Boulevard Garden Guidelines

A boulevard is the area between the street curb and the sidewalk, owned by the City, that’s typically planted with grass and trees. Residents may transform the boulevard adjacent to their home into a well-designed and well- maintained garden using this guide. Boulevard gardens can create more beautiful, interesting and diverse streets, add character to neighbourhoods and increase feelings of community pride. They also provide environmental benefits such as increasing ecological diversity and providing bird, butterfly and pollinator habitats.

Remember that the boulevard is a shared public space, so please be courteous of neighbours and passers-by by keeping your garden tidy, clear of the sidewalk and free of garbage. Also, be aware that underground utilities share the boulevard and therefore, may require occasional access to maintain the underground utilities, to build new sidewalks, install street signage or to prune boulevard trees, for example. If roads or utility work need to happen on your boulevard, you may lose what you’ve planted. You may or may not receive advanced notification. In either event, work crews should be treated respectfully.

Creating your own Boulevard Garden:

Getting Started
Setbacks and Access
Plant Selection and Maintenance
Structures and Ornaments
Working Around Trees
Liability and Indemnity

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Taken spring 2022, AG

Getting Started

  • Residents must confirm the location of underground utilities before disturbing the boulevard by phoning BC One Call at 1-800-474-6886 or visit
  • To avoid interference with underground utilities, do not dig down more than 15cm and use hand tools only.
  • Keep utility covers clear of plants and soil. Work crews must be able to easily locate them. A pot of flowers on top of a utility cover is fine as long as it can be easily moved by one person.
  • Mound up compost or soil over the prepared area up to 10cm, measuring from the original ground level to ensure there is adequate soil for plants to root and that underground utilities are not disturbed.
  • Use new, clean soil or compost to avoid weeds and toxins and also to optimize growing conditions. Compost and soil are available from garden supply shops and even some hardware and grocery stores.

Setbacks and Access

  • If there is no sidewalk, access along the boulevard must be provided so that pedestrians are not forced to resort to the street.
  • Maintain a path of at least 30cm to allow pedestrians to open and close vehicle doors. Garden Beds should be no longer than 6m without a break.
  • Maintain a 1.5m clearance around fire hydrants, utility poles, bus shelters, concrete bus pads or other permanent structures. Make sure they are easily visible and accessible from both the street and the sidewalk.

Plant Selection and Maintenance

  • For boulevard areas near intersections, driveways, curbs, sidewalk edges and/or where visibility may be a concern, select low-growing plants that are no taller than 60cm.
  • Except in the above situation, select plants that do not grow taller than 1m, or ensure that plant height is maintained at 1m or less. Choose drought-tolerant plants, native plants, and plants with winter interest to create a water wise boulevard that looks great in all seasons. Your local garden centre can help with appropriate plant selection.
  • If the plant heights are deemed to be a visibility or safety concern, or do not meet the above guidelines, the City of Nanaimo reserves the right to ask that the plants be trimmed or to have them removed.
  • Ensure the plant material you are using is non-invasive. For more information about invasive species visit:
  • You must have permission from the City prior to planting trees. For permission or if you would like to request that the City plant a tree in your boulevard, please contact Parks and Recreation Department at or (250)-756-5200.
  • Please keep plants pruned away from the sidewalk.
  • Do not let gardening tools, materials or hoses obstruct the sidewalk and please keep the sidewalk clean.
  • The use of pesticides is prohibited.

 Structures and Ornaments

  • Permanent installations such as in-ground irrigation systems are not allowed.
  • Temporary structures and ornaments are allowed within certain parameters, provided there are easily moved and do not interfere with access or visibility.
  • All temporary structures and ornaments must be set back 1m from any pole, fire hydrant, or other permanent structure.
  • Raised garden beds are considered temporary structures.
  • The recommended height for a raised garden bed is between 15cm and 45cm. Raised garden beds should not exceed 45cm.
  • Provide a 1m path between raised garden beds and other fixed objects to ensure easy access between the sidewalk and parked vehicles. Raised garden beds should be no longer than 6m.
  • Plants must be no taller than 1m, measured from the ground level, not the surface level of the raised garden bed. Plants should be kept to a maximum of 60cm closer to intersections, driveways, curbs, sidewalk edges and/or where visibility is a concern.
  • If you are building raised beds to grow food, avoid treated lumber or creosoted timbers as they may be toxic. Use wood that is naturally rot-resistant such as cedar or juniper. For low garden beds, materials such as bricks, landscape pavers or rocks can be used to retain soil and define the garden edge.

Working Around Trees

  • Trees in the boulevard or road dedication belong to the City. If the tree is a formal City street tree and planted by the City or in a development, then all pruning and maintenance is to be done only by the City or designate. Any questions or concerns with City trees can be directed to Parks and Recreation or (250) 756-5200
  • Please do not cut or damage roots, bark or branches.
  • Do not cover the roots with an impermeable material.
  • Refrain from piling mulch, compost or soil against the base of the tree.
  • Do not place more than 10cm of mulch, compost or soil over the roots under the tree canopy.
  • Do not affix any signage or structures to the tree

Liability and Indemnity


With control comes responsibility. By assuming control of the boulevard adjacent to your property for gardening purposes, you and your helpers assume full and sole responsibility for any bodily injury, property damage, or other harm that is suffered by you, your helpers, or any third party, arising in any way from, or connected in any way to, your garden-related activities, and any related liabilities, damages, complaints or claims (collectively, “Claims”) including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, injury to anyone who may trip and fall in your garden, illness to anyone who may eat plants from your garden, and lost or damaged plants, structures or ornaments caused by anyone including the City.

The publication of these Guidelines and the granting of permission to engage in gardening on City boulevards is not intended to establish any agency or other relationship between the City and any person engaged in gardening on a boulevard or right of way. The City does not assume any responsibility or supervising authority for gardening on boulevards and will not inspect or manage boulevard gardens in any way.

By engaging in boulevard gardening, you agree, in return for permission to garden on City boulevards in accordance with these Guidelines, to comply with these Guidelines and to waive any and all claims against the City, its officers, employees, elected officials, contractors and agents (collectively, “Releases”) in relation to any Claims and you further agree to indemnify and save harmless the Releases from any and all Claims including legal costs and expenses that may be based on or related to your action, omission or inaction.

Publication of these Guidelines and the granting of permission to garden on City boulevards is not intended to confer any legal or equitable interest or property right in the City boulevards. The City reserves the right to re-occupy the boulevards at any time and for any reason without notice to you or payment of any compensation for removal of the plants or other property from the boulevard or for the time and effort spent by you or anyone else in gardening or improving the boulevard in any way.

The capacity to prepare for and respond to change is a cornerstone of a sustainable and resilient community, and policies are developed with inherent uncertainties. These Guidelines are provided for information purposes only, are not exhaustive, and are no substitute for relevant experience, careful research, and sound judgment in relation to each specific site. These Guidelines reflect the City’s position in light of the information available to it at the time of preparation, including the fact that informal street gardens have been sprouting up in Nanaimo for several years. While reasonable steps have been taken in preparing these Guidelines, any use that a gardener or any other person makes of them, or any reliance on or decisions based on them, are the responsibility of those parties. The City accepts no responsibility for Claims, if any, made or suffered by anyone as a result of decisions or actions based on these Guidelines.

Last updated: August 9, 2022

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