Pomegranite in Michael Mobbs’ street. Photo: Saima Ali

By Michael Mobbs

9 July 2010 Last Sunday I overheard this comment while coming out of the movie, Inception: “ . . . a constant stream of over-wrought nonsense . . .” *

And my thoughts turned to gardening.

Here are10  things we can do today in the road gardens in front of our houses, and do no harm.

1.    Plant a Midgen Berry bush or 10 in shade or sun: These little plants yield an exquisite small fruit and birds love them.

2.    Make your drain to the street a leaky one: for a drawing showing how, click here .  In much of Sydney a square metre of your roof harvests 1200 litres a year so a 30 sq m roof can give up to 30,000 litres of water to your footpath verge, drive up the growth of trees and plants there and in a few years you’ll have a free airconditioner outside your house (a tree).

3.    Put some compost around your plants and hold it in place with a layer of lucerne that in a week’s time will turn a lovely warm yellow and bestow its nitrogen and complexity on the soil life below.

4.    Put in a compost bin to take your food waste and to grow soil to grow plants.

5.    Plant kitchen garden herbs that can be walked on, picked by anyone, delight the eye and tease your olfactory nerves: mint, parsley, strawberries, lemon grass.

6.    If your house faces north, has sun and some shade from the killer western sun, put a native stingless bee hive on the verandah and lo, a host of worker bees will go to work every day on your street to increase the life, diversity, blooms, fruit and strength of the place.  And, perhaps, one day you’ll be watching these little unarmed warriors at work on the street’s plants when the most powerful four wheel drive will thunder by and suddenly you’ll see it for what it is, an expression of the inadequate, fruitless part of our human nature.

7.    Plant a native raspberry bush to delight passers-by who’ll soon catch onto its fruiting ways and get a stronger sense of what seasons bring.

8.    Put in a raised bed garden with your kids who’ll delight in their new-found gardening prowess  – it can be no more than the size of tyre

9.    While you garden, talk to someone passing by –  anyone, really.

10.    If you’re a tenant in a unit or house, buy a box of fruit ‘n veggies from local farmer; I use Food Connect.   Over 40 cents in your purchasing dollar will go to the farmers but if you buy from Coles or Woollies on average just 5 cents in the dollar goes to the farmer and that commercial abuse is partly why two farmers suicide each week in Australia.

Let pass the hurts of theft, death and vandalism of your plants.

Try for the road gardener’s laugh, and these words, “In the end the love you take is equal to the love you give” (thanks again, John Lennon).

I expect food shortages in our hitherto lucky country before 2020. It takes several years for new fruit trees to fruit.  That leaves us nine growing seasons or less to get food out the front of our places.

When we garden, we grow conversations in the street.

And we can grow a constant stream of sense about ourselves.

So, go to.

Michael Mobbs and esplaliered treed in Peace Park outside his inner city Sydney home. Photo: Saima Ali

*This is not a movie review; I reckon the movie is still worth seeing.
PS: All this talk of buildings, design, planning, new technology, policies, carbon taxes . . . Useful, of course, particularly if you like to keep in step with everyone.  But if you want to know where most pollution goes to keep our culture ticking over, have a look at this consumption atlas on the Australian Conservation’s web page and enter in the post code where you live or work; if you choose “Greenhouse pollution” you’ll see how irrelevant construction and the built environment is: https://www.acfonline.org.au/consumptionatlas/.  But that’s a Burr for another day.

Michael Mobbs is a sustainability coach who advises, teaches and speaks on sustainability issues. He works with developers, governments and communities to design and obtain approvals for houses, units and subdivisions. He is based in the inner Sydney suburb of Chippendale, where in 1996 he pioneered the conversion of his inner city terrace into a sustainable house, which has now been disconnected to mains water and sewerage and is powered by solar energy. www.sustainablehouse.com.au