Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Edible naturestrips

Looking for some extra space to grow your edibles?  Maybe it's time to consider your nature strip.  That expanse of grass in front of your home between the footpath and the road could be an ideal place to grow herbs and vegies, if of course, it's permitted by your local council. 

While you have to mow your nature strip, technically this land is council property. Not all councils will allow you to plant out your nature strip so you must check with your council before you start.  Even if they do permit nature strip plantings, they may have a list of allowed plants and this may not include edibles. The last thing you want is for council to come along and remove your lovely plants if they consider them to be unsuitable.  

Our local council requires you to apply for the relevant permit and adhere to strict guidelines to ensure public safety and meet council liability requirements. A council officer also needs to conduct an inspection and give their okay.  It's also worth running your plans by your neighbours. Complaints to council may be averted if people understand exactly what you are planning to do. Making it look attractive and keeping it well maintained and weed-free should also help to cut down on complaints.

Moreland council, also in Melbourne, permits edibles to be planted on natures strips.  Below is a great example. These photos were taken at Karen Sutherland's inspiring urban food garden, 'Gunyah', in Pascoe Vale South. This fantastic garden was open to the public as part of the Open Gardens Australia program last weekend.

And here's a nature strip of herbs in Hahndorf, spotted on our travels to South Australia:

One well-known and attractive-looking edible nature strip planting is The Verge, featured on Gardening Australia (ABC TV). Viewers of this show will have watched the evolution of this edible streetscape created by Costa Georgiadis and his neighbours on the nature strips in his Sydney street.

Nature strip plantings must consider the following points:

Clear access - In general, footpaths must be 1.5 m wide and clear of tripping hazards or overhanging vegetation. People also need to be able to get in and out of cars parked on the adjacent road. For The Verge, Costa created mulched paths long the curb to allow easy access to and from parked cars:

Clear line of sight - Your plantings must not obscure peoples' line of sight and contribute to traffic accidents or other traffic problems. Keeping the plantings to low growing herbs and vegies will assist in this.
You'll also have to be prepared for possible vandalism and the stealth harvesting of your produce by others. When this happens try to remember that sharing the harvest is an important principle of the permaculture movement!

If this idea appeals to you, get the okay from your council and then you can start designing your very own edible nature strip. The Gardening Australia website provides a step by step guide to help you get started.

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