Gardening in the Planting Strip

Overview

Gardening in the unpaved area between the sidewalk and street—the planting strip—is enjoyable and easy to do! You can beautify your neighborhood with gardens in the planting strips as well as increase the curb appeal of your home, attract pollinators to your garden, or provide extra space for growing vegetables. Planting strip gardens also create a safe and welcoming place for people to walk.

In order to plant in the gardening strip, a Street Use permit is required. But, as long as it meets our guidelines below, the permit is free!

Important Note: Gardening outside a planting strip area (in, for example, the gravel shoulder) may not be allowed and will require review by a subject matter expert. Permits for gardening outside a planting strip area does not incur a permit fee, but may incur a review fee. 

Step 1: Plan your garden

Location, Location, Location!

Before you design a garden in your planting strip, be sure to verify that your future garden does not conflict with underground utilities or large tree roots. Call 811 to request the location of all nearby underground utilities.

Design your garden!

Your new garden can include low-growing perennials, ornamental grasses, shrubs, herbs, or edible plants. We've established some guidelines for you to make the most of the planting strip while still guaranteeing accessibility of the traveling public. When designing your garden, you should follow these guidelines:

Planting

  • Plants should have a maximum mature height of 3 feet (.9 meters)
  • Plants within 30 feet (9 meters) of an intersection should have a maximum mature height of 30 inches (76 cm)
  • Plants within 10 feet of a driveway (3 meters) should have a maximum mature height of 30 inches (76 cm)
  • Under trees, plants should not be planted within 4 feet (1.2 meters) of the trunk
  • If there is a parking lane next to the planting strip, there should be an 18 inch-wide (45.7 cm) landing strip flush with the curb. It may be planted with low-growing groundcover or turf, a mulched surface, or set with pavers, bricks, or stepping stones.

Raised Beds and Fixed Objects

  • Fixed objects, including raised beds, should be setback at least 1 foot (30 cm) from the sidewalk edge, 3 feet (.9 meters)  from the curb face, and 5 feet (1.5 meters) from utility poles, fire hydrants, and other utility structures
  • Planting strips must be at least 6 feet (1.82 meters) wide to install raised beds
  • The maximum height of raised beds is 18 inches (45.7 cm)
  • The maximum length of raised beds is 40 feet (12.19 meters)
  • Allow 3 feet (.9 meters) between raised beds for pedestrian access between the street and sidewalk
  • On streets without a sidewalk or curb, raised beds should be set back 11 feet (3.35 meters) from the edge of the pavement
  • Raised beds should not be made with creosote-treated timber because it is toxic. We do not recommend using other types of treated lumber.

Choose Your Plants!

We recommend including native and drought-tolerant plants in the plant palette for your garden. We've listed some examples below:

Groundcovers

Wild ginger (Asarum caudatum)
Blue fescue (Festuca galuca)
Shore juniper (Juniperus conferta)
Creeping bramble (Rubus pentalobus)
Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

Perennials / Ferns / Grasses

Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina)
Pacific Coast Iris (Iris "Pacific Coast Hybrids")
Evergreen candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Bee balm (Monarda didyma "Petite Wonder")

Low shrubs (some pruning may be required to maintain maximum height)

Low Oregron holly-grape (Mahonia nervosa)
Dwarf olive (Olea europaea "Little Ollie")
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Mount Vernon cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus "Mount Vernon")
Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)

Check out the Seattle Green Factor Plant List for an extensive list of plant recommendations! 

Remember: planting strips are shared public spaces, so it's important to choose plants that won't obstruct the sidewalk or reduce visibility at intersections and driveways!

Photo of a sidewalk and planting strip

Step 2: Draw your plan

After you've finished planning your garden, you'll want to draw your plan. To help you with this, we have some site plan templates that you can use. Your site plan must show the following:

  • Length and width of the work area
  • Details of any proposed structures or planters (i.e. type, size, and installation location)
  • Your plant list

Site Plan template  11x17" site plan template

Step 3: Apply for your permit

Now that you've designed your garden and drawn your site plan, you can apply for your permit! When you're ready to do this, click on the "Apply Now" button in the top right-hand corner of the page to begin the application process.

If you have used the Seattle Services Portal before to apply for a Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) permit, any type of Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections permit, or certain Street Use permits, you can use your existing account to apply!

Under Create New select "Permits-Street Use" and navigate to and select the "Short Term Use" and "Gardening/Planting" record type.   

Step 4: Plant your garden!

Planting in a planting strip helps beautify your neighborhood!

What We Do

Many people in Seattle are interested in installing vegetable gardens, ornamental plants, or rain gardens in the planting strip adjacent to their properties. We encourage these efforts, as gardens in planting strips provide a natural buffer between pedestrians and vehicles, beautify the streetscape, and collect and filter storm water runoff. 

Gardening in the planting strip

Specifically, we:

  • provide support and guidance for individuals and community groups interested in gardening in planting strips adjacent to their properties 
  • issue free permits for planting trees, creating voluntary rain gardens, or installing raised beds in planting strips 
  • provide guidance for applying for streamlined Street Improvement Permits for voluntary bioretention 
  • facilitate individual and community-based projects devoted to greening undeveloped or unimproved right-of-way areas, like community gardens 

Are you interested in a P-Patch? Visit the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods P-Patch Community Gardening page. 

Program Goals

Through our Planting in the Right-of-Way program, we seek to:

  • Increase use of the right-of-way for food production and gardening 
  • Promote community stewardship of neighborhood open space 
  • Reduce stormwater runoff 
  • Ensure safety and mobility of the traveling public 
  • Beautify our shared streetscapes