JUSTINE Ulph is a woman on a mission: to turn the city's weary grey spaces into revitalised green places, one edible garden at a time.
"In five years' time I'd like to see a mobile vegie cart on every balcony in the city's east end - and beyond," she said determinedly.
The mother of three with the luminous smile is the head of Victory Collective, a team pushing for Novocastrians to get their hands dirty and embrace the idea of urban farming that was popular during wartime.
Ulph - alongside her brothers, chef Geoff Smith and chair of Renew Newcastle, Rod Smith; her husband and community engagement specialist and marketer Michael; and friends Jackie Sargeant, who has a retail and design background, and Cas Stronach of Group D Creative - has been championing the cause for combining building and biodiversity since September last year. They provide support to those who want to grow their own food, either in their own gardens or in public places.
"People are starting to think differently about the spaces they are using and we can give them ideas, resources and the means to make the most of inner city, seaside locations and grow food that is low cost, healthy and going to reduce their food miles," she said.
"I read recently that the supermarket mileage of very common foods can be averaged out in most cases to going twice around the world.
"We're building on the idea of the victory gardens promoted during wartime and giving it a modern twist as our focus changes around the climate, the quality of food and the source of our food."
The collective has already wheeled onto brick ramps opposite Market Square in Hunter Street Mall two of its mobile vegie crates, brimming with coriander, dill, buckwheat, lucerne, clover and marigolds.
It has also received a Newcastle City Council Make Your Place Grant to transform the nearby gardens into a rich community oasis of rosemary, chives, oregano, thyme, lemongrass, mint, geraniums and possibly even citrus.
"We'll be making it a little destination in itself where people will want to linger," Ulph said.
"We have signs up saying 'Dig for your dinner and 'eat what you sow' and we want businesses and residents to take over the garden as their own.
"We are saying about the plantings, 'Pick me, wash me and enjoy me'," she said.
The collective has filled five planter boxes on Crown Street with mint, dill, cucumber, oregano, marigold, nasturtium, parsley and basil, which have already proven useful as last-minute ingredients for passers-by.
It is in discussion with Newcastle Now about where else along the city's east end collective members can bring their watering cans and shovels and convert planter boxes into edible gardens.
"The untapped market is rooftops," Ulph said.
"When we started we had a vision that we could take over public space and have an allotment system to rent a space similar to what's happening on the roof of Melbourne's Fed Square.
"If you use Google maps you'll see the space at the community's disposal like the top of car parks, so they're conversations we're starting to have."
The collective also operates a business called Victory Gardens, using members' own backyards to grow seedlings from organic suppliers, then selling the plants as edible gardens to fit in spaces great and small.
Apartment dwellers have been favouring plants in small pots made from peat or paper, wooden planter boxes, vertical gardens and hanging baskets for balconies.
Also popular is the mobile vegie crate or the no-dig garden on wheels, constructed from reused hardwood palings and custom-built to suit the size of its future home.
Sargeant said one aged care facility had bought a crate to use as a sensory garden, filling it with lavender, mint and edible flowers.
"The residents can smell it, touch it and it can be wheeled to their bedsides to remind them of their own childhood or their own gardens at home," she said.