Biking through Vancouver B.C. last summer I enjoyed its many greenways and became enamored with the bright, lush and creative street side gardens.
Its Green Streets Program encourages neighbors to adopt a planting area; some are marked as “available for adoption”, and other sites are created by the individual community members themselves.
The gardens aren’t limited to sidewalk areas or round-abouts. In some cases, neighbors in Vancouver lobbied to dig up part of a street to slow traffic in their neighborhoods. They planted trees and create places for people to walk and play right in the middle of their street. In other corners, neighbors corralled water from their street and diverted it into a lovely garden with waterfalls. I’m working with SDOT and other departments to build on similar programs in Seattle this summer.
You can get started without this particular program now. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) encourages Seattleites to create gardens in the planting strips outside their homes. You do not need a permit from SDOT to garden in the planting strip, unless you want to plant a tree or install permanent fixtures like raised planting beds. You can get a free permit here and review the rules for planting strip gardens here. If you have questions, contact SDOT’s Street Use and Urban Forestry at SDOTPermits@seattle.gov or Seattle.Trees@seattle.gov.
Impressive efforts are already underway. Sarah Bergmann created Seattle’s own Pollinator Pathway, a mile-long corridor of pollinator friendly gardens from along Columbia Street from 12th to 29th Streets east of Seattle University, in the planting strips. She and the homeowner/volunteer gardeners work in collaboration to design, plant and maintain these gardens. I’m looking to expand Pollinator Pathways in other neighborhoods this summer.
If this interests you but you are worried about costs, there’s help. You and your neighbors can plan for street side gardens on your block and apply for a Department of Neighborhoods’ Small Sparks Neighborhood Matching Fund Grant. Both formal and informal neighborhoods groups can apply, on a rolling basis, for matching funds from the City of Seattle. You supply the labor and Small Sparks awards may give up to $1,000 for plants, tools, and advertising. Review the guidelines for a Small Sparks application here.
Please send me plans and photos of your garden and we will post of some them to inspire others!