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Written by: Deric Stowell, Colorado Master Gardener, 2014

If you’re like me, you can’t stand to see an area without flowers or some other kind of color. My hell strip is one of those areas. So what IS a “hell strip”? Simply put, it’s the easement on your property that separates the sidewalk from the street. Some areas have all grass, some have dirt and rock, and some others (like mine) developed into a beautiful work of art.

But, it takes a lot of work to go from “oh this is ugly” to “OHHHH! Pretty!”.

hellsrip blue square shovelWhen I moved to my new home a few years ago, all I had to work with was dirt and rocks. All over the place. The yard was dead, the flower beds were in bad need of reinvigorating and my strip was just a dirt strip.

I had to figure out what kind of plants would grow with little to no water. After doing some research on hell strips, I determined that the best choice for my situation would be to install a couple of raised beds. I bought two blue 4×4-foot beds that stand about six to eight inches high. I purchased topsoil from Lowes, brought it home and installed it into my new raised beds.

shopping cart filled with bags of soilI realized that using a raised bed would at least give me a small chance of having some nice flowers out there.  I planted poppies, bachelor buttons and even some herbs like dill, parsley and rosemary in my new raised beds. In the late fall I used my rototiller to “disturb” the rest of the soil, and planted two pounds of wildflower seeds from my locally-owned nursery. I then trucked in enough wood chips, leaves and other mulches to cover it all up. (When I say “trucked in” it’s a euphemism because my vehicle is a smart car, so it took a LOT of trips!)

hellstrip red wagon weedSince I disturbed the soil the previous fall without realizing that I had unleashed all the weed seeds, I spent most of the first year doing a lot of weeding. I honestly don’t know if these weeds came in with the wood chips or the leaves. Since I had not lived there before, I was unaware of just how “weedy” the property would become. But we can talk about weed control another day.

hellstrip filled with plantsToday is a beautiful spring day, and I am enjoying the fruits of my labors! I have poppies, bachelor buttons, snapdragons, a yucca that I rescued from the side of the road at the lake and I’m not sure what else I am going to have this year!! The point of this article is that with some work, you too can have a beautiful strip that is a productive part of your garden landscaping. It’s also worth pointing out that you could also create a pollinator garden, for all the bees, butterflies and other pollinators that will visit your yard. Things to include in a pollinator garden are nasturtium, cosmos, dill, marigold or zinnias.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk!

From the Ground Up Spring 2020