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On the verge of a greener community

Phil Dudman

Phil Dudman

February 28, 2013

With all the doom and gloom of environmental disaster coming at us from every angle, it’s easy to get stuck, feeling like there’s nothing you can do to change the big picture. That’s when it’s time to go back to that old saying… ‘Think globally… Act locally’. If you’re a gardener, you are already making a positive impact on the world, simply by growing plants and nurturing the soil, and if you are growing some of your own food, then there are environmental benefits there too.

Phil's chosen hardy easy-to-propogate plants that can handle neglect

Phil’s chosen hardy easy-to-propogate plants that can handle neglect

Imagine if we could encourage lots more people to get into gardening… imagine the positive environmental effects that would create. Just think of how beautiful our communities would be with more gardens, more shade trees, more flowers, and more edible plants. Perhaps it’s time we took our love of gardening to the street… and by that I mean beyond the boundary of our properties and onto the verge right out the front. What better place to start!

Phil's verge garden - an natural extension of his front garden

Phil’s verge garden – an natural extension of his front garden

Across the road - a well established verge garden - they 'got it' years ago

Across the road – a well established verge garden – they ‘got it’ years ago


We’ve seen Costa do it on Gardening Australia TV… as well as Jerry and Josh. I’ve done it myself at my place, and I’m very pleased with the result. While it’s a public space, for me, it feels and looks like a natural extension of my garden… and it’s reduced my mowing considerably… but perhaps the best thing is the response from people in my local community… most people love it, and whenever someone walks by… I see them gazing deeply into my verge garden… and if they see me, they’ll always give a wave and say something positive… and it’s these greater community connections that have occurred through this simple little garden that have been the icing on the cake.

Hardy aloes provide colour and interest in winter

Hardy aloes provide colour and interest in winter

So… if everyone loves it so much, why aren’t they doing it? Well funny enough, I was at a Christmas gathering with some of my neighbours and they were talking about how they would like to start their own verge garden. Great! But two months later… still not a sod has been turned. I’ve come to the realisation that maybe, they just need a little guidance.

To mow or not to mow

To mow or not to mow





A lot of people don’t know where to start with these types of projects… and that’s where the experienced gardeners in the street can step in and help. Another issue is council… will they let you do it? Well with most people I’ve spoken to, the council has been very supportive, and in some cases they have offered ornamental and fruit trees to plant, even mulch… so be sure to open that conversation, at least to be aware of guidelines in terms of safe planting around services, pathways, driveways and street corners.

The neighbour's verge begging to be transformed

The neighbour’s verge begging to be transformed

So the next step for me is to do a letter box drop and knock on some doors to check out who is interested. From there, I’ll organise a gathering to chat about ideas, nut out some plans and see how we can help each other to get some more verge gardens happening in our street. Even if it’s only two or three households… at least it’s a start. You know how the song goes… “From little things big things grow”.

[Leave a comment on this or any GardenDrum blog post during March 2-9, 2013 to be in the draw to win a copy of Waterwise Gardening, co-written by Catherine Stewart and Sophie Thomson!]

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Catherine Stewart
10 years ago

Love the ‘Paul Kelly’ mouth organ at the end and I agree ‘from little things, big things grow’. But I wonder whether one of things that stops people doing it is a simple dislike, or even fear, of hard physical work. They might be OK at tending a garden that’s been made for them, but they don’t want to break their backs turning sods or digging. Nonsensically they’d rather pay and go to the gym for their physical exercise, or jog about the streets, but combine exercise with something that looks like ‘work’? No way!

Phil Dudman
10 years ago

Perhaps gardening in lycra is the answer, and lots of mirrors… ‘let’s get physical… physical’. Don’t ask me to sing that one. Phil

10 years ago

YMCA music may be needed.
Anyway… the problem with verge gardening is council restrictions, insurance and health concerns. Three big negatives. If you can get away with it, do it. If council is too controlling, don’t bother as the red tape will break you down into a pile of frustration and fear of retribution.

Phil Dudman
10 years ago
Reply to  Paul

Has that been your experience with council Paul?