Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Green solution just outside your door - SMH, 07/10/08

THE English have their allotments; in Sydney we use the streets. In a variation on guerilla gardening, Sydneysiders are moving veggie plots from the backyard to the street verge, and converting formerly fallow public land into mini-market gardens.

"Environmentally, ethically and, from a community perspective, it's a great thing to do," says Eva Johnstone, a landscape architect, who with her husband, Bill, has been growing vegetables on their Marrickville street verge for the past two years.

"We always wanted to grow our own food, but our backyard is quite small, so the logical step was to grow it on the street, which was not being used for anything," Ms Johnstone said.

The Johnstones now have an established vegetable garden, with spinach, artichoke, rhubarb, peas, potatoes, beans, broccoli and beetroot. A nearby tree bears a passionfruit vine and a sign telling passersby to help themselves.

"We have more than we can consume," Mrs Johnstone says, "so we are more than happy to share."

The garden is a "big talking point", she says. Neighbours want to know how to convert their verges from worn-out grass to "something they can actually eat".

Street verges are council property but Mrs Johnstone says the council has been "happy to turn a blind eye.

Global warming, the drought and rising food prices have other Sydneysiders looking at local solutions to food production, says Michael Mobbs, a sustainability expert. A year ago, he and fellow residents of Myrtle Street, Chippendale, planted their nature strips and footpaths with a range of edible plants, including tomatoes, herbs, strawberries and fruit trees. Raspberries, rocket, native mint and passionfruit vines climb the telephone poles.

"There are several advantages to growing food in the street," Mr Mobbs says. "You make the streetscape more friendly by getting rid of the concrete and providing more shade."

On Saturday the street will be blocked off for the inaugural Food For The Future Fair, part of the Herald's Good Food Month, and will feature dishes made with food grown in the street.

"We want to show people that they can grow food where they live and return to simpler, lower-impact lifestyle," says Mr Mobbs, who received support from the City of Sydney, which provided some labour and plants. Other councils are following suit.

"North Sydney Council has established a permaculture garden with vegetable beds at the coal loader site, next to Balls Head, Waverton," says the Mayor of North Sydney, Genia McCaffery. "We would certainly be very supportive if communities wanted to grow veggies in their street, as long as it's a community initiative."

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Sounds great, not quite sure if Inala is ready yet but I am tempted to find out... Hey Scarlett, maybe this is where we plant our grains instead of ripping up the ashphalt
yep - although have you ever tried growing enough wheat to make a loaf of bread? it's terrifying!


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Vetiver grass helps to stabilise soil and protects it against erosion.  It can protect against pests and weeds. Vetiver is also used as animal feed. (Wiki.)

GrowVetiver is a plant nursery run by Dave & Keir Riley that harvests and grows Vetiver grass for local community applications and use. It is based in Beachmere, just north of Brisbane, Australia.

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