That strip between the sidewalk and the road

Wizbeth(zone 6 MA)May 20, 2003

I know its the bane of many gardeners.

In my case, the area is about 2.5 feet wide, and there's a maple tree planted right in the middle. Its on a busy street that gets tons of salt in the winter. Its a urban area and people who park on the street will walk over it to get to the sidewalk, people will walk the dogs along it, and the trash gets put out there. I can't use mulch here, it gets washed straight into the storm drain.

There's grass trying to grow in the strip, but its not doing too well -- there's more weeds and bare spots than actual grass. The weeds I get are the tall spikey type that you see growing in the cracks of elevated highways and old parking lots. Two years ago I planted a few mint plants in the strip in the hopes that it would do the mint thing and take over. The mint is still alive, but its failing to really spread. I can't really use ditch lilies; they're too tall and I like daylilies too much to see them trampled to death. I'm thinking of trying Star of Bethlahem, which I have as a weed blocker in the back yard, but I'm not sure if it can stand the salt and the foot traffic. Does anyone have other suggestions? I'd prefer something highly invasive.

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I have planted my hellstrips with flowers.

The first thing you will notice is that no one will walk their dog in the flower beds....everyone is very respectful. In six years there has been no dog bombs whatsoever in those flower gardens.

I have a grassy strip inbetween the two flower beds, I can put my garbage cans there or in the street. Why is height a flower consideration? Is it a preference or an ordinance? One year I planted some sunflowers there....stunning, tall, and a fabulous look. I keep about half perennials and half annuals in both beds. I do have a fireplug in the hellstrip so around that I have very low growing perennials.

Once you put in your beds there will be NO foot traffic through them. Prior to my planting the beds I had dog bombs and walkers galore on that grass....afterwards just people who now walk by the house to look at the flowers. It really will suprise you just how good these beds are at deterring foot traffic. It doesn't happen anymore.

As you're growing in an area that I presume has poor soil I suggest starting the beds with any plant that will thrive in dirt. I chose wildflowers, iris, catmint, daylilies, and gooseneck loosestrife as my main perennial choices. This years annuals are yellow lupins, silene, and shirley poppies.

Whatever plants you choose look initially for low cost plants as they're generally ones that reproduce and spread rapidly. Plant tags should say something about their light and watering needs. With a little research to back it up you'll soon have a lovely and low maintenance garden by that curb.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2003 at 8:40PM
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Wizbeth(zone 6 MA)

Trudi I wish you were correct about people not walking on the flowers!

I have tried flowers in parts of the strip. I planted two little bulb gardens there a few years ago. People walking their dogs along there would let them lift their legs on the tulips while I was mowing the lawn! Also a lot of the tulips were snapped off about a foot off the ground by something as soon as the flowers opened. That's the reason why height is an issue... I assume anything tall is just plain doomed. I'm not too optimistic about my chances of changing the behaviour of my neighbors, so I'd prefer to plant something short and tough as nails if I can find something that fits the bill.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2003 at 12:31PM
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gee- that's right where I'd be sticking in road lillies! People are a problem that you need a shotgun to change- and that's illegal, and of questionable ethics...but to the very practical problem of growing in what's basically a shallow cement box...the mint may not be growing because it's not getting enough water. that dirt's likely suitable for nothing but blueberries, which LIKE alkaline soil...I'd dig a bunch of it out, put those water crystals in, and some decent dirt, with maybe some holly-tone for acidity, and then plunk something substantial in there- bulbs are fragile, and don't last very long. you want something woddy in there that's going to make a year-round presence. my in-laws have a knee-high yew in their dead zone- it's not pretty, but no one wants to walk through it.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2003 at 1:24PM
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I have irises in my strip. They keep the foot traffic out and look lovely in bloom. When not in bloom, the green swords (leaves) still look attractive. I also have a Dead End sign on that strip and I plant morning glories that climb up the pole. I keep the sign cleared so it's readable, but it makes the pole more attractive. I also have a few short sunflowers there.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2003 at 3:51PM
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I'm sorry your neighbors are so rude, but I do believe that they will eventually get the message. Prior to my putting in the gardens if I saw someone walking a dog and leaving a bomb I would just call out..."Oh, I realize you forgot your baggie and that you'll come back later to get that." Of course they never come back, but they never walked their dog in front of my house again either.

