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The planting of this strip under the rail line along Victoria Road was a great initiative by Marrickville Council. They only did it a year ago & with some hand watering, look at it now. It used to be filled with weeds & litter. Now it is a corridoor for lizards.

The planting of this strip under the rail line along Victoria Road was a great initiative by Marrickville Council.  They only did it a year ago & with some hand watering, look at it now.  It used to be filled with weeds & litter. Now it is a corridoor for lizards.

A shocking article in The Guardian today of research findings by scientists from the World Wildlife Fund & the Zoological Society of London called the ‘Living Planet Report,’ which found that 50% of wild animals on this Earth have been lost in the past 40-years – that’s since 1974.  

The cause of such astronomical loss has been unsustainable hunting for food, habitat destruction & pollution.

A graph shows that 37% loss was caused by exploitation of wildlife, 31% habitat degradation & change, 13% habitat loss with 7% only for climate change. The remaining 11% came under the heading of ‘other.’

With development charging ahead, an ever-increasing human population & climate change starting to bite, these numbers will be increasing dramatically & soon, unless we make specific choices to act to prevent any further loss & take immediate & meaningful action to support the remaining wildlife. Obviously retaining & protecting forests is of paramount importance, but so is increasing the areas of real habitat to support biodiversity in urban areas.

“Currently, the global population is cutting down trees faster than they regrow, catching fish faster than the oceans can restock, pumping water from rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them and emitting more climate-warming carbon dioxide than oceans and forests can absorb. ….today’s average global rate of consumption would need 1.5 planet Earths to sustain it. But four planets would be required to sustain US levels of consumption, or 2.5 Earths to match UK consumption levels.”

Australia was rated number 13 in the Top 20 Countries with the Biggest Ecological Footprint.  Kuwait Number was number 1, the US was number 8 & the UK number 20.

Rivers were the hardest hit with animal numbers plummeting by 75% since 1970. Just one more reason why we need to do whatever we can to restore & protect our own Cooks River.

Land animals have fallen by 40% since 1970 & marine animals also fallen by 40%. “But the big declines in wildlife in rich nations had already occurred long before the new report’s baseline year of 1970 – the last wolf in the UK was shot in 1680.” You can read the article herehttp://bit.ly/1vrStsU

We can all take responsibility & make choices to do what we can to prevent further species loss. The following are some of the more obvious, but if we all did these, the impact would be profound & it would help our planet & the species that live here with us.

  • Buy local food in season, even if it costs a few cents more. Grow food if you can.
  • Buy or make your own reusable shopping bags. Marrickville Metro has a sign in the car park that says they go through 2,600 disposable plastic bags per week & this is just one shopping mall.
  • Choose to buy products that have less packaging.
  • Buy free-range eggs.
  • Reuse & recycle as much as you can.
  • Make you own compost, as this diverts an enormous amount of organic waste from going to landfill.
  • Don’t buy products that contain palm oil because these mono forests are causing massive loss to species dependent on forests, such as the orangutans, elephants, tigers, rhinos & birds.
  • Buy sustainably resourced timber & don’t support those companies that log old growth forests.
  • Plant something native in our garden & start up a verge garden if you can. Every bit of space we green up supports wildlife, even if it is only insects & reptiles.
  • Don’t plant invasive species & never dump unwanted plants in or near bush land.
  • Do not disturb logs & bush rocks, as these may be homes for wildlife.
  • Don’t pick wildflowers, take away plants or vandalise trees.
  • Desex your dogs & cats & keep your cats on your property & inside at night.
  • Attach as reflector on your cat’s collar to alert birds & other smaller animals of their presence.
  • Don’t dump pets or dispose of unwanted fish in the river or the toilet.
  • Do not remove river oysters or dig for crabs in the Cooks River. You can buy bait cheaply at fishing shops.
  • Don’t keep small fish caught in the river. Put them back to allow them to grow to adulthood.
  • Take home all fishing line & string that can cause entanglements to birds & other creatures.
  • Take home all rubbish & leave the environment as clean as you can.
Grey Butcherbird.  The more we green our environment, the more we support greater biodiversity.

Grey Butcherbird. The more we green our environment, the more we support greater biodiversity.

