Many Seattle residents are interested in planting vegetables and other edible foods in the planting strip immediately in front of their property. Planting strips are the unpaved area between the sidewalk and street. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) allows the growing of food in planting strips, but there are some things you need to know and rules to follow.
Don’t worry, the rules are easy to follow. Download or read the FREE guide from City of Seattle: Gardening in Planting Strips. Read the guide thoroughly for setback and height requirements for installations in the planting strip. Here are some of the key things you need to know:
SDOT prohibits certain trees, including fruiting cherry, apple, and pear species that can pose a safety risk to pedestrians when fruit falls on the walkway. So if you want fruit trees, plan to put them in the backyard.
A Street Use permit is not required for vegetable gardening in the planting strip. However, a Street Use permit is required to plant trees or install boxes for raised garden beds or other hardscape elements like for pavers for pathways through your garden. But there’s good news here, too.
Street Use permits are FREE for these activities. You can apply for a Street Use permit online at http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/stuse_permits_online.htm or in person on the 23rd floor of the Seattle Municipal Building at 700 5th Avenue, Seattle 98104 (Google map).
Be advised that when you submit your Street Use application, you are agreeing that you have followed all the setback and height requirements for your proposed installation in the planting strip.
More about vegetable gardens
There are some cautions about vegetable gardens in the planting strip. Since it’s a public space, it’s hard to control what pets or other people might do in your garden. Since it’s usually far from the house, it can be hard to reach with water. There may be concerns with the soil (consider getting your soil tested and/or planting vegetables that grow above ground such as tomatoes, rather than root crops–beets, carrots, etc.).
So, think about other sunny places in your yard first for food gardening, or consider gardening with a neighbor, putting container gardens on a sunny porch, or joining a P-Patch. The City of Seattle offers more free vegetable gardening information for residents who want to grow food in their planting strip.
For more free help and information about vegetable gardening in Seattle or around the Pacific Northwest, visit the Greater Seattle on the Cheap articles about Growing Food.