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How To Plant Your Edible Parkway Garden

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September 4, 2013 by Hope Gardens

Lobelia & Romaine Lettuce

10 Tips for Planting Your Edible Parkway Garden

On Tuesday, August 13th the L.A. City Council approved 15 to 0, “to immediately suspend enforcement of Municipal Code Section 56.08(e) in those cases where parkways are being occupied by vegetables, until a comprehensive report on this matter is presented to the Council.”

This is great news to those looking to repurpose their parkways (the area between the street and the sidewalk) and to those who want to grow vegetables on their property. Previously, citations were given to neighborhood gardeners who did not draw a permit before planting anything other than sod on their parkway. Take advantage of this exciting opportunity and plant your own vegetable garden with these 10 Edible Parkway Garden Tips.

1.  Follow the basics of the city’s Residential Parkway Landscaping Guidelines (RPLG).

The City Council has suspended issuing citations while in the process of re-writing these guidelines. It is safe to assume the new guidelines will retain some of the existing parkway requirements, so it behooves us to keep their basic regulations in mind. One of these old guidelines worth considering is the need for a “convenience strip.” (There is some lingo to learn here…hey, you’ve learned “parkway.”)

A “convenience strip” is the 18” deep strip of parkway that runs parallel to the street. This is to enable passengers of cars to exit their parked vehicle safely and without damaging your plants. The strip needs to be a material that can be walked on and flush with the top of the curb. It can be paved, planted with turf or turf substitutes, or covered with mulch or stone.

Another term to know is “house walk.” This is a 48” wide connector between the street and the sidewalk. It should be installed wherever there is in a continuous strip of planted parkway in excess of 50’ long. The RPLG recommends the house walk be paved, but I think for now a layer of mulch or stone will be a good temporary plan. This walk allows pedestrians access street to the sidewalk and protects your plants from harm.

2.  Plant your parkway vegetable garden in raised beds.

This will keep your garden safe from erosion and pedestrians. You can purchase pre-made raised beds, raised bed kits or build your own from redwood or cedar.  Raised beds need to be at least 12” deep to plant the widest variety of vegetables. Herb & greens/lettuce beds can tolerate a depth of just 9” . Depending on the size of your parkway, I would shoot for a container between 2-4’ wide and 4’-8’ long. If you choose to plant in-ground, be especially aware of the next point.

Rainbow Swiss Chard

3.  It’s all about the soil.

Whether you plant in-ground or in raised beds, the quality of your soil is the most important indicator of success for nutritious, healthy plants.

First, turn over your soil. You want to dig down at least 12 inches. Discard debris, weeds, roots, rocks and cutworms. Work the soil between your gloved fingers to break up clods of dirt. This is a lot of work but essential to a healthy garden.

You need to pay special attention if you are growing root vegetables, like carrots or beets, as they require a soil-medium free of obstructions. Otherwise you will have bent, pock-marked and/or diseased veggies and you won’t know it until you pull them out.  This is also important work if you want to plant your veggies by seed.

Your best soil will be a combination of growing medium (potting soil in beds, native soil in-ground), micro-organisms (compost) and natural fertilizers. I use an organic vegetable fertilizer along with some extra bone meal and blood meal.

4.  Consider a fence.

When considering a fence, consider the interloper. First and foremost, on a parkway,  you want pedestrians to be able to see your garden and not walk into it, so a fence at least 2’ high is  almost a necessity. This is especially true if you are planting in-ground.

A 3’ fence will also keep your garden visible and will have the added benefit of keeping out rabbits, possums, raccoons and cats. You can try a simple push-in panel fence or use posts with plastic or metal chicken wire. Growing a pretty vegetable or flower on your fence, like sugar snap peas or nasturtium, will keep these fences attractive.

Sugar Snap Peas

5.  Keep your turf.

You can keep the grass or plantings you have growing currently and only remove the turf where you want your veggie garden/raised beds to be. This can save you a lot of time and money in the short term. You can mulch 6”-12” around your vegetable bed with wood chips and/or large rocks to provide a barrier between the grass and the garden.

6.  Keep your irrigation.

For now, if your sprinkler heads are working, you can leave your irrigation where it is. Overhead sprinklers get a bad rap. While they can be wasteful if not set properly, they are totally fine for watering veggies with.

Check that the sprinklers on your parkway are properly directed and properly timed. Watering in the morning is better than the evening to deter powdery mildew. The alternative to the overhead sprinkler is the low-water emitter. The city is actually offering a rebate for replacing your sprinkler heads with more precise rotating nozzles. Many present sprinkler systems can be easily adapted to use these nozzles.

For vegetable gardens, I warn against soaker hoses or drip systems. These systems tend to be installed incorrectly and not allowed to run long enough to truly hydrate the plant.

Veggies need to have their whole root base watered. To get that much water out of a soaker or drip you have to run the water for 20 plus minutes. Most of us have our irrigation systems connected to other areas of our yard and those other areas do not often benefit from running for 20 minutes…nor does our water bill. So before you change out your sprinkler heads, make sure you have a good understanding of your irrigation as a whole.

Another reason to rethink drip systems, seeds need a moist environment to germinate in. Soakers and drip systems can water deep, but they don’t keep the top of the soil wet the way a sprayer or nozzle does. Don’t be afraid to hand water your garden, even if you have a timed irrigation system. Plants benefit greatly from a simple spray with the hose.