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There are actually tons of spaces around Marrickville LGA where vegetables could be grown. The space doesn’t even need to be big for it to be productive & add beauty to the streetscape.

I found a wonderful TED video of a talk by Pam Warhurst from Todmorden England.  Ms Warhurst & a group of friends decided to start a social movement, which they called, ‘Incredible Edible’ & do this bypassing bureaucracy, which they felt would hold them back.  The plan was to grow food locally by planting on unused land throughout the community – so they just did it.

The group asked themselves, “can you find a unifying language that cuts across, age, income & culture that will help people themselves find a new way of living, see spaces around them differently, think about the resources around them differently, interact differently? Can we find that language & then can we replicate those actions?  The answer would appear to be yes & the language would appear to be food.”

There was no consulting & no submission writing. They simply organised a community meeting & from this ‘Incredible Edible’ was born. And they “did it all without a flipping strategy document, no permission & not waiting for a cheque to start. None of this demands bureaucracy or takes more money.”

Their motto is  – “If You Eat – You’re In.”  You can’t get more inclusive than this.

The movement went well beyond verge gardening outside your own property.  They approached businesses & local services asking to be able to garden their land that was often planted with useless & often prickly plants. The businesses said yes & so the people moved in, removed existing plants or weeds & planted the area with food.  They made it look good by bringing in artistic people (not just artists) to design the area so that the streetscapes looked better.

“Food is popping up all over the place.  They call it ‘Propaganda Gardening.’  Vegetables are planted in people’s front gardens, in the corner of a car park & in front of the Police Station & in the cemetery.  People are visiting from all over the world to look.”

More people became involved so they involved all the local schools. They set up a Board of Management & allowed children to be decision-makers on the Board.  They set up a market garden training centre.  The local university/TAFE took it further by designing a local horticulture course.  Suddenly, this movement was helping people to get training & jobs.

“People want positive actions they can take. They want more kindness towards each other & the environment.”  She used terms like, “educate & inspire……sharing…..investing in kindness……increasing public spiritedness.”

The people designed the ‘Incredible Edible Route’ to take tourists through the town to all the verge gardens.  They took it a step further & connected the route with all the local food producers & promoted their products.

Locals started buying local & making new local products.  64 local products are now on the ‘Incredible Edible Route’ & 49% of local producers said their profit had increased as a result of this movement.  That’s 49% more business than before, all from gardening the verges & other wasted spaces.

The ‘Incredible Edible’ movement is spreading with more than 30 towns in England doing their own verge gardening & cities like Christchurch in New Zealand coming to learn how they can start this as part of their rebuild post-earthquakes.

I find this incredibly inspiring & think it would be quite easy to do in Marrickville LGA.  People are already verge gardening.  Wilga Avenue in Dulwich Hill has most of the street involved & received a major award for it.  Community gardens are popping up here & there & quite a few people do spontaneous guerilla gardening to try & improve their immediate streetscape.

We can’t wait for Marrickville Council to do it, nor is it in our best interest to let the vandals & thieves make it so we are left living in ugliness; not when propagating is so cheap & easy.  We can all benefit from sharing plants, energy & knowledge & we will certainly benefit from better-looking, greener streetscapes.

I know of one woman in her late 60s who is a guerilla gardener. She has created two beautiful spaces on public land & the whole community benefits.  Visit her & she will offer food freshly picked in front of you or eggs still warm from her hen house.

Spare land should be used for community gardens. I am not the only one frustrated at looking at all the Railcorp land that just sits there to be slashed or mown once a year.  These areas could be transformed into community gardens or orchards.  Nothing ever happens on them anyway.  If in a decade’s time Railcorp does want the land to use for something, then we would just have to move on.  Railcorp would benefit hugely with the positive publicity from allowing the community to use certain spaces & train travelers would have something great to look at instead of the desolation that they see out the window.

Edible landscapes could be in all sorts of places, big or small.  Gardeners could rove between sites or stay with the one that most interests them.  Food should be shared with anyone who wants it.  It’s working at the verge gardens of Chippendale. Sometimes someone comes & takes everything, but on the whole, produce is shared.

Ms Warhurst says, edible landscapes are about “building a different & kinder future.”  I believe this.  I also want this.

You can watch this inspiring talk here –

This area off Illawarra Road Marrickville is a great example of public land that is wasted. No-one uses it & Council mows the grass when needed. It could easily be transformed into a vegetable garden. Small suitable plants could also be grown at the side of the pathway as well. There are many places like this across the municipality just waiting to be transformed into something lovely & useful.


