There’s growing interesting in community gardening, sharing and swapping excess produce, “food is free”, communal composting, book libraries and more. For best outcomes, it helps to be clear about your goals and find which model suits best for you and your project.
Verge Gardens and Nature Strips
These gardens, planted in the space between your front fence and the road, have the strictest compliance rules. The space is shared with pedestrians and service providers (postie, meter readers, etc) who must be allowed to go about their work unimpeded. It also has underground services (water, power, sewer, electricity, NBN) which means it can be dug up with no notice.
They are also the most convenient being so close to home for maintenance and watering.
It is public land so any produce or flowers are free for anyone to take – although hopefully they won’t take the whole plant.
Strips of verge gardens can be maintained by neighbours, and sometimes keen gardeners come to an agreement with less interested neighbours to adopt their verges.
While food can be grown, the growing of edibles can cause neighbourhood tensions. The complexity of this space, and our need to increase street trees and other planting to tackle urban heat means that for food-growers, this land could play a better role as pollinator strips.
Community gardens are much larger and are usually on public land and run by an incorporated group approved by Councils.
They can be in walking distance or more often driving distance from members. They are suitable for large scale food growing in communal or individually owned beds.
They often have additional services like community composting, are a way for new gardeners to learn from more experienced, and making new friends.
While appearance is less of an issue than it is with verge gardens, community gardens are high commitment with committees, rosters for maintenance and working bees. These are built on public land with agreement from councils.
While most community gardens welcome visitors to look at the gardens, produce is usually just for members.
Food is Free Garden
Food is free is more an attitude than a model. Both versions above could be “food is free” if the gardeners choose to make them so.
Allowing non-gardeners to pick can lead to damaged plants.
Alternatives include have a table or wheelbarrow with excess produce and a sign visible and within easy reach. To comply with most verge policies, this would have to be just inside the property boundary.
See this Gardening Australia factsheet for ideas
- Think about your goals and level of commitment you are able to give before you start.
- Policies and guidelines are very different for each type of garden.
- Use the infographic below to help clarify
See more in Understanding the Space on Substack