You could consider putting in that small white plastic fence edging that they sell at the dollar store...looks like short picket fences. That's a visual clue-in that someone wants the area protected. People will eventually get the message...they really do. Don't be disheartended and put off from your dream garden by a few inattentive people.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2003 at 7:36PM
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    Bookmark   May 22, 2003 at 8:06AM
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Wizbeth(zone 6 MA)

Hmmm... Irises. I do have a bunch that are blooming right now in the back. I could divide some of them when they're done, and plant them with some of the cheap plastic fencing stuff. I have enough that if they get wiped out its not a tragedy. Thanks for the suggestions.

My gardening style is probably part of the problem with the neighbors. Since I don't water the lawn (what there is of it) and I cut with a push mower with only one height setting (high) the lawn always looks a bit shaggy, especially in the strip where it varies from bare to too long. I'll believe that the folks who walk their dogs there might think it was just weeds if they weren't paying attention, though that's a bit of a leap when the daffodils are blooming. A visual cue like the cheap plastic fencing may be what they need.

LazyGardens, gravel is a good thought, but I'm afraid it would actually be a lot of work to maintain. The level of the dirt in the strip is a couple of inches higher than the curb, so gravel would roll off and get kicked off, washed off, etc. into the street. There's also another issue... We have a lot of houses on the street that don't have live-in landlords, so there are a lot of yards with leaves that don't get raked. Every fall the first northeaster after the leaves have come down washes a ton of waterlogged leaves down to the storm drain in front of our house, clogging it, flooding the stip and leaving a ton of wet leaf paste on the strip. It would probably look bad on top of gravel and be hard to get off, especially since it normally freezes there before its dry enough to rake off. Flagstones might be better, but then there are the huge maple tree roots to deal with.

Chinacat, I'll get the soil tested. I'd been assuming it was acidic because of the wet leaf paste, but I hadn't thought about all that cement.

Thanks for the suggestions and ideas!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2003 at 2:12PM
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Judy_B_ON(Ontario 5B)

My neighbour did a sedum and gravel planting. Sedums in different heights, gravel in different stone sizes to create interest. Of course, it was in killer sun, not shade.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2003 at 4:30PM
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Judy_B_ON(Ontario 5B)

And here is a "club" for boulevard plantings, with pictures.

Here is a link that might be useful: Boulevard Club

    Bookmark   May 24, 2003 at 4:33PM
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Wizbeth, I use a push mower too, and I love it! All the other neighbors have landscaping services, lots of chemicals, and I can honestly say their lawns do not look any better than mine. My stupid town will not allow people to plant the hellstrip; but, interestingly, some people have paved it or put in decorative pavers. Don't understand why concrete is preferred to flowers....

    Bookmark   May 24, 2003 at 7:03PM
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earthworm(6 Pennsylvania)

I would plant nettles or poison ivy in that area if people insist on walking there !!

Seriously, why not remove the extra dirt, go down several inches and bring the level up again with topsoil. Still you will have to plant something that can take the salt abuse - it is a shame that salt is used as it ruins the concrete, the water supply and nice flowers.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2003 at 1:25AM
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Land mines?? One of those things people use by ponds that sprays water when something gets to close?? i like the poison ivy thing lol, earthworm sounds like you havt eh kind of neighbors i have, i need some of that behind my garage to ward off the "artists". cactus??? course your not looking to get sued tho huh...hmmmm if its real sunny try a-ga-ves(spell)and those types of plants. there at least pretty to look at, will keep dogs and people out of the area and i think that once those types are rooted in you, the next people, and the next people will play hell gettin them out. or maybe ornamental grasses? they would look good all year long

    Bookmark   May 25, 2003 at 2:18AM
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I found that people would walk over/on top of the little plants. I kept finding broken stems some smashed so badly they died. Until the plants established and grew big enough for people to realize it is a plant I would put support stakes on each side of the plants and tie a ribbon on the top of the stick. Just to get thier attention "this is a plant don't step on it". I think people just had to be re-program and trained to walk around the strip. I also put stepping stones so they could cut across from the sidewalk to the street in three different places. Now that it is establish there is no room for people to walk there. Although my poppies get watered by the visiting dogs.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2003 at 1:43PM
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teri2(7B TN)

I haven't checked but maybe the Southeast Coastal Forum has ideas for salt tolerant plants.