Anti-litter sign at Cooks Park at Dolls Point.  These were at every entrance, in the car park & also on many sides of the toilet blocks & other buildings.  There was onky three pieces of litter in the park & this was at the end of a sunny day.

A wonderful anti-litter sign at Cooks Park at Dolls Point. 

Bromiliads, spider plants, ferns, geraniums & other plants in a simple, but very effective green wall.

Bromiliads, spider plants, ferns, geraniums & other plants in a simple, but very effective green wall.

“Green, but not square.  Only for the Adventurous,” reads the advertising sign.  What I saw was enough for me to park the car & go for a closer look.  Why?  Because the 3-storey sign was surrounded by a green wall.

This was the first time I have seen a green wall used to highlight advertising & it looked good.  I know I am not the only one who dislikes billboards & advertising on buildings. Many people consider this kind of advertising a blight on the landscape.  However, it is a reality of modern day life & because it brings in lucrative returns for the land or building owners, is here to stay.

So if we have to have advertising on the side of buildings, let them all be surrounded by plants.  It is very striking & a much better way to draw attention without a chunk of negative thoughts associated with it.  The plants also work for free adding oxygen & purifying the air, as well as adding beauty.

The sign I am writing about was on the side of the street-side building of Sydney Corporate Park, a 20-hectare commercial & industrial estate at 180 Burke Road Alexandria.   Another point of interest was the vast number of solar panels covering one very large roof that is visible from the road.

The sign itself advertises Sydney Corporate Park (SCP).  Around it are thousands of plants held in a geo-textile matrix.  Only a small section has not flourished & eventually, it will probably reseed itself.  The rest is like a jungle.  Standing there I noticed that the air was much cooler & even smelt nice.

I was interested to learn more about why an industrial estate would pay for a green wall installation, so I did an internet search.  I found that 6,000 people work here with 4,000 visiting the shops, gym, function rooms, GPs & cafes daily.

The complex prides itself on being green & sustainable.  There are a number of initiatives that make sure that it can make this claim with pride –

  • Rainwater collection from the roofs.  SCP harvests around one million litres of rain each month. This water is used for cleaning, flushing toilets & watering garden beds, of which there are many.
  • A wind turbine produces 4 kwh of energy.
  • ‘Intelligent lighting’ provides the right amount of light where & when it is needed.  They do not turn on exterior lights when there is enough natural light & lights are timed to minimize energy consumption.
  • 600 panels provide solar hot water to the site generating around 450kWh per day.
  • There are double glazed windows & louvers.
  • There is also natural ventilation, sunshades & lower air-conditioning use.
  • Urinals are waterless.
  • Construction used recycled steel & bricks.
  • A $600,000 rooftop solar farm produces 600 kWh per day.
  • By today, 15th January 2014, SCP has avoided adding 130,648.23 kg of CO2 into the atmosphere.  Very commendable.
  • A massive tower holds an organic compost system that takes food waste from onsite cafes & material from the gardens.  The resulting compost is used on the many garden beds around the complex.
  • By December 2013, SCP recycled 19.22 tonnes of waste with 80% of waste generated not going to landfill.
  • SCP has a shared passenger transfer service across the complex, so single passenger cars do not need to be used.
  • Bicycle use is encouraged & racks provided.
  • Segway people movers are also used in the complex.  What fun that would be.

No wonder Sydney Corporate Park won Australia’s Best Business Park award in 2012.

Marrickville municipality is already undergoing development & is set to undertake a great deal more in the near future.  Developments like Sydney Corporate Park show us what we can expect our Council, Councillors & the new Architectural Excellence Panel to push for both in housing & mixed-use estates.

The Victoria Road Precinct proposal for a mixed-use estate (see – http://bit.ly/L2vylw) should also be aiming to do as much as SCP as they said it is to be a 6-star energy-rating precinct.

Businesses will move into complexes like the SCP because in the long run sustainability saves money.  It also brings patronage from a savvy & aware community, which also means money & making money is what business is all about.

If a leafy outlook in a shopping strip brings 11% more spending, imagine the increase when the whole complex is about being responsible to the environment & ultimately your children’s & your grandchildren’s future.

With climate change already obvious, we as a community will have to change & considerably improve the way we do things & this includes buildings. 

