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.