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I sat down this afternoon to go over the Council guidelines for applying to make a verge garden. It’s a retroactive thing because we’ve had one for ages but someone complained to the Council recently about a possible hazard so we thought we’d do the right thing.
It’s only since the Gawler Temporary Community Garden‘ bed went in that the complaint has come about, there hasn’t been a complaint about the rest of the verge in the years that our plantings have been there and the actual complaint is kind of odd. I suppose that in that way, with all of the stresses of our present times, the community garden bed has fulfilled one of its functions and helped someone express themselves in a way that they thought would be helpful for the community.
But the Council demand their paperwork and their fee, so we need to submit an application to modify the verge. I can say though that the folks at the Council who I’ve been in contact with have been friendly and approachable.
Anyways, I was making notes about various things and it all seemed to read quite well, so I’ve decided to include my musings as a cover letter that will go with the application to try to put the existence of and need for this verge garden into a better social and ecological perspective. If this many benefits can be gleaned from a small strip of unused land, we could be quite inspirational to other folks who want to do the same but have been reticent about doing it.
Here’s my notes as they’ll be sent with the application.
“Re: Application for verge
I’d like to give a little background on the work on our verge before you make a decision about whether to allow it to continue or to insist it all gets ripped out. I hope this explains its social and ecological aspects.
Our existing verge garden fulfils several roles in our local community, some of which are not being currently fulfilled by Council. By allowing it to continue, Council can be seen to be leading the way in providing for a cooler, greener Gawler, encouraging the use of native food and medicinal plants as well as gaining an inroad into the world of Community gardens in which it is being rapidly being left behind by more progressive Councils.
We have built a 1200 X 900 mm raised garden bed to initiate the process of getting a Community garden bed in Gawler. It has the title of ‘Gawler Temporary Community Garden’ It has local support and its own Facebook page which you can find at https://www.facebook.com/Gawler-temporary-community-garden-107202307757146/.
Several locals have already planted into it and the construction was funded by community donations.
Gawler Temporary Community Garden was built without permission from Council and grows without adhering to their non-committal Community Garden Policy.
Since the destruction of the large, bee and bird friendly ecosystem in the block behind us, it is increasingly necessary to continue growing a bee corridor along the street. We have planted native trees that fulfil this need as well as provide food and medicinal elements for passers by.
Because of this we would like to keep the existing trees at 1.5 metres tall instead of the restrictive 500mm that is currently allowed. That allows them to grow large enough to flower and bear fruit/seed and be a resting stop for birds. The amount of birds that fly in and out of our block has been commented on often and has only increased since the trees have reached their current height.
None of the trees have sharp thorns or toxic fruits or leaves and folks are encouraged to harvest from them. They require no additional water and reduce the number of weed species that grow, negating the need for heavy handed spraying. A neighbour mows the area roughly once a month, reducing Council’s maintenance work.
From a personal perspective, the verge garden helps shade the front of our garden, reducing the amount of water we use, It helps ameliorate local climate extremes and brings pollinators onto our block which have been drastically reduced in number since the destruction of the large Pepper Trees on the block behind us. It also serves to screen out rubbish that blows into our block from the street (mostly Hungry Jacks and McDonalds wrappers and cigarette butts). It has an educational function for passersby as we discuss both the native plants and the edible and medicinal weed species that pop up there seasonally. It has bought us many friends and helped us engage with the community, which is an important part of my mental health treatment plan.
The verge garden works seamlessly in conjunction with our block and its role in community education regarding sustainability, food and water security, edible and medicinal plants and other things that can be best discovered by visiting our website at https://ligayagarden.online.
There is a 1.5m wide pathway (goat track really, as the official footpath is on the opposite side of the road). Allowing easy transit for foot traffic. There is a 500 mm empty area between the edge of the plantings to allow cars to park and open and close doors without hindrance. There are clear areas to allow access from the street. These are at each end of the plantings – these are where the postie and catalogue deliverer comes in and the water meter reader gains access to our meter. There is a 1m wide central area which is kept empty for access as well.
The area provides no more hindrance to local diabled people and gopher drivers than the official footpath on the opposing side of the road which some have commented on as being unnavigable by their machines.It gives some a chance to stop and chat, adding to their daily social interactions and benefitting everyone’s mental health.
Acacia retionoides – edible seeds, bee fodder
Atriplex nummularia – edible leaves, home to several types of wasp in Summer
Atriplex sp. – not sure on the species of this one but tasty leaves.
Chenopodium album – more nutritious than Spinach!
Carpobrotus rossii – food and medicinal plant, beautiful flowers, insect fodder
Dodonea viscosa – medicinal use for toothaches
Enchylaena tomentosa – edible berries and home to a happy Bluetongue couple in Summer
Eremophila maculata – food and medicinal uses, local honey eaters loved the old one that we removed so we’re hoping they’ll love the new one.
Myoporum insulare – bee and bird fodder, edible berries
Phormium tenax – screening plant, excellent insect fodder and raw materials for weaving
Samubucus nigra – not native but source of edible berries and flowers both of which are well researched anti-virals
Themeda triandra – the grain plant we should be growing in Oz instead of wheat
Dianella revoluta. This is a wonder plant with so many uses – edible roots, bee attracting flowers, edible berries with anti-viral properties, traditional use of leaves for fibre.
Kunzea pomifera – edible fruit as well as bird and insect attracting flower, lizard habitat.
A range of leafy greens, thyme and strawberries. The contents of this bed will vary over time.
Hi, I think your verge is a fantastic use of what would otherwise be a wasted space.
I just wanted to suggest that in your cover letter it might be a better strategy to stick to the positives, especially when you are talking about the council that you are looking to approve an application. There are only a couple of minor negatives but I believe there needs to be none.
I do wish you luck and hope the council can see what you and I and many many others see as a no brainer when it comes to changing the way we use these spaces.
Thanks. It’s only a work in progress so far so I’ll take your advice