Architects have a first line responsibility to encourage & include as many sustainable features in their designs as possible.  Development cannot & should not continue to be as basic as it can. 

Whacking in a few hundred air-conditioning units & failing to provide trees, green space, rooftop water collection, communal composting & solar hot water/electricity is failing the residents & ultimately the whole community.  These changes are achievable & they do make a significant & positive environmental impact, as well as improve livability.

I hope the initiatives of Sydney Corporate Park become the norm across industrial, mixed-use & residential high-rise in the near future.  Plus a green wall around advertising signs is a very smart move.  I would not have looked twice nor researched this complex if that green wall had not been there.

Screenshot of Google map of Sydney Corporate Park.  Notice the many trees on the property.

Screenshot of Google map of Sydney Corporate Park. Notice the many trees on the property.

The green sign front on

The green sign front on

Close-up of the plants.  It was cool to stand here.

Close-up of the plants. It was cool to stand here.

 

 

Screenshot of the path at night - very pretty.

Screenshot of the path at night – very pretty.

Imagine a polyurethane & aggregate mix that when sprayed on existing path surfaces transforms a path to a blue crystal lit-from-within path that is highly visible at night.  Aside from the night lighting effects, the paths look normal during the day.  The paths become light-coloured after the treatment, which has the added benefit of helping to help lower the urban heat island effect.

The product – Proteq Starpath  – absorbs UV rays during the day & produces non-reflective light at night.  Cambridge Council in England has transformed the pathways in two of their parks to cut down on power bills from overhead lighting.  Up to 20,000 people use one of the parks every day.

Proteq Starpath is non-slip, very quick to install & nothing needs to be removed or disturbed.  I’ve heard the Marrickville Councillors debate the high cost of lighting in our parks.  I’d say this product has a future here & personally can’t wait to walk on star-lit paths on hot summer evenings.  I think children would enjoy it too.

Watch a short video here –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DirpewBP6Cw#t=21

A section of the outside area og The Grounds.

A section of the outside area of The Grounds.

Sitting around the water feature.

Sitting around the water feature.

Yesterday I went with some friends to ‘The Grounds in Alexandria.’  Many of you have probably been, but it was the first time for me.  This is an enormously popular place & no wonder.  The food is great.  Prices are reasonable.  You can eat inside at a table or ‘take-away’ to eat outside in the extensive garden area.

Part of the outside signage.  Cute.

Part of the outside signage. Cute.

This post is not a restaurant review – though my meal was great.  What I am writing about is the site & what they have done with it.  The complex, located on the corner at 2 Huntley Street Alexandria, used to be the Four ‘n Twenty pie factory & had been so since the early 1900s.

The Grounds is in the heart of Alexandria’s industrial estate, where the street trees are really tall & the parking horrendous.  Once you walk through the entrance, all is forgiven, as the grounds are an utter delight.

On the left is the restaurant, easily found because of the line-up of people patiently waiting for a table.  In front & scattered around are barrows selling organic breads, tarts, coffee, cakes, fresh lemonade & other drinks, strawberries, nuts & even gelato.  The kiosks are beautiful, as are the displays of food.  Prices are well within the range of impulse buying & quite satisfying because of the quality.

To the left of the entrance is the ‘take-away’ food eating area. I should say areas, because the more you wander, the more the environment changes & you can sit anywhere to eat.  A massive pergola & clear roofed section with a few walls made out of recycled timber create an indoor/outdoor seating area.  Tables of all kinds are scattered around & people were everywhere.  Friday lunchtime was buzzing & I am told it is vibrant every day.

There are interesting tables made of industrial trolleys on steel wheels, complete with giant hooks that obviously dragged the trolleys through old factories.  Cleaned up, these look great & very chic.  There are places to sit in the sun, around a large water feature, under grape vines, in the shade & around raised garden beds.   There is even a glasshouse covered in vines with a large table inside – perfect for a group of 10-12 people to have a ‘private’ party.

They do wedding functions here, which is not a surprise to me at all.  I thought the place was extremely pretty.  Everywhere you look there are interesting items hanging from the ceiling, attached to walls or scattered around on the ground.  The set up is chic & colourful with real flowers growing in industrial containers all throughout the area.  I think you would notice something different each time you visited, simply because of the enormity of visual stimulation.   I also suspect the displays change with the seasons.

