INFO SHEET: Verge gardening
by Russ Grayson, updated May 2020.
Farming the urban footpath
Making productive use of urban land
The established practice of planting native and exotic plants on the verge, the space between the footpath and the road, extends habitat for wildlife in our cities. Now, the growing of food extends habitat for humans.
Growing vegetables and herbs on the verge has been done for at least the past 20 years, however the planting of edible trees on footpaths is a much older practice. In some parts of our cities it’s not uncommon to encounter olive or other fruit trees planted by immigrants decades ago.
Realities of verge gardening
Road verges are public land
The gardener has no property claim to the verge as it is public land. The verge is accessible to anyone and nothing can be done if people help themselves to what you grown there.
This should be anticipated and it’s best to adopt an attitude of sharing.
Neighbours may complain
Not everyone will like your turning footpath lawn into footpath food. They may complain to council. This has led to the removal of a number of verge gardens.
Develop a good argument about the social benefit of verge planting and how you will maintian the garden. Some councils have adopted policy to allow verge gardens.
Your verge garden may be damaged
Young fruit trees may be stolen from verge gardens or the garden vandalised. This is uncommon, but it happens.
Dogs and cats might find the verge garden a pleasant place in which to play, poop or rest and may damage plantings.
A few guidelines
The popularity of verge gardening makes time spent doing a little design thinking a good idea.
Check with council
Verge land is administered by councils. Does your council have a policy or procedure for verge gardening? Do you need permission to farm the verge?
Verge garden safety
Take care constructing and managing your verge garden:
- building and managing a verge garden may involve stepping out onto the street; be aware of traffic
- do not place your tools on the walkway where they may be a hazard to passers-by
- avoid planting species that are irritating, toxic, thorny or could otherwise annoy pedestrians and children.