Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Really Ugly Nature Strips and Really Beautiful Ones

Weeds and our ugly front footpath
Where I live there are a lot of really ugly nature strips.  Actually, all over Melbourne there are a lot of really ugly nature strips.  Out the front of my place is a really ugly nature strip. 

Monkey Man and I have divided our outdoor spaces.  He is in charge of the front and I am in charge of the back.  Our front garden is a jungle.  No matter what I say, Monkey Man will not listen when it comes to the front yard.  Too many trees planted too close together and lots of weeds.  Tall people need to duck to get under the tree at the gate and short people need to watch out for side-splaying vines that'll poke you in the eye and thorns that'll rip a hole in your special cardigan.  Monkey Man never does real pruning.   Actually, that's not entirely true - whenever we are running late for something and I have just managed to herd the monkey family to the front door, Monkey Man will decide that it is a good time to do a little fingernail twisting of a couple of twigs.  And a little foot-sweeping of the path.  Monkey Man knows better than to make suggestions about the back, but if I do some pruning I need to hide the evidence.  He thinks that chopping a  branch from a tree is akin to chopping an arm from a human.
See - a jungle
Try making your way down this garden path
Anyway, the front nature strip has been his domain - a whipper snip when the grass gets too long and that's it.  But lately I've been eyeing it off.  Our nature strip gets a lot of sun and it would look so much better with some plants. Wouldn't it be wonderful if more people grew food on their nature strips?

A little way from us, some neighbours have done wonderful things with their front nature strip.  Check this out...
That's all on the nature strip.  There are tomatoes and lettuce and beetroot among the shrubs and  flowers and pots and garden art and even a little table and chair set.  Fantastic!

Our neighbour Mr. P. planted a row of almond trees along his nature strip when he first moved in many years ago. Unfortunately, they're not the sort of almonds I get excited about - they're bitter ones only good for desserts I don't know how to do.  But I've seen old ladies in black dresses carrying ladders to pick a basket of almonds from these nature strip trees and I reckon that's cool. 

Now I'm not usually one to advocate civic disobedience but... 
I know that councils can get a bit uppity about nature strips and what you can grow on them.  When I looked into my council's laws I discovered that I was supposed to get a permit to plant a nature strip garden and that I could only plant from a list of their recommended species.   A list that doesn't include edibles.  I don't recognise the names of these plants and I'm pretty sure that any nature strip garden made entirely from a little list provided by the council is going to be boring! Now I was always a very good girl at school - never got a detention.  And I'm a very well-behaved adult. I've only once back-chatted a police officer at a WEF protest way back in the late '90s and that's as bad as I've been, I promise. But I'm going to break this council rule!  I'm going to plant a garden without a permit and I'm going to plant some herbs in it! Provided I don't plant any noxious weeds, or bushes that'll obscure people's view of the road or stop people making a track from the footpath to their cars what harm can there be? 

I'm dreaming of herbs growing on my nature strip for all who care to share.  Things like mint and sage and rosemary.  Things that'll grow big and survive without water or too much attention.  I'm dreaming of bushes and flowers but I don't dare dream as ambitiously as the place up the road.  So I've been trying (not entirely successfully yet) to propogate some herbs.  I'm not going to spend money on plants for a nature strip that might be destroyed by a passing drunk on a Saturday night (we get a few of those) so I'm just going to use stuff I already have.

I'd love to know about any nature strips in your area and get some ideas.  In fact, I'd like to take a look at any lovely nature strips out there.  If you like, you could email me a photo and if you don't mind I'll pop it on my next nature strip blog post for all to admire.
Vietnamese mint I propogated getting ready for my nature strip garden


  1. The Nature Strip is the piece of council-owned land between the road and your property, right?

    It sounds a nice idea to use this to grow edible plants but it has a few disadvantages I think: it could easily be heavily polluted; it could be vandalised; it could be that you put in the hard work and someone else reaps the benefit, without contributing...
    On the other hand I think using the nature strip to grow good-looking plants is certainly sensible.

  2. Thanks Kimmie :)
    Sorry Mark didn't even stop to consider that people outside Australia might not have nature strips or that they might use different language! Yep that's a nature strip. I hadn't thought about the pollution - although we live in a heavily polluted area on a truck route and apparently most of our backyard soils are poisoned and I probably don't want to think about this too much or it'll freak me out! I've considered the vandalism aspect (and have already experienced it unfortunately) but if I'm willing to risk it I think. That's why I won't buy any plants but will propagate and transplant. I think I'll be happy if people use it, it won't be anything I don't already have in the back. We'll see!