One of the many raised garden beds that grow produce for the kitchen.

One of the many raised garden beds that grow produce for the kitchen.

Surrounding & intermingled are raised garden beds filled with herbs, flowers & other edible produce, which is used in the kitchen.  The Chef must pick what he/she needs for that day.  ‘No food miles’ is really sustainable & quite impressive for an industrial area in the inner city.

There is a florist onsite with an appealing selection of flowers.  Tucked in amongst the flowers are organic skin products & displays of industrial, vintage & other interesting items.  To their credit no plastic bags are used onsite.   I didn’t stay long enough to find the chickens & the resident pig – Kevin Bacon, but I am told they are there.  Apparently there is also a children’s playground area.

It’s part farm, part factory-like, part country & the mix is great.  Even outside on the street frontage they have planted gardens & shrubs, as well as strung ropes with Chinese Jasmine growing along the ropes.  Hanging pots dangle from signs or wrought iron scraps.  So much has been repurposed.

It’s obvious that great care has gone into the design of The Grounds.  It is not just a restaurant/café – it’s an experience & importantly, a green functional space in the inner west.  Who would have thought that an industrial complex could be transformed into a place where people can have a nature fix, as well as well as eat good healthy food?

It is their gardens & they way The Grounds have set up the area that prompted me to think that this could be the way of the future for our cities & our living spaces.

Right now it is known that businesses in green leafy environments generate 11% more income than those located in a mainly concrete/asphalt environment.  The fact that you can eat at The Grounds is just one of the functions of the complex & I can easily see something similar to The Grounds concept as part of any high-rise housing development.

A currently controversial development proposal to build a 16-storey residential tower next to the Marrickville Railway Station on Station Street is angering a considerable number of local residents.  See – http://bit.ly/18dbumc   As I understand it, the developer is offering a ground floor area for community use, half of which is under an awning, so he can get permission to bypass the eight stories limit that the Marrickville Local Environment Plan (MLEP) imposes for this site.

This was spoken of by some Marrickville Councillors as a boon for the community, as it will offer a space to just hang out or be used for weekend markets.  My guess is people will still prefer to go to the Sunday Organic Growers Markets in the very green & leafy Addison Road Centre Marrickville.  This place offers a nature fix leaving you with the feeling that you have been somewhere away from concrete & asphalt.

Flower displays like this one were scattered all over the place.  There was an emphasis on creating beauty.

Flower displays like this one were scattered all over the place. There was an emphasis on creating beauty.

In my opinion, all new high-rise housing developments should include green space, not just a tiled or concreted area with a seat or two & some token landscaping that is likely not to last the distance.  The Grounds has shown what can be done to create a great space that significantly increases the livability of an area & is valuable to the community.  It is much, much better than what is currently & has been on offer with development across Marrickville LGA.  Incidentally, The Grounds also has monthly markets on the first weekend of every month.

As Sydney gets more populated, our parks are going to be equally populated.  Marrickville has the Cooks River & already many families travel great distances to come to the riverside parks.  As time goes on, these & other parks will become busier, so we need to have other spaces that double up as green space & recreational areas.  After yesterday’s experience, I can easily see how new housing/shopping developments can offer more.

The proposed new Marrickville Library is also a prime opportunity to step outside the box of what has been done for decades & provide something as innovative & useful as The Grounds.  This would see us into the future in a way that is environmentally sustainable in a people way, not just about water use, air-flow & the like.

Marrickville municipality has the dubious honour of having the least green space in Australia, so new developments really need to be different & provide green space, even if mixed with business, to ensure a sane population in the future.  That Marrickville was identified as the unhappiest suburb in Australia also bears mentioning.   Improving livability needs to be at the forefront of architectural design.  The more confined people’s living arrangements become in the future, as more & more apartment blocks are being developed, the more people will be needing open natural space close to home.

I’ve said enough.  Well done to The Grounds in Alexandria.  They pushed the gauntlet in a very successful & beautiful way.  Go visit their website.  There is heaps going on, including workshops in coffee roasting & gardening.  http://groundsroasters.com/

One of the barrows in The Grounds.