Randwick City Council Nursery – jam packed with great plants & trees to make your garden more sustainable & wildlife friendly.

Another view. Still more plants behind where I was standing.  Shame it was a drizzly day. It looks much nicer when the sun is shining.

I have wanted to visit the Randwick Council Nursery for ages so when I saw that they had an Open Day earlier this month we went.  What a delightful surprise this place turned out to be.

The verge outside the entry gate is a lesson on using natives to create a beautiful effect without needing many plants or much in the way of maintenance.  Also, the choice of plants they had on the verge was very different from what I have seen before.

WIRES had a stall there, but unfortunately had left by the time I went over for a look.  It was nice to see their organization supported by Randwick Council as they would have been able to speak to a lot of people about WIRES & what they do.

The nursery was much bigger than I thought it would be.  We spent ages just walking & looking at the stock available.  The prices were great too.  Plants could be bought for

  • 70mm x 50mm $1.40
  • 120mm x 50mm $2.30
  • 140mm x 120mm $6.50
  • 200mm x 160mm $13.50
  • 270mm x 240mm $37.00.

They sell ferns, cycads, groundcovers, climbers, grasses, clumping plants, shrubs & trees that grow to over 4-metres in height.

Most of the plants were indigenous to the local area – something quite important when so much of the ground is sand.  However, you will see many of the plants available growing in Marrickville LGA as well, so the nursery is useful for this region.

They did have some exotics, but not many.  There were heaps of trees & a much wider variety than you can generally find in a commercial nursery.  There were also tons of different species of plants suitable for planting verge gardens.  The variety was almost overwhelming.  It’s been ages since I’ve seen so many different species of native plants for sale.

All plants are propagated or grown from seed onsite by the staff.  They have a glass house for this process.  Once established the plants are lined up in rows outside.  It’s really impressive to see so many propagated plants, especially if you are like me with so many failures.  The bulk of the plants are for full-sun planting, though there is a great selection of plants that need shade.

The nursery staff were enormously helpful.  Just tell them what kind of garden & effect you are looking for & they lead you to all the plants they think will be suitable to your needs.  We even got a full lesson from one of the staff on how to propagate natives, which helped us identify three things we were doing incorrectly.  None of which were mentioned in any of the videos or literature we have read on the process.

Randwick City Council’s website says that this nursery had been in operation for more than 50-years.  They supply plants for their own landscaping needs as well as to other Councils, organizations, landscapers & the public.  The nursery also provides workshops for the community & for schools as part of the Randwick Council Environmental & Sustainability Education Program.

Outside the Office is a display shelf full of pamphlets on urban wildlife & how to attract them into your garden.  This is the best selection of free reading material about plants & wildlife that I have ever come across.

I had thought this nursery was only open to the public 4 times a year on the first Saturday of each new season, but discovered they are also open to the public from Monday to Friday all year, making it much easier to go there more often.

If you are into native plants & you would like to buy good healthy stock at very cheap prices, this is the nursery for you.  It is well worth the drive & we had no problem parking, including on the Open Day.  It’s also good just to go & have a look at the wide range of native plants available.  I doubt you will be disappointed.  You couldn’t be at these prices.

You can find more about the Randwick City Council Nursery here –

They also have a stock list to help you research plants before you arrive –

Many plants had an educational sign giving horticultural information, plus a photo of what it will look like once mature. I found this very interesting & helpful.

Another section of Randwick Community Nursery


Sections of Dulwich Hill shopping strip are looking much better than they did a couple of years ago

I was sent a link to a truly wonderful website earlier this week.   The website is about greening the footpaths & public spaces in San Francisco which the group Plant*SF call ‘Paving to Planting.’ Volunteers plant the newly created pavement gardens in San Francisco & make barren concrete, hot, ugly areas look wonderful.

Apart from the hard work of removing the concrete & the physical effort of planting, the process of greening an area is really quite simple.  It just needs people, some funds, suitable locations, cooperation, organization & plants, lots of plants or Council could just do it as part of their usual management of the LGA.

