Understanding the Space
The verges and nature strips of our cities are an obvious place to green our cities with street trees and biodiverse habitat for pollinators and other small wildlife. But take-up has been slow, many councils are yet to develop policies, and disputes derail everyone’s efforts.
Disputes happen when people rush in without first understanding the special features and complexities of this shared public space. Good intentions and enthusiasm are not enough.
These posts take you from not knowing where to start (or why to start) to a proud and confident verge gardener who understands how their garden plays a part in the overall greening of our cities.
The posts will give you insights on how to avoid the pitfalls, ensure that you keep your neighbours on-side, and learn how to work collaboratively with councils to increase the urban tree canopy we so desperately need to tackle increasing urban heat.
Good intentions and enthusiasm are not enough.
These posts are ideal for group discussions to ensure that your projects stay on track.
What is a verge and why does it matter
To start we'll clarify what land is covered and the laws and policies that affect them. What makes verge gardens and nature strips different to community gardens and similar projects?
Note to Group Leaders: Use this to define the boundaries of your projects. It will help keep your project on track, avoid wasting time and resources going off on tangents, and avoid your members getting into disputes with other residents or council.
More than a Gardening Project
It was only after I'd begun planting my verge, that I realised that it wasn't just a gardening or landscaping project, it was a social experiment on a very complicated site.
There are lots of unwritten social rules that govern this space that combines public and private. Knowing these will save you lots of grief.
The Rules for Verge Gardens Understanding both formal Council policies and the myriad of unwritten social rules that govern this space is the key to avoiding complaints and showdowns with councils.
An Apron or a Long Paddock Another perspective on the space.
Note to Group Leaders: If you are running a group project, each of the topics above is a workshop in itself. The more your group understands these ideas, the more successful your project will be.
What and How You Plant
How what you plant and how you go about it can make a big difference. Why street trees and natives? Fast or slow? How can you deal with vandalism, dogs and other issues.
Note to Group Leaders: This is where many of the skills for advocacy and collaboration are learned and practiced.
Be Easy on Yourself
Street trees are long-term commitments but our understory gardens are ongoing projects where you can have some trial and error, and changes of mind.
Note to Group Leaders: these steps are very important - disputes with neighbours or councils will undermine your efforts and could see your whole project fail.