One of the barrows in The Grounds.

One of the many seating areas.

One of the many seating areas.

The Glasshouse

The Glasshouse

Everywhere you look you seen green.

Everywhere you look you seen green.  This is good for people.

 

 

 

 

Part of a very pretty verge garden in Marrickville.

Part of a very pretty verge garden in Marrickville.

This is a fantastic video, jam-packed with information at under 3-minutes, from the City of Chicago called – ‘Cermak/Blue Island Sustainable Streetscape.’

The Chicago Department of Transportation recently unveiled the ‘greenest street in America,’ the first phase of a two-mile stretch of Blue Island Avenue & Cermak Road in the Pilsen.”

Incorporated is placemaking, permeable paving, bioswales, photocatalytic concrete that absorbs smog, solar/wind powered lights, recycled asphalt, stormwater management that collects roof water & directs it to the many bioswales & of course, beauty.

These features are being incorporated into other building & street works across Chicago to create a more livable & attractive place with sustainability as a core aim.

Incidentally, the City of Chicago has planted 600,000 trees over the past 20-years.

You can watch the video here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55527rWYdyE

Chickens are perfect for a permaculture garden.  These lovely hens provide eggs , eat scraps, clean up weeds, as well as keeping garden pests in control.  They also provide manure.

Chickens are perfect for a permaculture garden. These lovely hens provide eggs , eat scraps, clean up weeds, produce manure & keep garden pests in control. They are nice pets as well.

With the huge increase in interest in sustainability, verge gardens, community gardens & permaculture, I am sure there are many who would be interested in an online resource such as this.

‘Introduction to Permaculture’ is 38 video lectures – a total of 40-hours – available online to download for free from Permaculture Media Download.  Each video stands alone, so you can learn at your own pace.  There are other resources such as free e-books here as well.

You can find the links to each video here – http://bit.ly/13vLeQf

A small section of the glorious living green wall outside the new Cbus tower. What a fantastic addition to Sydney CBD

A few weeks ago we went to the CBD to see a green wall.  It is at the new 29 storey, 43,419 square metre Cbus tower at 1 Bligh Street Sydney.  The wall was receiving the finishing touches when we visited so I was lucky enough to have aspects of the wall & how it is managed explained to me by the builders.  They were very proud of their work & deservedly so.

The living green wall is likely the best & largest that we have in Australia at present. I haven’t seen anything like this before.  It is stunning to say the least & once fully-grown will be even better.  I predict this green wall will be a tourist attraction at least until green walls become the norm.  I hope that time arrives soon because the benefits are great.

The wall itself is 9.7-metres high & 40-metres long.  It is watered by black water generated from the Cbus tower & has a system of pumps incorporated into small cupboard rooms hidden as part of the wall.  The doors are almost invisible once they are closed.  I guess there will be subtle clues as to where the handles & keyholes will be, but unless you knew there are doors here, you wouldn’t know.

The plants are wild tropical water-loving plants.  They are planted into boxes made up of geo-textile & filled with exceptionally light potting mix & polystyrene balls.  These boxes are fixed to the wall & the plants planted into small cuts into the material.  They naturally grow roots inside the potting material & some also on the exterior of the geo-textile itself.

Showing one of the rooms behind the green wall & the geo-textile squares

Apart from being very beautiful to look at, the air around the green wall is cool & likely full of negative ions.  It has been made into a place where one can get the benefits of being in a park with running water while being in the busy CBD.  It’s a great area to eat lunch. I was surprised to see a couple of butterflies flitting around exploring. Somehow insects know.

The 42,000-square metre Cbus tower itself is a fantastic achievement with its sustainability features.  It has been built to world’s best practice 6-Star Green Star rating & a 5-Star Australian Building Greenhouse Rating (5 Star NABERS Energy).  The designers were German company ‘Ingenhoven Architekten’ & Australian company ‘Architectus.’

The north-facing building has a double-glazed all-glass façade, thereby utilizing natural light. Inside the double skins are adjustable horizontal blinds that work by automatically shading the internal skin & preventing solar heat gain & keep the building cool.  The 2.85-metre ceiling height of each level also promotes natural airflow. An artistic aluminum curtain protects the building from the western sun.