    Bookmark   May 29, 2003 at 4:18PM
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davissue_zone9(z9 Sunset 14)

There is a book written that goes into great detail about planting "hellstrips". It's The Undaunted Garden by Lauren Springer. It's a great book to read anyway, and you in particular will get many ideas. The author lived on a corner with TWO of these strips, close to an elementary school, so you KNOW she had to be good- the pictures of her strips are unbelievable. I got my book at barnes and noble Sue

    Bookmark   May 31, 2003 at 4:16PM
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Istanbuljoy(Z 5 CO)

How about low growing Germander? Germander is woody and could deter a browsing dog. Or low growing Junipers?
Or a cactus for the dogs?..Just kidding do not call the Humaine Society on me. Speaking of dogs, they do not like the pricks of Bayberry bushes!

My husband and I for weeks have been working on our front strips. We dug the grass out, screened the grass roots out, amended the soil and planted Wooly Thyme (it adapts to sun and shade, so the strip with sun all day will be fine and the one with the big tree will also work). In fact the tree strip is doing nicely, except this weekend a neighbor kid repeatedly rode his bike through the establishing plants. They did not look too bad yesterday and I caught him in the act in the afternoon. So we had a little chat about it. This kid talked with me all the time while I did all the above and we talked about not riding through the bed when the plants were there.

My husband now agrees with my earlier plan of roping off the area until the plants are established , in another 4 weeks!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2003 at 2:04PM
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myrtle18(Z6 Nova Scotia)

Last yr the city redid my street's sidewalks and then they had to put new sods on that strip (don't know about you folks, but around here the city owns it). I lifted up the sods and planted daffs.

Now I have cars that park beside that strip and people get out of those cars. Any you can't see little daff noses coming out of the grass. So I put cheap plastic fencing around it and people didn't stomp on anything. Around here they are rude enuf around here to let their dogs poop in your flowers But the little fence is just too inconvenient for the dog to walk over.

I agree with the others who said that if you protect it that way long enough for it to get established I don't think they will walk in it anymore... But the thyme sounds like a good idea too coz you CAN walk on that.


    Bookmark   June 10, 2003 at 1:24PM
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loniesmom(z5 (6?) NE OH)

Trudi you are very fortunate. My neighbors apparently weren't raised by the same type of folks your neighbors were raised by. I won't re-live the story but suffice it to say that the only thing the dog pee and everything else hasn't killed are the shasta daisies, but they reek like urine. :( Wizbeth have you thought to try ajuga? I hear also that liriope can get really out of control and it's somewhat grasslike. If all else fails I've tried everything to kill the solid green bishop's weed, with no success. It's a little taller than what you're thinking but it's VERY STURDY and runs all over even in the extremely rocky poor heavy clay here.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2003 at 3:05PM
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loniesmom(z5 (6?) NE OH)

The ajuga will easily tolerate the occasional flooding/leaf cover. I've come up with an idea, nasty but I've tried everything else, I'm 'planting' some rebar just above the level of the leaves on my shasta daisies, which would be well below the height of the blooms and be disguised. So when Rover comes and lifts his leg ~ SNAG ~ it will catch the rebar and perhaps his owner will "NOTICE" he's "accidentally" let the dog water something inappropriate AGAIN. If you planted bishops weed and someone parked over it the plants wouldn't snap they'd merely bend and bounce back when the car was moved. You should report those folks who purposely allow their dog to ruin your garden - whether you techinically own that area or not it's considered vandalism and also failure to control their animal. Kids riding bikes through the garden, people stomping it, all vandalism. This is a crime that can and should be reported as soon as you discover it whether the person is still in the act or not. Our society has sadly learned that their are seldom consequences for bad behavior even when they are caught in the act. Let's start a grass roots movement to change that. (sorry for the pun!)

    Bookmark   June 10, 2003 at 3:22PM
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Wizbeth(zone 6 MA)

I wanted to thank everyone again for all the great suggestions and to give an update...

