In our first survey, in January 2020, we looked at why people had, or didn't have verge gardens. Thank you to all who participated. This is what we found.
The reasons for having a verge garden
Readers could select as many reasons as they wished.
The top reason selected was because it looks better, equal second were providing habitat and extending garden space, followed closely by saving on mowing. These sound like keen gardeners.
Top Reasons 1 to 10
- because it looks better for my home
- to increase my garden space
- to provide habitat for small wildlife and pollinators
- to save mowing grass
- to help reduce emissions and increase soil health
- as a public statement about climate change
- to improve the walkability of my neighbourhood
- other reasons for having a verge or nature strip garden
- to improve the value of my property
- I inherited from previous owner
More than half wanted to reduce emissions and increase soil health and more than 40% see it as a public statement about climate change. We don't know if the environmental awareness is the cause or result of having the verge garden. I know my own reasons for having a verge garden have evolved over the years.
Other reasons given include meeting neighbours, growing food and vegetables, sharing food and creating positivity in their community.
More than half were sure that their gardens complied with council policy, 17% knew they didn't, and the rest either didn't know or didn't care.
Reasons not to have a verge garden
Reasons not to have a verge garden were dominated by Council restrictions, Body Corporate restrictions, and being in a rental property. Other reasons were mainly related to Council regulations and council workers destroying verge gardens.
- Other reasons
- Council policy forbids or is too restrictive
- I'm worried about how neighbours will react
- Body Corporate restricts what I can plant
- Rental property, and owner won't allow
- I pay someone to come and mow and that's all they'll do
- Not everyone in the household agrees it's a good idea
- I'm not a gardener, don't know where to start
- I think councils should look after this land, not residents
Being worried about how neighbours will react was higher than we expected. We hope this will change as verge gardens become more common – or even the norm.
Access to cars, concerns about plants being trampled or stolen, and verges that were either too large or too small were other concerns.
Verge gardeners seem to be a positive group of people, keen to share their stories.
“We get lots of positive comments from passers by. It is frustrating when people tread on plants before it gets established.”
“We love our verge garden. We planted it as soon as we bought the house. We have about 20 fruit trees with herbs and veggies around them and berry’s along the fence. We are already harvesting lots. We live on a busy street and have had only one tree damaged by a drunk guy walking home in the early hours.”
“There is a real opportunity here to green our suburban environments !! Let’s do more here in terms of public awareness and encouragement !!”
What Have We Learned
The biggest issue we have seen here and in other feedback is the council policies and practices. However, I have had people assure me that their council doesn't have a policy when I know it does. Also many contractors, tradespeople, and landscapers don't seem to be aware of the policies.
So, while some councils forbid verge gardens, in other areas, there is clearly a communication issue. We have included all council policies that we find in our directory. Please let us know if we have missed yours.
And it's not just council policies that matter. With the increase in the number of townhouse and apartment complexes, the decisions and bylaws made by body corporates about greening common areas are significant. Rental properties, and conflicting attitudes of landlords, property managers, and tenants are another issue.
For cautious verge gardeners, seeing more examples of how to design a verge garden for cars, or pedestrians, and strategies to deal with damage or theft, may make them feel more confident in putting in a verge garden.
We will use the results of this survey to guide the development of Shady Lanes Project, and encourage you to use it as well.
Our February Survey will go online Monday 3rd February. We'll announce it on the Facebook page.
Feedback, including suggestions and requests for questions on our monthly surveys, is welcome.