All water used in the tower will be recycled for use elsewhere on the property.  Recycled black water is used for toilets.  If needed, they can tap into the city’s black water supplies.  The green wall & other landscaping features are watered by collected rainwater. The building will be heated by a tri-generation system using gas for cooling, heating & electricity as well as solar panels.

The atrium is the tallest in Australia & reaches the full height of the building (29 storeys) bringing fresh air to the upper levels. There is an internal ‘winter garden,’ plus an external 375-square metre terrace. A 700-square metre ‘sky garden’ crowns the building.  The sky garden is shielded from the wind by a 10-metre glass wall.  There are also numerous living internal landscaping features throughout the building.  Apart from the usual underground parking for cars, there is also covered parking for 300 bicycles.

What a building!  Hopefully this will become the norm.  It is a mighty achievement for sustainability & creating the least possible impact on the environment.  It also shows what is possible & how we can change the way we build & manage buildings.  I love it & can’t wait until I have an opportunity to go inside.

I made a short video of the living green wall – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yc_c37HtBbk

& the Cbus Building here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jSIwj70a9E

If you want to know how to make your own green wall, this short YouTube video explains how it is done – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rp8YyQqVTSI&NR=1

The aluminium curtain at the Cbus tower. It does not move, even though it looks like it should. The curtain lets light & air in, but keeps the heat of the sun out. I think it's beautiful. How it looks would change throughout the day adding interest & more beauty. Mature palm trees can be seen in the background. These are new & are outside the main entrance.

What a great name for a business that salvages urban trees, including council-owned street trees & after drying & cutting, makes them into furniture, picture frames, flooring & chopping boards.

Growing beautiful timber

I appreciate wood so I literally cringe when I see tree trunks & large branches fed into the mobile woodchipper. It’s an incredible machine because it can literally chip a whole substantially sized tree in a matter of minutes. One moment the tree is alive & standing, next moment there is only a few chips on the ground & a stump to indicate that it ever existed.

I know Marrickville Council uses the woodchips to mulch around park trees, planted verges & islands. They also give away free mulch to residents from the Addison Road Community Nursery, which is a great service.  I also know Council needs a continuous supply of woodchips to care for these spaces, but every now & then, there will be a great trunk or branch of excellent or rare wood that could be diverted to a business like this. Council could even sell the wood for a reasonable price if it was collected on site.

I think Wood From the Hood is a fabulous idea.  It is not easy to access wood for specialist furniture making in Sydney.  There is one such shop in Marrickville & people come from afar to buy timber here. Other than a couple of specialist wood suppliers in Sydney most specialist timber needs to be bought either directly or online & trucked in from the North & South Coast regions.  Imagine if one could get the Sydney Blue Gums that are being chopped down for development?

Another thing Wood From the Hood does that I think is perfect: they print the postcode of the wood’s origin on each item made from urban trees. Most of us don’t stop to think about the origins of our household products like breadboards.  My guess is that they mostly come from wood sourced from overseas forests.  Much rosewood furniture comes from illegal logging in Madagascar. Knowing that something comes from a particular place in our city or country & not from a forest adds appreciation of street trees & of the item.   http://www.woodfromthehood.com/

street tree stump - mulch or timber or both?

A great new sustainability initiative has been set up in Newtown called ‘Friends with Things.’

The idea behind Friends with Things is that I may have a skill or something that you need & I may be willing to share it with you.  Instead of you going out & buying a product that you may only need to use on 1 or 2 occasions, you can go to the website of Friends with Things & see if what you need is already on offer & if not, leave a request yourself.

For example, Ravi, who established Friends with Things wants a 10 square metre patch of land to grow vegetables. In turn he will do some regular weeding/garden maintenance for you.  Need a particular tool for that thing you are building?  Need something translated? Want to learn something? Thinking about car pooling?  Have something you no longer need?

The sky is the limit on what can be borrowed or traded & the best thing is it that it is all free & the website says it will remain so.

Sharing saves money, helps lower consumption & reduces waste.  An initiative like this also breaks down barriers & allows people, who may not otherwise cross paths, to meet & perhaps become friends. Fantastic!

