LIVING GREEN: Growing vegies and a community

Why would somebody complain about a community garden built on a former barren ‘‘nature’’ strip?

Most are enamoured about the idea of people planting vegetables and herbs out on public footpaths and verges, and the sight of fresh red tomatoes, bright green spinach and tasty basil brightens anybody’s day.

But before you start digging, make sure you find out your local council’s rules and regulations.

And don’t forget to check with your neighbours.

Councils say you need your neighbours’ permission, especially if the garden expands onto land in front of their house or next to it.

This week a Waverley resident, in eastern Sydney, was ordered to remove her verge garden because her neighbour complained about it.

Nicolette Boaz had planted the garden on her adjoining neighbour’s side nature strip on Simpson Street in Bondi five years ago after she said it wasn’t being used and resembled a ‘‘sandy wasteland’’.

A Waverley Council spokeswoman said the council supported having footpath gardens in the community (as well as larger community gardens) but there were rules and regulations that had to be followed, because footpaths were council property.

‘‘They have to fit in with the general look and feel of the area,’’ the spokeswoman said. ‘‘And the people putting in the garden need to seek council permission in the first instance and neighbours on the adjoining property must also give their assent.’’

The spokeswoman said Ms Boaz had been asked to pull up the garden because the neighbour had complained.

‘‘If the neighbour was fine with it then it would be no problem,’’ she said. 

 The council had received about 50 applications for footpath gardens in the past 12 months and the footpath garden policy was  under review, she said.

As part of an application, gardeners must allow enough room for people to open their car doors and exit easily. In most cases this means having no plants within 80 centimetres of the kerb. 

Footpath and  community gardens are growing in popularity but  are not particularly new. In January 1942, then prime minister John Curtin launched Dig for Victory, urging people to grow their own vegetables as  part of  the war effort.

The victory gardens sprung up across the country as  families and their neighbours did their bit to cope with food shortages and food prices rising to record levels.

‘‘Garden armies’’ were given public spaces – including parks and gardens – to grow tonnes of vegetables such as onions, potatoes and beans for the troops.

There are believed to  be about 500 thriving community gardens around the country.

If you want to start a verge garden on a nature strip  you need to make sure accessibility on footpaths, and traffic and road conditions, are not affected. Other environmental issues such as stormwater capture and street trees need to be  considered when designing the beds.

First you need to speak to the council to see if your street is suitable for the inclusion of garden beds.

Contact Newcastle City Council Park Services on 4974 6038 to find this out.

You could form your own community garden group and get support from neighbours, or you could join one of the many existing community garden groups around the city, including in Mayfield, New Lambton, Hamilton South, the Foreshore, Kooragang, and in Wickham. 

A large part of the appeal of such gardens is the opportunity to have social interaction with people you might never normally meet.

Let’s hope they’re neighbourly!  AAP   

For information on setting up community and footpath gardens visit  communitygarden.org.au.

FISHING FOR NEW WAYS

If you’re keen to grow your own food but loathe weeding and watering, aquaponic gardening could be the solution.

Aquaponics involves growing fish and vegetables together in one system.

It combines aquaculture (raising fish in tanks) with hydroponics (growing plants in water) by using fish waste as the main plant food, as demonstrated by Rodney Ingersoll, pictured.

By filtering nutrients, the plants in turn cleanse the water for the fish. Unlike traditional gardening, no weeding, watering or fertilising is required.

 Find out how to build  your own system at a training course on Saturday, December 1 at Charlestown Library. Cost is $95.  Go to aquaponicgardener.com.au to book.

Bush tucker

You can introduce unique flavours and textures to your dishes with Australian native fruits. Several varieties are also loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants.

Port Stephens residents can   learn how to incorporate them into their daily lives on Sunday, November 25 from 9.30am to noon. To book, phone 4980 0251.

Food garden tour

Hunter Organic Growers’ Society will hold their last field day for the year on Saturday, December 1. A host talk and tour of a well-established food garden, complete with fruit and nut trees, will take place from 1pm at 2 Bridge Street, Fassifern. Non-members can attend for $4 (or $6 for a family). Phone Melissa Simpson on 0403 650 262 for more information.

Free e-waste recycling

Newcastle Council residents can recycle electronic equipment at Tighes Hill Tafe Car Park off Maitland Road this Saturday, November 24, 8am to noon. Go to hrr.com.au or ph 1800 838 884 for details. 

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