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Edible Street Gardens: The Need for Design Guidelines

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on August 12th, 2010

Source: Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network

From “Farmers of the urban footpath & the need for design guidelines for street verge gardens”  by Russ Grayson:

Edible Street Verge Gardening is something that has been going on for the past 20 years or so in our cities but is now capturing the public imagination such that the number of plantings is rapidly increasing.  For advocates of edible landscaping in our cities, this is good news but for local government the practice can be confusing. What has become apparent during the recent upsurge in the popularity of edible footpath planting is that a set of design and planting guidelines are desperately needed.  Most verge plantings to date have been created by gardeners who know what they are doing. The possibility emerging from the current boost in popularity is that those less knowledgeable will create gardens with inappropriate plants and without considering other footpath users.

An established practice

Street verge gardening is the practice of growing ornamental, native or edible plants on the footpath. The rise in popularity of edible gardens has brought the planting of fruits, herbs and vegetables, sometimes mixed with flowers and native plants, to our footpaths. The practice has caught the popular imagination and is another means of returning food production to our cities.

That edible verge gardening is an established practice in Australian cities is revealed by a walk around those suburbs where the immigrants of the 1950s and 1960s made their homes, particularly those suburbs favoured by immigrants from the Mediterranean region. What do you find on the footpaths here? Olive trees, now mature and productive.

Unknowingly, some councils have made their own contribution to edible streetscapes. Take a walk along a certain street in Stanmore, in Sydney’s Inner West, and you encounter the Australian bush food tree, the Illawarra Plum (Podocarpus elatus). This strange, plum red fruit with its seed on the outside can be picked and eaten raw or made into a sauce by those with a little culinary savvy. Walk down a particular street in Windsor, Brisbane, and you encounter another Australian bushfood serving as a verge planting, the macadamia nut. Then there are numerous species of lillypilly, the Syzygiums, that have been established as street trees and that yield edible fruit.

These examples may not be in large number, however they have been noted by urban gleaners.

The rest of this comprehensive article covers Understanding council concerns, The realities of verge gardens, Design considerations for verge gardens, Functions, and Yields.

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