Clean & Green

Corner lot in Philadelphia

Photo from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, depicting a corner lot in Philadelphia.

cost: low
cost: low
workload: light
workload: light
time commitment: low

Stabilization is the first step for any green strategy. It is the basic treatment of a vacant lot through cleaning, seeding for grass, and planting trees to correct the blighted condition of that lot.

Lot stabilization can be an individual initiative or community effort. Stabilization is often undertaken as an informal volunteer task by community members. However, it is best to work through a community organization since that organization can provide institutional support, visibility, and funding.


1. Make sure to get permission from site owners before entering onto a site. For City-owned lots, use the Litter Clean-Up Application.

2. Clear and dispose of debris on lot including trash, overgrown vegetation, and any large objects such as abandoned cars or air conditioning units. Waste removal can be supported by the Budget Dumpster Dumpster Donation Program.

3. Amend and grade the soil for proper slope and drainage. Proper drainage ensures healthier vegetation and prevents excess erosion.

4. Test soil for toxins and contaminants and prepare the soil for grass cover by applying fertilizer and mulch to the ground.

5. Plant grass, trees, and flowers to make the lot green and beautiful. Picking the right types of plants that are easy to maintain will make your work over time easier.

6. Fence the lot using a basic wood fence or low shrubs to show that the lot is cared for and to prevent further dumping.

7. Maintain the lot’s appearance throughout the year – mowing, watering, trimming trees, raking leaves, etc.

Suitability Considerations

Lot stabilization requires few resources other than a desire to improve neighborhood appearance and a commitment of time. Stabilization of a lot can be achieved without ownership. Often neighborhood groups undertake these projects at will, with or without approval from the lots’ owners. However, please be aware of the risks associated with this option. For example, owners have the right to stop the project at any time without notice resulting in a total loss of your resources. If a lot is privately owned, an agreement (verbally or in writing) with the owner is the safest option.

Although any blighted lot is a candidate for stabilization, it is recommended that parties interested in lot stabilization should not attempt to own the lots unless the parties have a specific long-term strategy in mind for that stabilized lot. Lastly, involved parties should check with City regulators about planting lawns.


  • Improved neighborhood appearance
  • Deterrence of criminal activities
  • Increased property values
  • Healthier ecosystem

Possible Materials

  • Top soil
  • Grass seed
  • Shrubs
  • Fencing
  • Trees