Can herbs at the curbs ease Savannah’s tree lawn troubles?


A recent story on National Public Radio, Not All Communities Welcome Urban Gardening, covered the controversy caused when a Wisconsin family decided to plant vegetables in the strip of soil between the sidewalk and the street. In the strange dialect spoken by inhabitants of Wisconsin, this piece of real estate is called a parkway. Around these parts, they are called tree lawns and they’ve been in the news recently, too.

Last month the city announced that tree lawn upkeep would become the responsibility of residents. According to this Savannah Morning News story, city crews were pulled off tree lawn detail because of budget cuts. Tree lawns around town are already looking a little shaggy.

It is true that some residents—especially in the National Landmark Historic District—took responsibility for tree lawns long ago with pleasing results. Elsewhere however, residents may be unsure what to do as the grass and weeds, no longer harassed by city mowers and trimmers, grow higher and higher. With tree lawn maintenance now back in the hands of residents, I wondered if a Wisconsin-style parkway poblano pepper patch would get a homeowner in hot water here. I turned to the City of Savannah’s Web site and found this:

Prior to planting, pick up a copy of the Tree Lawn Brochure from Park and Tree. The brochure outlines the necessary steps. Then contact the City’s Landscape Architect to discuss proposed plantings prior to submittal of a sketch plan for review and approval.

That sounded like an awful lot of picking up, contacting, discussing, sketching and submitting just to find out if tomatoes are allowed near sidewalks, so I called Park and Tree and asked
“the vegetable question.” I was promptly transferred to the streets maintenance department, where a helpful and friendly gentleman admitted he’d never been asked that question. I suggested others probably heard the NPR story and might be calling. Rosco Philbrick, street maintenance supervisor, was identified as the guy who’d have the answer. I left a message for him. He called back within five minutes and was just as friendly and helpful as the first guy.

The verdict: Tree lawn vegetable gardens are not allowed. Yet, there is good news. Philbrick was quick to add that planting herbs is OK, provided they are less than 36 inches tall.

So there you have it. Rosemary is an acceptable street-side crop, rutabagas not so much. Of course, you could always decide to go guerrilla on the tree lawn.

This entry was posted in Community Gardens, Energy, Government, Land Use, Public Space on by .

About John Bennett

Transportation, land use, local farming and green building are all potential topics for Sustainable Savannah. The goal is to aggregate content about local events and projects, so there will be a central place to review everything that’s happening. The site is aimed at encouraging collaboration and information sharing between groups and individuals currently engaged in sustainability efforts. The site can also provide a snapshot of Savannah for green-minded people who are considering visiting or moving to the area.

5 thoughts on “Can herbs at the curbs ease Savannah’s tree lawn troubles?

  1. Drew Wade

    Good work, John! Don’t neglect the lanes, though. I have cultivated about thirty inches behind by back fence in the lane! And as long as you’re not worried about having to move things later, it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

  2. Alex brown

    I think the regulations should be reviewed if i have to maintain the space I should be able to decide how I want it to look simply put the city gave up it’s domain when it handed responsibility over to the residents/property owner.

  3. Larisa Varela

    You are awesome!

    I’m curious on how they define vegetables.
    Watermelon should be good to go!

    I wouldn’t have even thought to ask permission to plant a garden.

  4. Infra

    Transportation and sustainability are vital topics in the infrastructure dialogue. Users of are discussing these issues right now. View user-uploaded content and share some of your own. Contribute to the important dialogue and make sure Savannah’s issues are discussed.

  5. Stephen May

    Great Website!
    I’m surprised that we aren’t promoting replacing grass with low evergreen shrubs. If the city doesn’t plan to cut the grass then they probably will not overseed it with rye grass in the cooler months as they normally do. So these swaths are going to be brown soon.
    Species plantings that provide cover and forage for our song bird populations, both the permanent residents and migrants, seems possible as well.
    Grass requires fertilizers and it’s upkeep produces mower exhaust and noise. We can do better.
    Herbs good! Especially basil, yum!

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