To Hell with the Hell Strip: Using Drought Tolerant Plants

This information was gathered at a class on drought tolerant plants that I attended at the Master Gardener plant sale. It was presented by Master Gardener Shirlie Wasacz.

I really don’t think I have ever heard a more aptly name piece of ground. The Hell Strip. That is all you have to say and you understand exactly what it is.

Most of the time when people talk about the Hell Strip, they are referring to the piece of non-property that sits between the sidewalk and the street.

Shirlie explained that the term Hell Strip (she politely used the phrase Inferno Strip) actually refers to a piece of ground surrounded on all sides by heat retaining, heat reflecting surfaces. These conditions are most commonly found in that annoying little city owned patch in front of every house in suburbia.

Because the Hell Strip is situated in a small sea of concrete and asphalt, it is an ideal location for drought tolerant plants. But if you are planning on cultivating your Hell Strip (or any difficult, dry area), there are a few things you will want to keep in mind.

  • Amend the soil. Ohio soil is naturally clay heavy. This is bad for drought tolerant plants. You will need to amend the soil some in order to improve drainage enough for the drought tolerant plants to thrive.
  • Use mulch. Like PMS for Mother Earth, mulch will help the ground retain water. Mulch works to do this by lowering the temperature of the ground and deflecting the reflected heat from the concrete and asphalt. It also reduces the number of weeds who would steal some of the already scarce water in these areas.
  • Choose drought tolerant plants. Yeah, I know, that one seems like a no brainer, but you would be surprised how many people don’t connect dry areas with drought tolerant. There are literally hundreds of drought tolerant plants available. Use them when planting in areas that need drought tolerant plants.
  • Water only during times of severe rainfall shortage. Step away from the hose. Drought tolerant plants are designed to need less water and do not do well in areas that are kept constantly moist. Most of the time here in Ohio, we get enough water to keep drought tolerant plants happy and extra water will only give them plant depression, which may result in plant suicide. Plant suicide is a preventable occurrence.

Shirlie did not mention this but I will. If you plant on making a garden of the Hell Strip, check with your local ordinances first. In some area messing with the Hell Strip is illegal. Even if it is not illegal, you may find that local officials may give you a hard time about it. Which is yet one more reason to name it the Hell Strip.

One thought on “To Hell with the Hell Strip: Using Drought Tolerant Plants
  1. Pingback: Heavy Petal: Gardening: from a West Coast, urban, organic perspective.

  2. Hey, I’d never heard the term “Hell Strip” before! I just started a whole blog about gardening in this area (it’s called a parking strip here in Seattle, or sometimes a planting strip). At least in this part of the world, the city doesn’t actually own it, but it does have rules about what you can and can’t put there. I’m trying to feature creative ways to make it more interesting, and I hope more people will look into whether this is an option in their area.
    – Karen


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