How to Make Your Hellstrip Heavenly How to Make Your Hellstrip Heavenly

That little piece of earth between your sidewalk and the street in suburban or urban areas is fast becoming known as the "hellstrip." I live in the country, so my hellstrip is my whole front yard. All kidding aside, let's delve into possible ways to make your hellstrip heavenly.

Planning

The first order of business is to check with your city to see what you can legally do with the hellstrip. You should check because, technically, you don’t own that piece of land—the city does. In most places they can do with it what they please, when they want. (Such as tear it up to repair sewer lines, cut down trees on it, etc.)

Once that business is taken care of, you can properly plan what you would like to do with that space. Keep in mind that that piece of land typically goes through hell (maybe that’s how it got its name). Most typically, people park their cars right next to it and walk on it. But snow can also pile up on it in the winter. Salt from roads gets on it (and salt kills just about everything). Dogs like to sniff around it and leave their mark. There are numerous daily scenarios you need to take into consideration.

Keep in mind that the hellstrip is basically an extension of your curb appeal when someone is looking at the outside of your house. You may want to therefore carry the overall look or style of your landscaping to the hellstrip. There are many possibilities for what you can DIY in that areas. You can plant grass, wildflowers, or groundcover. For a non-living option, you can install pavers or stepping stones.

Install Stone for Minimal Upkeep

A landscaped house with a gravel hellstrip.

Stone is the simplest way to make your hellstrip heavenly, whether it's pavers, bricks, or gravel. After the initial work is done, there's not much else to do except some occasional maintenance. No watering, no weeding…you are free and clear. However, to make it work you must follow the proper procedures for laying stone or brick. Below are some general steps.

Dig out about four inches of soil to create space for your materials to sit. (Note that the ground will be hard since water does not stay in hellstrips. It tends to run off because it's blocked in on all sides by concrete, leaving the soil underneath harder than the rest of your yard.) Once your digging is done, you should install a nice thick layer of weed control fabric. The next layer should be crushed limestone, which will help minimize frost heaving during the changing of seasons. Put enough limestone in the space so that when you place your brick or other stone on top of it, everything will be level with the concrete of the sidewalk.

Plant Greenery for Beauty or Practicality

A landscaped hellstrip with flowers.

There are many plants that can withstand the constant sun common to hellstrips. Planting in this area depends a lot on your location. Southern homes have a much bigger variety of choices. Northern homes that deal with seasonal changes will be more limited. Check the gardening zone you're in before choosing plants.

Perennials vs Annuals

Perennials are a great choice for the hellstrip. Once planted, they basically take care of themselves and all they need is a little care in the spring and fall. If you really enjoy planting every spring and want to change it up from time to time, then go with annuals, which typically die within a year after being planted, depending on the variety. These flowers are in general more colorful than perennials, so if you want color, annuals are the way to go.

Herbs and Vegetables

Herbs make a wonderful choice for the hellstrip because you can fill the space while also benefiting from it. Rosemary and lavender are popular herbs you can make use of in the kitchen and home, and they will fill the space outside nicely. (Not to mention—they smell great.) Want to take it a step further? Some people in urban communities have taken to converting hellstrips into vegetable gardens. This can be a great option if you don't otherwise have space to grow veggies.

Evergreens

Able to handle just about any soil type, evergreens can be trimmed easily to maintain a nice look and are, as their name states, green year-round. Boxwood or holly are good selections. Just make sure to maintain the plant so it doesn't grow too tall. You may not want to block the view of your home from the street, and you may not want to inhibit access to the sidewalk from it with large plants like this.

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