Verging on an asset
The current trend of larger homes on smaller blocks and increasing medium-density housing leaves little room for a garden these days.
For years the front verge has been the most neglected strip of land around houses but it should be considered an asset as it is probably the only space that receives full sun.
We need to value this little strip of wasteland and turn it into a dynamic area of green space that feeds us, feeds local wildlife, creates a safe habitat for fauna and helps to mitigate the urban heat island effect. If you have a large verge, you can achieve all of the above.
The verge is the one part of the garden that you look at several times a day and if you spend time out there you will meet your neighbours, see what’s happening around the neighbourhood and have a sense of ownership and belonging to the community.
The first hurdle to get over is the question of who owns the verge. Some people have the attitude that the council owns the verge and is therefore responsible for any maintenance or upkeep, but if you think of it as a joint partnership where you and the local council can create a much better neighbourhood, it’s a win-win situation.
You must check with your local council on their verge policy as it will stipulate heights of plants, choice of trees, mulch selection and, thankfully, limitations on the area of artificial turf that can be used.
The most important aspect to consider is not to block the line of sight when reversing out of driveways, and also to have a strip along the roadside that is safe for pedestrians to get off the road if they need to avoid cars.
I would love to create a whole street of great verges. It’s all about creating livable, safe neighbourhoods where people take pride in where they live and feel a sense of belonging. It shouldn’t matter if you rent or own your home, what’s important is that we all need to live somewhere and if we work together we can instigate change to the “business as usual model”, where green spaces are seen as wasted spaces.
THE HABITAT VERGE
It is possible to grow a verge that encourages fauna to come and visit your place. Native plants provide nectar, pollen, a place to breed and food to sustain life.
You need to think about plants that will provide a variety of food over different seasons. And please go for plant diversity; the greater the diversity of plants, the greater the diversity of wildlife.
There are such great nurseries around that can provide you with a plant palette that suits all creatures that fly, crawl and nest. Get good quality information from an accredited nursery that has trained horticulturalists that will understand your soil type and recommend suitable plants.
If you have couch lawn, you will need to kill it off before planting out anything. It’s a hard weed to kill but it’s a must to successfully replant.
THE EDIBLE VERGE
If the only full sun you get is on your verge, make it your vegie and fruit garden.
Choose a tree that makes for good shade and gives you fruit or nuts. If you want a citrus tree remember that it must be a tall grower that doesn’t block out the sight line for reversing traffic.
Good easy-care edible street trees include macadamia nut, almond All–in–one, Eureka lemon, Seville orange and Mulberry White Shatoot.
People worry about their produce being picked from the verge but it rarely happens on a large scale and the more time you spend out there, the less likely it is to have things stolen. If you plant herbs such as parsley, thyme, oregano, basil and mint, there will be plenty to share around. If you put in three chilli plants you will feed the neighbourhood.
Don’t forget to mix flowers into the edible garden; they attract beneficial insects and little kids love to come and pick the flowers. Many flowers such as nasturtiums can also be used in salads.
Raised beds are a great idea and will make weed control easier to manage.
If you are going to share your edible garden with the neighbours, make sure you only use organic pest and disease control methods.
TIP: Get together with your neighbours on either side and talk to them about doing a joint verge planting. You can help each other by sharing the labour and plant costs.
TIP: You must still improve the soil for native plantings with a small amount of compost, a wetting agent, native slow-release fertiliser and a little bit of clay if you have sandy soils. Top with a coarse mulch.
Sabrina’s top 20 verge plants
1 Melaleuca argentea
2 Eucalyptus orbifolia
3 Eucalyptus synandra
4 Acacia fimbriata
5 Brachychiton Bella Donna
6 Banksia sceptrum Little Bush Candles
7 Boronia crenulata Pink Passion
8 Alyogyne West Coast Gem
9 Correa sp.
10 Hypocalymma robustum
11 Casuarina Cousin It
12 Banksia nivea
13 Melaleuca pentagona Little Penta
14 Acacia lasiocarpa dwarf form
15 Grevillea Billy Bonkers
16 Anigozanthos Amber Velvet
17 Anigozanthos Golden Velvet
18 Anigozanthos Rampaging Roy Slaven
19 Anigozanthos Joey Circus
20 Conostylis candicans
© The West Australian
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