BASS Coast Shire is lagging behind other municipalities and its more environmentally minded residents when it comes to planting out nature strips.
South Dudley’s Helen Searle and Richard Kentwell have been disappointed with the council’s reaction to the fruit and veggies they carefully planted in front of their Station Street home.
Helen says gardens are at risk of being destroyed if the community doesn’t speak up.
“Now the issue’s before the councillors and shire workers, it’s a fantastic opportunity to develop progressive guidelines that encourage and support nature strip gardening.”
She points out that many other councils, including the cities of Yarra, Moreland, Sydney and Canterbury (NSW), have established guidelines that allow residents to apply for permits to plant vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruit trees in addition to natives. Some even include raised garden beds.
“If you’re interested in this topic please take the time to write to Bass Coast Shire councillors and express your views, hopefully as soon as possible.”
Helen isn’t sure why people have complained about the plants but thinks it could be partly due to the changed look of the street following recent road sealing and kerb and channel work.
There’s minimal foot and car traffic in the street but Helen and Richard took great care to maintain a grass buffer between the plantings and the footpath and to regularly sweep any loose mulch off the path. In fact they’re delighted with the positive comments they get from people passing by. “It starts a conversation. The positive community impact is huge.”
They’re not alone in seeing benefits in growing fresh food on nature strips. To make their case to the council, they quote from a letter high-profile landscape architect and verge planting expert Costa Georgiadis wrote to the City of Frankston about his own neighbourhood’s ‘On the Verge’ planting project:
“Probably the most important aspect ... has been the community building. Residents of one end of the street are meeting other residents they never knew existed when tending or even just walking past the garden.
“So the advantages of nature strips producing food include decreasing food miles, less pollution from mowing, sharing produce with neighbours, fresh nutritious food, enhanced food security and community building.”
When it comes to nature strips, residents have all the responsibility and very little say. While they have to maintain the nature strip outside their properties, a Bass Coast local law specifies that they must not remove or plant vegetation other than grass on the road reserve without a permit.
Many councils, although not Bass Coast, even prohibit parking on a nature strip and fine transgressors.
Property owners can apply for a road occupation permit to plant on the nature strip fronting their property. The fee is $100 to assess the request and the application must be accompanied by a landscape plan of the proposed planting, taking into consideration several issues.
The council’s infrastructure director, Felicity Sist, said the nature strip was part of the road reserve, and the council had to provide safe passage for traffic, including pedestrian traffic, and protect the assets in, under and over the land.
She said planting and landscaping could damage or restrict access to underground services such as electricity, gas, telecoms and water or stormwater drains, kerbing and channelling and stormwater pits.
Unauthorised trees could also obstruct visibility for drivers while garden beds could obstruct pedestrians. Non-indigenous species such as agapanthus could also affect the natural environment.
There was also the expense to the council of maintaining, removing or reinstating plantings and garden beds if the property owner no longer maintained them.
HELEN Searle and Richard Kentwell have created a Mediterranean feel to their nature strip planting with a row of stately olive trees and silvery green globe artichokes.
These food plants are hardy, natural companions: think artichoke hearts in olive oil.
Food grower and producer, chef and writer Maggie Beer recommends home gardeners grow globe artichokes. “When they’re picked fresh, the produce is incomparable to anything you could possibly buy. Even if your thumb is the palest shade of green, you will succeed with artichokes, thanks to their less-than-fussy growing requirements.”
The globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is a perennial thistle with large edible flower buds. Its wild cousin (Cynara Cardunculus) is classed as a weed in some areas.
Globe artichokes contain a range of health-giving vitamins and minerals and plenty of fibre. They are thought to help lower cholesterol and stimulate the liver.