I've moved a bunch of irises to a test area of the strip. They've been there a week and so far they are still standing, which is encouraging. I did not cut the foliage back as I normally do when transplanting and I think this has helped keep them from being trampled. The mint that I'd planted before is doing better too, and seems to have started to spread out a bit. The star of Bethlahem that I have in the back yard is all going to get moved to the strip soon too... its too invasive for the back yard, so I have high hopes for it in the strip. I'll be looking into the ajuga and bishop's weed as well. I'd tried thyme at one point but it died almost immediately.

I must say that part of the improvement this year is probably due to the new downstairs tenents who moved in last fall. The two guys who moved into our downstairs apartment last fall both have cars now, so they normally use the spots in front the house. They seem to really respect my plants and my efforts to improve the yard and garden :-)

The rebar would be tempting when I'm feeling particularly frustrated, but its the owners I'm irritated with, not the dogs. I understand that the dogs have to go somewhere; its up to the owners to aim them at the tree instead of the daffodils and to pick up the solids. My "kid" problems are probably different than most people's. Most of the "kids" aren't that much younger than me and go to Tufts University; they own the house next door and uses it as a dorm. I call to complain occasionally about loud parties on weeknights... calling to complain about the litter and trampled plants afterwards seems like overkill when the campus police at least come promptly to break up the loud parties. At least I have someone to complain to about those "kids".

    Bookmark   June 12, 2003 at 3:25PM
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Katagious(z4 ME)

I planted rugosa roses along the strip by the road, they've battled pets, salt and winter plowing. They actually seem to thrive on the salt, hence the nickname given to them around here "beach roses". Another benefit is that people and pets..don't seem to like walking into them. wonder why?>;)

    Bookmark   September 20, 2003 at 10:35PM
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Your most recent response (re: rosa rugosa) was right on the money. That was my first suggestion. Another possibility is Sea Buckthorn. Both are seriously thorny in addition to being tolerant to salt. I did notice one responder saying that blueberries like alkaline soil. YIKES! That is not correct. Blueberries require a soil that is quite acid.

Anyway, I recommend planting rosa Rugosa, and then be sure to prune it regularly or else it will become tall and straggly. To be sure: NO-ONE will be touching this plant and dogs will not want their hind-ends anywhere near it!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2004 at 5:28PM
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HElpppp! I am new to gardening, I have sone well so far but I seen to run into small probs. I live on a county road that gets alot of truck and car traffic. My grass seems to slowly wane away into a pile of dirt on the side of the road. We have no curb or sidewalk. I put alot of care into the front yard but at a loss what to do in the front. People throw trash, cig. butts, etc, out of there car windows and of course get alot of salt. I really do not want to block the veiw of my garden from the street ( and our house does sit close to the road) but I need some sort of plant that will help give my yard a finished look. as I said my grass is beautiful and green unitl the last foot from the road. Any suggestions. Oh any plant that may drowned out the sound of spiining tires? We get alot of noise from the road too. Thanx
PS I know you have seen me on alot of sights with a gaggle of questions, again I am new and hope that I will return info. to all that help me in the future...thanx a million

    Bookmark   March 10, 2004 at 10:45PM
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lacytv(Zone6 IN)

I'm trying to get a hedge of lavender to grow there, but so far I*'m not having much luck. I'm pretty determined, though.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2005 at 4:18PM
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DrynDusty(z8 AZ)

Cherylsnj, I'd put up a fence in a hot minute. A tall fence, concrete or wood. I usually don't care for their looks, but one would cut down noise and litter.
PS: I hope this thread is alive.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 11:40AM
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John Dumas

Hey neighbor. I live not too far from Tufts, too (Arlington). Anyway, I've had good success using potentilla (aka cinquefoil) groundcover. It's semi-evergreen and makes a good lawn substitute. As a bonus, it has nice, tiny yellow flowers in mid to late spring. Nothing special individually, but as a mass planting, it looks very nice. Plus, I like to underplant with spring bulbs, which is easy with this tough groundcover. Though I must admit, I heard a couple walking by when the plants were flowering, and one said to the other "What a pretty weed!".

Here is a link that might be useful: Potentilla neumanniana

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 8:02PM
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