Marrickville Council has started doing verge gardens somewhat like those being created in San Francisco & it is a huge improvement to the past practice of a hole cut into the cement for the odd street tree.   Quite a few streets in Marrickville have had much larger verge gardens prepared around or near existing street trees & native grasses & succulent ground cover planted along with heavy mulching.  These changes have occurred during footpath replacement & apart from looking much better, they allow better access to rainwater for street trees. They also cut down the actual amount of concrete, making footpaths easier on the eye.  I have posted about this here –

The ‘Paving to Planting’ projects done by Plant*SF take what Marrickville Council are doing a step further & is what I think Marrickville Council should be aiming for.

The volunteers of Plant*SF not only remove concrete for a garden bed on the verge, they also remove extraneous concrete beside buildings where they plant vines & espalier trees along walls of buildings so the green walls stop reflecting heat.  They leave a good size footpath & plant along both sides.  This is what I remember from my childhood before the reign of concrete became the norm.

They also add planter-boxes & the odd seat encouraging people to use the footpath as a space to congregate & communicate with their neighbours.  Mind you, their planter boxes show there is quite a difference in effect just with the choice of planter box design.

Council have created a number of new verge gardens along Ewart Street Dulwich Hill

The Heat Island Effect is something we ignore at our peril.  Most of the remedies are so easy, though they do require a change in the way we think things should look like. Making changes to our footpaths & cemented or paved areas is relatively cheap to do & have the potential to be quite pretty as well.

This can only be good for the community because it is known that green plants, flowers & trees make people feel good. It’s been proven that a view of trees relieves anxiety & depression, helps kids with hyperactivity, helps girls study, helps people heal quicker & reduces hospital stay for a start. Concrete only where it has utility, garden beds & plants will make Marrickville LGA a far nicer place to live.

If Marrickville Council do decide to do this, I would hope they start on the areas that have fewer trees & more concrete as I keep discovering areas in the LGA that are really in need of serious greening.

An example of the wrong type of green in Gerald Street Marrickville. This street is in serious need of help.

Our shopping strips, now under threat because of the Marrickville Metro expansion, could also be helped with beautification to encourage more people to shop there.

Paving along shopping strips is nice, but better would be regular spaced planter boxes brimming with plants, hanging pots from awnings, street corners or from poles like City of Sydney Council have done along Glebe Point Road. This would also make the shopping strips much nicer & would have to be cheaper than the $60,000 needed to replace the tiled footpath along a short space of shops.  The hanging pots & planter boxes in Glebe are still going strong more than 18 months after they were installed proving that stepping out of the box can have longevity making the initial outlay of money worthwhile.

This is a big topic & I will be writing about other issues.  Please have a look at the website of Plant*SF. It’s a great article & they have a number of ‘before & after’ photos that illustrate what I am talking about.

Street trees in Eastwood. Most of the residential streets in this & surrounding suburbs have many tall trees.

Dr Jago Dodson from Griffith University’s Urban Research Program is advocating the creation of many more community gardens in cities saying there will be increased pressure on urban areas to produce food in the future.

“In the context of some of the big challenges we’re facing – challenges about the sustainability of rural & regional agriculture, challenges about drought conditions, changing environmental conditions, questions about global warming’s impact on food supplies across the world & also questions about the sustainability of petroleum, which is one of the key inputs into industrial agricultural systems – those big changes are going to start to motivate more creatively how we produce food in society.”

Most residential streets in Chatswood have many tall, shady street trees. This is the norm.

Dr Dodson has some innovative ideas that I think are really exciting.  Judging by Marrickville Council’s support for the latest verge gardening project in Wilga Avenue & the community garden in Denison Road Dulwich Hill, I would imagine Council will also support other community gardens in the LGA.  This year they have said they will provide help in-kind such as removing cement to facilitate such projects & that there are a number of suitable places for community gardens in the LGA.  Access to water is the main issue if the gardens are not on the verges out front.

I predict community gardens will be as popular as book clubs in the not too distant future & as is with Book Clubs, only limited places are available so it pays to be involved from the beginning.

The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health published research from the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam showed that living less than 1km (0.62miles) from a green space had a major impact in lowering the incidence of major physical disease & mental ill-health.

Professor Barbara Maher of the Lancaster Environment Centre said, “The study confirmed that green spaces create oases of improved health around them especially for children.” She said, “At least part of this ‘oasis’ effect probably reflects changes in air quality.”

More proof that a good-sized street tree out front does more than beautify, raise property values & reduce your power costs for heating & cooling.  Street trees also remove up to 60% of street level particulate matter such as dust, smoke, ash & the sooty bi-product from car & truck exhausts that we would generally filter through our lungs & which cause asthma & other respiratory illnesses.

