Designing an edible verge garden
Interested in turning your nature strip into a productive and beautiful space?
There are a few extra things to plan for on top of the usual garden considerations, such as water and sunlight availability – but we’ve done the hard part for you! Here are the four easy steps to good design, so you can get right down to the good bit – growing your garden.
Before you get carried away thinking about all the great food you can grow on your nature strip, you need to look at the area and how it is used. Even if you have a footpath at your property boundary, the ACT government requirement is:
A strip of grass or stable surface a minimum of 1.2 metres wide at the back of kerb for pedestrian access. No obstruction is permitted within this 1.2 metre wide strip. Any edging must be flush with the adjacent ground.
Make sure you leave plenty of space for people to move safely past your garden – think about access for older people, those pushing prams, and people who have mobility issues. They’ll need an even, wide surface that doesn’t get covered with mulch, and without any trip hazards. Often the easiest way to make sure you leave pedestrian space is to go for a raised bed rather than a low-edged garden.
Rainfall & Water
The water from roadside drains flows untreated into streams, lakes and the Murrumbidgee River. Water by hand so you only use what you need, and there is little-to-no run-off. Ease the nutrient load on our waterways by using organic, rather than synthetic, fertilisers and pesticides (this is a good idea regardless of where you put your garden). If you want to use an irrigation system you will need to get approval, and the ACT government discourages this.
Mulch, soil and other ground treatments will also need to be kept out of roads, drains and footpaths. Your garden “will only be approved if stable & self-contained”.
If you want to grow trees they’ll need to “fit with the character of your street”. Make sure they won’t cause line of sight problems for those using the footpath or the road, particularly around driveways, intersections and pedestrian laneways
Existing trees need to be looked after by “ensuring that the ground level around nature strip trees is not altered and that materials are not to be built-up around the base of any trees”. This helps keeps the trees stable and prevents diseases like collar-rot.
2. Getting approval
Before planting, there is a form to fill out to get approval to go ahead with your garden. You can find it on the TAMS website, under ‘Nature Strip’ (www.tams.act.gov.au/city-services/public_land_use#landscape). It’s not too onerous, but you’ll need to sketch your proposed garden to scale.
3. Talk to your neighbours
Talk to your neighbours before you start, and let them know what you’re planning. That way there won’t be any problems after you’ve put in the hard work, you’re more likely to get a hand with watering and maintenance, and you might even be able to establish a street-long community garden!
4. Start small
It’s better to start small, as a small garden will be much easier to maintain. If it’s all going well and you want to expand, it’s not difficult!
You can start with a small patch at the front of your house, then grow and perhaps move along to the front of your neighbour’s house (if they’re supportive after seeing yours!)
See factsheet, ‘Growing an edible verge garden’ for more information and helpful hints.
Note that the government rules cited in this fact sheet relate to the ACT. If you live elsewhere, check your local government requirements before getting started.
For further information
Canberra Environment and Sustainability Resource Centre
We to work directly with the community to ensure the best environmental outcomes for the ACT through targeted education, information and practical application. We recognise that a healthy and vibrant community is much more able to take care of itself and its environment than a fragmented one. Our projects support the community to nourish itself and the environment together, and to sustain themselves into the future: www.ecoaction.com.au