More sidewalk garden barriers

Here are several more ways to protect a sidewalk garden…


It’s not good to have soil surrounding a tree trunk like that but the walls of the box seem nice and sturdy.  And I like the horizontal slats.


A simple wood edge is okay if the main goal is to keep your mulch enclosed.  It won’t protect delicate plants but keeping the wood in contact with the ground seems to give the border enough support to withstand regular sidewalk traffic.  I’ve seen other wood barriers raised up on posts and they get damaged quickly.
I’m really surprised this one is still standing.  It doesn’t seem strong at all … we’ll see what happens in a couple months.

Urbanite wall in Lafayette, CA

This is one of the best urbanite walls I’ve seen.  Turning some of the pieces on end so the flat, large side is visible was a nice choice.  Most of the time the pieces are just stacked and it looks fine but this version looks more like a stone wall.


Rope sidewalk garden barrier

Planting in a city sidewalk is a noble endeavor but almost always a gamble. Between the car doors, peeing dogs, and rambling drunks, these plants endure a constantly threatened existence. Protective sidewalk barriers are often flimsy and get beat up quickly. But build one out of half-inch thick rope and four pieces of rebar, and you have a sturdy, inexpensive, and easy solution. Even better, the plants remain in full view and the design complements the small square landscape.

Getting Attention

In a city brimming with charming buildings and, uh, unique people, it can be easy to go unnoticed in San Francisco. These rectangular planters, though, do an admirable job of being an eye-catching and dramatic addition to the sidewalk. The orange, crinkly leaves and bark of the Japanese maple leap like flames, offering an intense contrast with the dark modernity of the house in the background. Some sort of brassica in the middle is a tad overgrown, but the color combo of the yellow flowers and the silvery blue foliage more than makes up for any legginess – in one plant you’ve got the gray that ties the garden to the house and great little sparks of light to attract attention.

Need a creative way to get rid of some pipes?  Hide them behind a crimson clump of phormium and a rectangular container.  Tie it all together with a simple wooden wall of the same color and from a distance it looks like a complicated custom built piece.  These small plots are a good reminder that the right mix of colors and growth forms can be both aesthetically luscious and functional, too.

And we’re back!

It’s been about 6 months since the last time I posted any pictures … partly because it’s been a crazy summer and fall full of gardening.  And partly because I really don’t like writing 🙂

So I’ve enlisted my friend (and founder of the amazing Phyteclub) Katie Renz to take my thoughts and turn them into something readable.  You’ll love her!

Why, yes, that is a weed wacker on my bike…

It’s kind of amazing what kind of garden maintenance you can do with just a bike.  For instance, I can do very (very) small lawns with a 3 lb weed wacker that easily attaches to the bike.  A little crazy but it works – sometimes people have just a tiny patch of grass and a full mower would be overkill.

On a side note – I’ve been timing trips around San Francisco because I’ll be buying a truck soon for mulching and installations.  So far, because of the parking difficulties, the door-to-door bike vs car timing is either equal or the bike is faster – even for getting from the mission to the sunset.  I’ll keep timing but my guess is that even with a truck ready to go I may end up relying on the bike for routine maintenance.  

If a sidewalk garden is too much, consider weeds

Knotweed (Polygonum capitatum) is considered a weed in San Francisco because it’ll take over a garden.   I wouldn’t advise planting it in a yard but look how great it looks when it grows in cracks in the sidewalk:

It’s invasive in natural areas but it seems like it couldn’t spread far if it’s surrounded by concrete.  I’d hesitate to plant it but probably wouldn’t rip it out if I found a situation like this one.

Good plants for under street trees . . .

. . . do not include Echium.  Or any other woody shrub.   Kids, there’s a reason these trees are so unhappy:

Big tree in a tiny pot

In the Mission on 22nd St.  The owner said there’s concrete under the pot.  Hmmm . . .

California wildflowers in full bloom

Spring hits at the California native garden in the SF botanical garden . . .

Tidy Tips flowing down a dry creek bed

There must be close to a million irises in bloom


It’s definitely not a small garden but the same planting scheme can be used in a smaller – but still sunny – space.  My neighbors planted a mostly CA native meadow along their strip of sidewalk that looks great every spring.