Parking Strips: A Unique Design Concept

Water Conservation for Lawn and Landscape November 13, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF

A narrow parking strip planted with turf and tree saplings between a residential street and a sidewalk

Turn this into something beautiful. Parking strips offer opportunities for unique design concepts.

A parking or park strip is a narrow strip of land between the sidewalk and the street often used as a right of way for public utilities and traditionally planted with street trees and turf.  Although the municipality owns the strip, the homeowner is responsible for its upkeep.

Parking strips offer unique, if not challenging, opportunities for water conservation in the landscape. They can be as simple as a strip of low water use turf or gravel or an elaborate display of perennials, edible plants, and shrubs. Trees can be included as well. Check your city ordinances for plant height and placement requirements as well as for species selection. 

Narrow strips are more suited to simple landscaping. Many homeowners fill narrow landscape strips with rock or minimal plantings such as a single species of shrub or perennial plant. Note that rock or gravel can increase surface temperature.

Interesting and unique hardscape materials such as tile, rock, or stepping stones combined with low water use plant materials can be used to make creative park strip designs. The neighbors may look twice!

colorful water conserving plants along a sidewalk

    

Xeriscape plants in a parking strip with bark mulch next to a turf parking strip

Colorful flowering plants in a parking strip along a sidewalk in Seattle. Photo credit: edgeplot Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

Xeriscaped parking strip. 
Photo credit: Bryant Olsen Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

Some Initial Design Considerations:

  • How much maintenance will the park strip need? Will it look weedy over time?
  • Can the park strip design be easily integrated with the existing landscape design?
  • What are the soil, sun and shade, and wind conditions on the site?
  • Research appropriate plant and hardscape materials for the particular site
  • What type of irrigation will be used?
  • How much snow will accumulate on the site?  Snow from plows can easily damage woody plants
  • Will salt be applied to the streets in winter? Many communities still do not have curb and gutter making salt damage to strip areas more prevalent
  • Do people park on the street alongside the parking strip and how will they access the sidewalk?
  • Is there a fire hydrant or utilities located in, on, or above the park strip? ALWAYS check with utility companies before you dig. It's the law. Dial 811
  • STOP! Do not proceed to redesign the park strip until you have checked city ordinances to see if modifications to the site are allowed.
     

Additional Resources:

West

Utah River Council: Rip Your Strip

Northwest

Utah Division of Water Resources: Water-Wise Landscaping
Washington - Park Strip Gardens
Rain Gardens


 

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.