Bylaw changes greenlight curbside gardening
Christina Keys provides latest on city rules governing the use of curbside lawns
Thousands of curbside gardens that were previously illegal in the City of Ottawa are now permitted thanks to amendments made to an existing bylaw over the summer.
Over the summer, city council approved amendments to the Use and Care of Roads bylaw to allow gardening within the right-of-way area along the front of residential properties. Previously, only grass was permitted. Now you can plant a flower garden right up to the street. Restrictions include:
Maximum height of plants is one metre
- No invasive species*
- No “consumable” plants (i.e., vegetables, fruit, herbs, nuts, seeds, etc.) pending a review**
- No rocks or hard landscaping
- Maintain 1.5 metres of space around fire hydrants, city trees, bus stops, and utilities
- Sidewalks and roadways unobstructed
- Only hand-digging permitted (no mechanical excavation)
*Pending city council approval, invasive species that are not permitted will include periwinkle, lily of the valley, daylilies, creeping jenny, and miscanthus grass. These species have been previously unregulated in Ottawa despite their harm to natural environments and are common in Manor Park. See ‘How invasive plant species harm biodiversity.’
**Plants yielding consumable food are not permitted in right-of-way gardens for now, while city staff conducts wider research into balancing food safety and food security.
Many beautiful native plants are suited to harsher curbside environments. Salt-tolerant plants for sunny gardens include the spotted beebalm (Monarda punctata), orange butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), nodding onion (Allium cernuum), and little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), which is designated a regionally significant plant with few wild species left in Ottawa.
In shade, consider Canada anemone (Anemone canadensis), hairy beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus), wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), and woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca).
One of the easiest ways to create a new garden bed is to smother the grass with cardboard and mulch. Use a hose to outline the shade of the bed, then lay cardboard down within it and add mulch on top. Cut through the cardboard to plant immediately, or wait a few weeks for it to be soft enough to dig through.
Another method is to lift the sod with a lawn edger or lawn lifter tool. Cover the space in mulch right away, or weeds will take over within days. To have free mulch delivered to your door, visit www.getchipdrop.com or contact an arborist. If they deliver too much, offer it to neighbours.
Whichever way you choose to create garden beds in your right-of-way, you will be beautifying our neighbourhood, reducing stormwater runoff, sequestering carbon, and providing habitat for native insects, birds, and mammals.
Gardening by the street also allows us to build connections with each other in Manor Park. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time for right-of-way gardening–you’ll spend more time chatting with neighbours than gardening!