5 Rules for Flipping Your Strip

Visit our Etsy shop for park strip planting plans made for the Intermountain West. These astrology-themed designs are drought-tolerant, pollinator-friendly, and a unique useful gift for any occasion.

So you’ve decided to jump on the water-conservation bandwagon—it’s time to go big or go home! But, before you go for the scorched earth version of park strip design, start by reading this article about the ecological and social functions of park strips! I’ll wait…

Okay, now that you are up to speed on the benefits of vegetated park strips, let’s talk! Yes, it is true that the traditional park strip design, consisting of mostly water-guzzling Kentucky bluegrass, is no longer serving our communities or the environment. But there is right way and a wrong way to go about this! Here are our top 5 tips:


  1. Preserve existing trees— In the previous article, we’ve discussed the importance of the urban forest, so start by ensuring the ongoing health and maintenance of your existing street trees! Even established trees still need water, so ensure that you maintain or replace the irrigation system in a way that provides water to the root zones of big trees.
  2. Plant trees— Plant trees that are tolerant of urban conditions. Good street trees should have a single trunk and higher branching patterns so that they are easy to walk under and don’t block visibility in front of businesses or driveway and street intersections. Street trees should be sized appropriately for the ‘container’ they are being planted in. A 4′ park strip can accommodate a 25′ tall and wide approximate tree. A 6′ park strip can accommodate a 35′ tall and wide approximate tree. A 10′ park strip can accommodate a 45′-60′ tall and wide tree. Good street tree options in Northern Utah include crabapple (malus sp.), golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata), Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana), Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis), Maple varieties (Acer sp.), Ash varieties (Fraxinus sp.), and London plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia).
  3. Don’t forget the living groundcover— Remember, park strips with vegetation can provide ecological services, including stormwater infiltration and filtration as well as wildlife habitat and forage (think pollinators and birds). We recommend having (if not 100%) at least 50%-75% vegetative coverage at maturity. As long as you are using drought-tolerant planting material, you are still going to realize a significant water use reduction compared to that of a traditional lawn. Remember to keep plants low, ideally less than 2′ in height. This is more of a safety issue than an aesthetic one. Cars pulling into and out of driveways and at intersections need to be able to see oncoming vehicles and pedestrians on the sidewalk! But also, historically park strip vegetation was low grass.
  4. Keep it simple— A park-strip is a small space that is functionally meant to buffer the sidewalk from the street, and they were historically uniform along the length of the street. You don’t want your park strip to detract from its overall neighborhood context or steal the show from your front yard, which should be the primary focus in terms of landscape design. In addition to your park strip tree, we recommend selecting 1-5 types of shrubs/perennials/groundcover and then repeating them in a simple matrix style pattern throughout the space. This will create a carpet/tapestry effect—visually interesting, but cohesive and present as a unified whole.
  5. Keep rock mulch small— If you MUST have rock mulch, avoid the ankle-breaking large cobble size and stick with 1″ minus in between plants. We suggest opting for a granular pre-emergent (or the all-organic corn-gluten) to prevent weeds rather than using weed barrier.

If you want to expedite this process, visit our Etsy shop for beautiful and low-maintenance park strip designs.