A recent study found tripling the number of street trees could reduce asthma among children by 25 percent.  Researchers from Columbia University in the US found rates of asthma fell by a ¼ when there were around 350 more trees in a square kilometre.

The research found that children are less likely to develop asthma if they live in tree-lined streets, particularly in areas with more street trees.  Here, I think they mean nice big trees with a canopy, not the hacked variety that are so prevalent in Marrickville LGA.

Part of the aims of New York City’s Million Tree Program is to reduce the incidence of respiratory illness as well as improve the overall mental & physical health of its residents.  They also believe in global warming & in 2005, New York tallied its CO2 emissions & found they were approximately 1% of US totals & less than 1/3 of the average US per capita level. 79% CO2 came from buildings. They believe their emissions are so low because there is a heavy reliance on cycling & public transport use. They still to reduce their CO2 emissions by a further 33%.

Rockdale City Council planted street trees along both side of the Princes Hwy Rockdale for approximately 2 km. The awnings posed a problem, so each tree was pruned into a ball & these are maintained regularly. I like what Rockdale Council has done. It looks great & brings green every 3 metres along the shopping strip.

A short, succinct article from Real Estate Agents about the monetary worth of trees on your property, which says, “mature trees & a well-landscaped yard can improve your home’s value by 10-25%.”

Every time I mention this to others I watch the disbelief on their faces, yet this estimate is a number I come across repeatedly in research & articles about the value of trees.

Try looking in the local community papers in the Real Estate section.  If there is a street tree in front of the property, the photographer always includes a branch or leaves from the tree in the photo of the property.  They do this because the sight of trees has a subconscious effect on us.  When we see leafy green, we get a feeling of peace & safety even if we are not directly aware of this. Leafy green means good place to rear children, safety & happiness.  Not to many of us will look at a photo of a property surrounded by cement with no green & compare it favorably with a property that has trees & landscaping, even if the greener property is of lesser value.

The iconic Coral trees in Clifton Gardens were chopped down mid April 2010 by Mosman Council as part of an upgrade of the picnic area. They said the trees had a high-hazard rating.  The residents were very unhappy to lose these & 4 other trees.

Professional tree trimmers in Gilroy California killed 2 owlets when they chopped down a palm tree despite being warned twice about the nest. The Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation Center is caring for the third owlet, who survived the fall. Police are investigating.

Energy Australia reduced a Frenches Forest woman to tears after their tree pruners entered her property & ‘butchered’ her trees.  She said her trees grew straight upwards & were 4 metres away from the power lines & Energy Australia’s intervention was unnecessary.  The first comment by ‘Chips’ is also interesting as he says this has happened to trees on his property numerous times.

Good news… Buffalo, Illinois, a town of 500 residents has no more room for street trees. They have been focused on street tree planting since 1986 & have now run out of room.  Mike Dirksen, city arborist in nearby Springfield said, “There are so many benefits from trees.  They shouldn’t just be seen as having an ornamental purpose.” This should be engraved on a gold plaque. Bet the town looks stunning!

CELEBRITY NEWS (drum-roll please) Last April, in Sao Paulo, Avatar Producer James Cameron & actor Sigourney Weaver planted a native Brazilian tree pau-brasil which is 99% extinct to kick-off a global Earth Day Network which intends to plant 1 million trees in 15 countries by the end of 2010.

Chatswood, Ashfield, Pacific Hwy & Alexandria - all are very busy roads & they have large street trees at close spacing.

verge gardening-looks prettier than in the photo

FOR THOSE ON THE MAILING LIST of Saving Our Trees – did you receive an e-mail from me regarding the street trees in Ivanhoe Street Marrickville South sent 22nd February 2010?

I have been told of problems receiving this e-mail.  I can only conclude that some computers are deciding e-mails from SoT are spam because the e-mail was a broadcast to a large number of recipients.  Individual e-mails sent since from my gmail account have also failed.

If you are on the mailing list & did not receive an e-mail from me, can you let me know please. If you want to be on the mailing list & receive information when a tree is up for removal, I would be pleased to hear from you as well.

A quick dose of news from the Cumberland Courier that concerns us all, especially in light of recent Council decisions concerning rates.  The Australian Energy Regulator is thinking about increasing charges for the replacement & maintenance of streetlights.    This is undoubtedly going to affect Marrickville Council in a big way if Energy Australia goes ahead with this as the costs are massive.



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