Curbside gardening now legal 

 Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is a short, salt-tolerant perennial that flowers in May and is suited to dry sun or shade. It is an excellent alternative to periwinkle, creeping jenny or lily of the valley. All three are now illegal in your right-of-way, as they present threats to local biodiversity.  

Photo: Dave Keys


Curbside gardening now legal 

By Christina Keys 


Thousands of curbside gardens that were previously illegal in the City of Ottawa are now permitted.  

Last summer, City Council approved amendments to the Use and Care of Roads bylaw to allow gardening within the city-owned area along the front of properties called the right-of-way. In the Glebe, this can be one to two metres in from the sidewalk or even the entire front yard.  

Previously, only grass was permitted. Restrictions for gardening in the right-of-way include:  

  • Maximum height of plants of one metre 
  • No invasive species  
  • No rocks, pavers, stones, or other hard landscaping 
  • No trees unless city-planted 
  • No planting within 1.5 metres of city trees and infrastructure 
  • Sidewalks must be unobstructed 

Invasive species that are not permitted include those already regulated by the province such as dog-strangling vine and buckthorn. These show up unintentionally in gardens. Newly banned plants include species that are intentionally planted and still for sale in Ontario despite their harm to natural environments. These include periwinkle, lily of the valley, daylilies, creeping jenny, pachysandra, miscanthus grass and burning bush.  

Unfortunately, all these plants are common in the Glebe. The newly banned plants have not previously been regulated in Ottawa but have been identified by Ontario’s auditor general as invasive. They escape gardens, invade natural areas, displace native species, and disrupt food webs, creating a serious threat to biodiversity in Ottawa.  

For now, consumable plants such as vegetables and herbs are not permitted in the right-of-way while city staff conduct wider research into balancing food safety and food security. Watch for public consultation on this issue later this summer. 


Suitable curbside plants 

Many beautiful native plants are suited to harsh curbside environments. Salt-tolerant plants for sunny, dry gardens include spotted beebalm (Monarda punctata), prairie smoke (Geum triflorum), orange butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), and little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium).  

In shade, consider hairy beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus), white wood aster (Eurybia divaricata), and zigzag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis). Native groundcovers for shade include woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca), blue violet (Viola sororia), wild ginger (Asarum canadense), and Canada anemone (Anemone canadensis).  

One of the easiest ways to create a new garden bed is to use a hose to outline the shape of the bed, lay cardboard down to smother the grass and add mulch on top. Another method is to lift the sod with a lawn edging tool. Cover the space with mulch right away or weeds will take over within days. To have free mulch delivered to your door, visit or contact an arborist.  

Whichever way you choose to create garden beds in your right-of-way, you will be beautifying the 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 the Glebe. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time – you’ll spend more time chatting with neighbours than gardening!  


Christina Keys is a wildlife gardener with Garden Releaf, a Glebe-based ecological garden restoration and design company. She volunteers with the Manor Park Community Association to remove invasive species and establish native plant gardens in the neighbourhood.  


A version of this article originally appeared in the Manor Park Chronicle.  


Pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) is a host plant for the American lady butterfly, pictured here laying eggs in a ROW garden in Manor Park in May 2024. It is an ideal curbside plant, growing in sun to part-shade locations and is salt-tolerant.  

Photo: Dave Keys 

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