That often-neglected area between the sidewalk and the street, the median strip, deserves as much attention as the front yard itself. At Details Landscape Art, a Sonoma County design-build landscape contractor, we consider median strip landscaping to be another opportunity to install a beautiful long, narrow garden.


In newer residential homes, especially in suburban subdivisions, as well as in commercial and industrial street-side buildings, the city or municipality often owns the median strip, yet is the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain. It is a confusing situation, at best, but one where the owner usually has the ability to landscape or re-landscape, as the case may be. Different municipalities have varying requirements about how high off the ground tree branches must be maintained or how far beyond the curb or sidewalk plants can extend. Consult your local planning department for their rules and regulations. Also there are newer neighborhoods with CC&R’s and homeowner associations with their own rules and regulations. In those situations the homeowner will likely be required to submit plans or drawing of work that may be contemplated.

Some neighborhoods are considered ‘dog friendly’, with neighbors near and far walking their dog or dogs in front of your home. Some neighbors abuse this custom by permitting their dogs to do their business on your median strip. One solution is to plant a thorny ground cover that is not friendly to foot traffic to discourage this practice. Another id to install an actual fence or other wire barrier to prevent canine trespassing.

Median strip landscaping ca be done in several ways, ranging from the very boring to the interesting:

-All grass…boring.IMG_1499

-All gravel…boring.IMG_1505

-All groundcover…boringIMG_1506

Or, a beautiful garden can be installed, with occasional street trees, a nice tapestry of low-maintenance plant material (including a low growing groundcover), some boulders and finished off with a layer of bark. A tunnel and a  chase (PVC sleeve) under the sidewalk will allow the extension of the front yard drip irrigation system to the median strip. If there was already a lawn and sprinkler system, the existing pipe can be used and fitted with a special connector which will allow the connection of drip tubing. At Details Landscape Art, we usually try to design the median strip in the same style as the rest of the front yard garden.DSCN0216

Two words of caution regarding median strip landscaping:

  • Use plants and groundcover that can tolerate foot traffic. Frequently people park their vehicles in the street and walk across the median strip to access the sidewalk. If this is there case, we recommend installing some large flagstone steppingstone at intervals along the median strip to allow people easy crossing.
  • Use root barriers when planting trees to drive the roots deep down below the sidewalk, and water deeply. All too often we see large trees with major roots lift and crack the sidewalk. And use smaller trees with less invasive root systems that fit the smaller garden situation. There is no place for a giant sycamore in a median strip.