Verge garden

Councils such as the City of Fremantle are pushing hard for residents to turn the nature strips outside their homes into an oasis of green.

The Western Australian council has recently launched a new program that will prepare verge sites for eligible residents to realise their green thumb ambitions – removing soil, grass and vegetation and delivering free mulch that is recycled from the city’s tree pruning program.

The council also offers native plant subsidies and free mulch, street trees and advice on landscaping and planting a verge garden.

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said that there are many reasons to plant a verge garden, including less water usage, reduced urban heat island effect and new homes for native wildlife.

“They’re also great way to show pride in our community and make us all feel good about where we live,” he said.

Fremantle residents are allowed to use some materials on a verge without lodging an application, such as low shrubs and plants. Furniture and fruit and nut trees require permission.

It’s fairly common practice in Australia for property owners and occupiers to maintain the strip of council land beside the footpath and in front of their property, with the approach to verge gardens varying from council to council. In most cases, native and low water plants are preferred.

The Inner West Council in Sydney also offers help to remove the grass and prepare the soil free of charge for locals wanting to turn verges into gardens. It does not ask for an application but does provide guidelines, and recommends against growing food due to soil contamination risks. City of Sydney, Brisbane City Council and City of Port Phillip in Melbourne also don’t require applications but expect gardeners to follow their guidelines.

Other councils ask residents to submit applications so that they can check that a site is appropriate, including the City of Melbourne. Residents must also pay a $50 application fee and display a notification sign above the space for a month to give neighbours a chance to comment on the proposed garden. City of Adelaide, Waverly Council in Sydney and Moreland City Council in Melbourne also ask residents to seek permission before planting a verge garden.

Permission is likely sought by these councils to minimise liability issues because the council is ultimately responsible for the land.

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