  3. Ooooh, geurilla gardening! You rebel! I like it! We have a form of geurilla gardening on our nature strip (all 300m of it) we have blackberries growing through the fences. Every autumn we run over them with the tractor and they come back every spring and yield lovely blackberries in summer. Neighbours can often be found in there munching on the summeriness. Yesterday we found someones pony tied up to our front gate while they were in the blackberries picking a basketful.

    I love living in the country

  4. Yep Daffodil I'm such a rebel! Blackberries - how wonderful.

  5. Your neighbour's nature strip is filling me with awe, making me feel tired, and worrying me because I don't think I could be that creative, and all at once. It is just beautiful. Gosh that must be lovely to walk through...

    I love your idea of a pretty and edible nature strip. What about an edible hedging for starters? Not as exciting as your neighbour's, but maybe a bit more achievable? A blueberry hedge?!

  6. Ali it is beautiful isn't it. But are you serious about the blueberries?! I'm trying to grow blueberries out the back and I'm finding it a bit tricky. And I reckon if any blueberries popped out everyone would be fighting for them. They're $5 a punnet you know! I'm sure I'd be fighting the monkeys for them and I wouldn't want to be fighting my neighbours too. A hedging of some sort is not a bad idea - but maybe rosemary? Anything will be better than the weeds.

  7. I think herbs and flowers are the go. My last garden was in a 'disadvantaged' area. I grew vegetables out the front...not the nature strip, that would have been my next move...but I moved. No one touched the veggies and working on it was a great way to meet the neighbours. You go girl!!!

  8. OK, you folks in Australia, just remember: no irresponsible planting of Blackberries, (those pernicious weeds), in Nature Strips. Have you considered Blackthorn? It has good "defensive" properties, but looks good when flowering, and produces lovely Sloes later on (ideal for making sloe Gin).

  9. You GO for it!! I wish more people did this and it's great your neighbours are already onto it (is that really their nature strip? WOW!).

    We don't really have a nature strip, rather a large slopy bit of land that attracts fallen bark from gum trees, ugh. I did however breach council rules recently when the daughter decided she wanted to set up a little roadside stand selling homegrown plants - she loves it, and is out there ALL the time, watering and re-arranging her pots :)

  10. I say go for it. We planted ours 15yrs ago when we first moved in, and much to the digust of our then neighbour (now gone)and his house has been bought by an invester who has done nothing to it for the 18mnths he has owned it but that's another story. I say plant what you like, we did and the council have never said a word I don't think they really care if it doesn't intrude with the power lines or road We even got them to plant a tree for us, and I requeste trees to be planted right up our street and they did. I will post a pic of ours on my blog

  11. I was thinking of something you could wind in and out of the chain link fencing, I saw this done somewhere the other day, it was with mulberries though. Now as for blueberries, for some reason I had in my mind that they were easy to grow for you southerners! It seems not.

    But I really like the idea of an edible hedge. I wish I had done it, but mine are done and dusted, and hiding the rickety old fence already.

    Go Mark the alcho.

    How Aussie did that sound!

  12. Ok, thanks everyone, I will go for it and plant herbs and flowers I think. Hazel I'll stick to veggies out the back I think. Mark I don't know what blackthorn is. Or sloes! It's a great nature strip isn't it Christine. I'd love to see a picture of yours jeannetteann. Ali, I'm afraid the very attractive hurricane fence is Monkey Man domain in the front garden and I won't be allowed to touch. Only the weeds poking through to the footpath are mine.

  13. This post made me laugh, and the discussion is very interesting. There are a couple of street fruit trees where I live (it's a close) and my partner would love to plant up our nature strip. Actually he wants to grow wheat but that's anotehr story! We;ve already planted up half our front garden with veggies and I'm thinking edible herbs and flowers on the strip.....

  14. I don't know your email address veggiegobbler so can't send you the pics of my nature strip, but have put it on my blog but if you send your email address I will send it to you x

  15. Ooh thanks jeanettann.

  16. Terrific blog! Funny that you've just posted about naturestrips...I've planted chook forage and rosemary and mint on mine! Just waiting now for it to get big enough. But the soil quality of our nature strip s pretty awful so I. Not too hopeful.

  17. I think we do something similar here in the UK but call it 'Guerrilla' gardening, whereby any land strips left idle and not tended and even roundabouts (do you have roundabouts ? ) get planted up mysteriously during the dark hours with flowering bulbs and other plant seeds. Then hey ho ! all of a sudden beautiful little gardens appear. Here is a link so you can have a look

    By the way your little boys are so lovely.

    Enjoy your planting.


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