidewalk is enjoying a moment in the sun (no pun intended).  Last month, Los Angeles residents won the right to plant vegetables in their parkways, as the city council temporarily waived an outdated ban on edibles in the public right of way. And as we look for ways to reduce turf grass to decrease water use and the greenhouse gases generated by lawnmowers, the parkway becomes prime for a makeover.

Elements of an eco-friendly parkway. (Check with your local municipality for specific regulations.)

Street Trees. Typically planted and maintained by the city, these are the most important plants in the parkway due to their ability to provide shade, collect stormwater, consume carbon and provide other benefits. They are something to be cherished.
Planting.  Low growing shrubs, perennials and grasses can be designed to complement the style of your home and enhance the visual quality of the street.  Several of the photos below feature parkway planting as extension of the front yard planting design, underscoring its impact.
Paths.  An 18-inch walkable strip makes it easy for people to open car doors along the parkway; a path from the curb to the sidewalk is also a must.
Water-efficient Irrigation.  Irrigation should be designed so that the adjacent sidewalk does not receive overspray.  A narrow parkway can be a perfect spot to employ subsurface irrigation.
Bioswales. These shallow depressions capture rainwater before it enters the stormdrain and allow it to seep into the ground, thereby recharging the groundwater.  Many cities are creating rain gardens in parkways with curb cuts to direct water from the street into a bioswale that filters the water before releasing it into the stormdrain.

Have you transformed your parkway?  Please post a pic!

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2 Responses
  1. Gillianne

    If I were on your side of the country, I’d donate my ever-bearing strawberry plants to a neighborhood “hell zone,” where their fruit could provide pops of tastebud pleasure to passersby and critters–and I could reclaim the spot they occupy for root vegetables to store in winter. No sidewalks in my immediate (low-traffic) area….

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