Friends with Things can be found here – http://www.friendswiththings.com/

like a swarm of jellyfish

 

4 different views of verge gardens in Chippendale

Last August 2010 I wrote about Michael Mobbs, an Environment Architect well known for his sustainable house at Chippendale. He encouraged his neighbours to transform the verges outside their houses into sustainable gardens in at least 4 Chippendale streets.  This is quite an achievement & has been very successful.

The bustling verges are immediately noticeable when you drive off Cleveland Street into the streets that are part of this project.  The verges make these inner city streets look peaceful & it’s far nicer than looking at concrete or strips of lawn.

City of Sydney Council has come on board by openly supporting the project, supplying funds & signage, removing concrete & allowing some of Peace Park to be used. They may have even supplied the compost bins located on street corners & in the small park.  Fruit trees have been espaliered along one side of Peace Park creating an eatable fence. It looks great & allows 4 fruit trees to grow without taking valuable space from the park.

There are vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, bay trees, wild raspberry, daisies, Grevilleas, succulents, native grasses & many other plants.  There may even be potatoes growing under a couple of car tyres.  Some of the plants are labeled with home-made signs making the walk just a little more interesting for people like me who can’t identify every plant they see.

Signs like this one are all along the streets involved in the verge gardening in Chippendale

I spoke to a couple of people who noticed I was taking photos & they were very proud of what has been achieved. Most of the small front gardens were also well looked after & many cuttings have migrated to the verge. The sheer variety of plants makes it look interesting.  The street trees that were once encased in concrete are now sitting in the middle of well-watered composted gardens & would be wondering at their luck.

According to the signs, you can, “Pick any fruit, berry or leaf that you want to eat.   These plants provided by local residents for anyone. We need to grow food where we live & work.” How lovely to see such generosity. Anyone who has grown vegetables & fruit will know that unless you bottle everything, there is generally more than you can eat when a crop ripens so sharing makes sense.

Using the verges to grow vegetables, fruit & other plants has many benefits.

  • Removing concrete allows stormwater to go into the ground & this serves to keep your foundations more stable & stop movement & cracking walls. It also stops pollution entering stormwater drains.
  • The immediate environment gets greener & this has proven to make people feel happier.
  • Producing food cuts down grocery bills & gives people a huge sense of satisfaction.
  • It also teaches children that vegetables don’t come out of clear plastic bags & that they need to take care of the earth & the environment.  Most kids like gardening if they don’t have to work too hard or for too long.
  • Add the concept of sharing to everyone like this community has done would have an accumulative benefit that spreads outwards into the greater society.
  • Projects like this one bring people out of their homes & allow them to get to know each other in a non-threatening way.  A close community is a safer community.
  • As the soil gets richer & the plants start to grow & produce people would feel as though they are a part of something that improves the environment & helps each other.
  • Verge gardening encourages innovative thinking in that there isn’t much land to use so people have to think of ways to maximize the space.
  • It also beautifies & cools the area & creates community pride.

Wild raspberries are growing over this arch in the Chippendale verge gardenss

A few months ago, the then Mayor Sam Iskandar wrote in the Inner West Courier that he hoped many people would start verge gardens in Marrickville LGA.  He said Council would help them by removing concrete in suitable places if they applied.  We have a new Mayor now, but I’m confident that Fiona Byrne who is a member of Marrickville Greens also encourages verge gardens.

The September 2010 Eco Edition of Marrickville Matters said Council was starting up Groundwork, a grassroots sustainability project where people will be taught various gardening techniques & “designing, installing & maintaining gardens – especially non-traditional ones like on verges & roofs.” This would certainly be something good to be involved with.

If you look there are many, many verges around Marrickville LGA where verge gardens would be suitable.  From experience, you only need to start doing it to garner the interest of your neighbours & it is nice to have that bit of extra land to play with.  If we all did it, Marrickville Council could save up to $2 million a year in verge mowing costs. That money could be used for other things such as street tree planting, which is another way we can benefit.

I last wrote about Michael here – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/verge-gardens/

Fruit trees at the edge of Peace Park Chippendale. This can be done in most places & allows fruit trees to grow without taking up much space. Most fruit trees do well in pots so long as they don't dry out so this could be done in a courtyard or on a balcony or roof space

 

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