Happy as hellstrip

I finally, after many years, finished my hellstrip - the area between sidewalk and road. The spring hasn't been all about the shed!

Hellstrip with dead tree gone,
but stump remaining.
It was like this for three years.
It started off a grass strip with a dying horse chestnut tree. After watching the horse chestnut tree die for a few years, the city (who has the rights to the hellstrip property) came by and cut down the tree.

Then, after three years of asking the city when they were going to grind down the stump, they finally did. They planted a young tree to replace the dead tree. That was my cue to start planting there, since it seems the city was done doing what they were going to do.

The "grass" that was there was mostly crab grass, clover, and various weeds. They were all green, so it gave the appearance of grass. For a few years, this strip is the only reason I had a lawnmower, since the rest of the front yard is a grassless jungle of a garden.

So after the tree was planted, I started with a curvy shaped garden with mostly divisions of plants from other parts of the garden, some contributions from friends, and a couple grasses I purchased. It was still surrounded by the lame "grass" that was more weeds than grass. My plan included spending as close to $0 on the whole project.
After the stump was ground out,
and a tree was planted, I then knew
what I had to work with.
The next year, I added a brick paver pad at the base of the driveway, someplace for the garbage cans to sit on garbage day. And it got rid of more of the grass. The bricks came from the patio that I added the marble and granite "carpet" to the previous year - so the pavers cost nothing!

The soil here was typical hellstrip soil – compacted, clay-y, dry, and beat up from more than 100 years of salt, dogs, and trampling. Basically, all the compost I've created in my backyard composter has gone here for the past four years.

A few weeks ago, I finished up taking out all the grass, and lining the strip with bricks on the sidewalk side, and pavers on the road side. The pavers on the road side are so people can get out of their parked cars and not have to step into the garden.

Where my hellstrip meets the neighbor's, I laid down some granite blocks I took form a granite block "wall" I had someone put in a few years ago. It was a solid line of large granite blocks - I took out every other one and used them in the hellstrip to make a definitive line between our hellstrip "properties." Where I took out every other granite block in my mini-wall, it formed a planter shaped hole that I planted Hens & Chicks and sedum.

Th estrip looks pretty good now. I have new areas to plant - where the grass was. I want to add low ground covers, as it's the area that surrounds all the taller plants. I've also added tulips this past year that came up – and were spectacular. I do all my spring bulbs in the front yard where we see them more, and the neighbors can appreciate them. We don't use the backyard in the early spring, so they'd be wasted back there.

I'm happy with the way it came out, but because there's a slight grade to the road side, the mulch I put down is falling onto the pavers. I may end up having to add a row of the upright bricks, like on the sidewalk side of the strip.

Not looking forward to that – digging in this area is like breaking apart concrete!
New tree, amorphous shaped bed, brick border between hellstrips, and the neighbor's cute mini.
Some areas were so hard-packed, no grass would grow.
I left this area open, and the following year I added a paver pad.
Paver pad for garbage cans to sit on once a week.
Plants were maturing and coming in pretty lush. But it was time to get rid of the rest of the nasty "grass."
Seriously, it was like breaking up concrete.
My daughter actually helped – lugging bricks and digging trenches.
I think it was be the hardest she's ever worked (at least that's what she told me.)
Laid down granite blocks where my neighbor's hellstrip begins, matching the low wall on the other side of teh sidewalk.
I've been sweeping, and then watering, sand into the cracks for a couple weeks.
I added this year's entire batch of compost and black mulch. It'll take years, but I'll make good soil here yet.
The pavers give people getting out of their cars just enough room to maneuver.
Needs some ground covers wherever the mulch is.
My office view.
Street view.


  1. Sweet. I'm getting ready to redo my area between the garden and the street, so that people can easily step out of their car. Came across some cedar and I believe it will look great.

  2. That looks fantastic, and integrates really well into the rest of the garden. The shot from the office view really makes the hellstrip and garden appear to be pretty seamless. And to make all of that look so nice with virtually no money laid out? That's a sweet accomplishment.

    I can attest to the horrible soil in a hellstrip. When I was in California, neighbors were digging theirs up to extend their driveway and they crew they hired used a jackhammer to get the soil out. It made me feel better about the slow progress I was making in digging mine up.

    1. I think I'll be amending that soil for decades.


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