The benefits of nature strip gardening (Part 2)
To read part 1, click here.
There are many options to consider if you decide to transform the lawn on your nature strip into a garden.
Because a nature strip often has a sunny aspect and is well-drained, it can be a great spot for a productive and attractive vegetable garden. Whilst, there is a regulation by council that plants must be no higher than 50 cms, we still have plenty of low crops to grow. Examples are:
and more and more!!
:Local indigenous plants garden
If you use local species, they have evolved to handle local conditions. Newport Lakes native nursery is our nearest place to find your local indigenous plants. They are happy to help with your garden design and plant selection as well. Also you can check on Hobsons Bay Sustainable Gardening.
:Edible bush garden
There are many edible species of Australian native plants. This is a great way to increase diversity in your garden. However, consider the choice of species carefully so that it suits the local climate and environment. We have used some of these species on our ACG nature strips and they seem to be growing well in our environment.
*Apple berry: Purple to yellow fruits that can be eaten raw.
*Midyim berry: Sweet with strong flavour that can be eaten raw or in pie.
*Warrigul greens: Edible green leaves but they do contain toxic oxate and so do blanch them and rinse before eating.
*Ruby saltbush berry: Small tiny berries that can be eaten raw.
*Pigface: Red-purple fruit; after flowing, they have a flavor like salty kiwi fruit / apple. Leaves also are edible.
*Tasman and Blue flax lily: Blue fruits with sweet flavor that can be eaten raw.
You can also create a native wild flower meadow garden.
There are many colorful wild flower species. They also prefer a sunny spot and still require less water.
There is no better way to get fresh herbs than to grow them yourself. Also we can enjoy the variety of flowers. It is recommended that species with a low height are chosen. Here is the list of some that we have planted in our nature strips.
*Thyme: There are so many species nowadays and they have a variety of scent and little tiny flowers
*Calendula: Perennial herb. Daisy/Marigold family. Beautiful yellow/orange flower is edible and useful remedy.
*Borage: Edible purple star flower and edible leaves. Also the stems can be cooked.
*Nasturtium: Edible flower and leaves. Can be a great Pest control and companion plants.
*Oregano: Generally Common oregano is low growing.
*Chamomile: Especially Roman species are low height under 15 cm. German species are still up to 40 cm has more scent and flowering.
*Ajuga bugleweed: Low growing with excellent blue/purple flower. Young leaves are edible.
*Comfrey: Flowering blue to purple bell's shape. But we may not see the flower because we need to keep cutting this. It grows over 40 cm. And this plant is great as the stem and leaves are very good used as compost accelerator and for mulch as it releases nitrogen back to the soil.
:Permaculture designed garden
We can of course mix all styles with a well-designed plan in terms of the water catchment, sustainable soil management, biological carrying capacity and more.
There are two key points for an easy care nature strip.
One is water catchment which is essential especially if you grow vegetables. We dug a little trench and mulched (for the level) to create a little drainage gutter besides the footpath to catch the rain water from footpath. Also we put a timber frame around the bed to stop invasive grass and to hold as much water as possible in the area.
Another key element is protection. Because nature strips are located near the roadway, plants are always at the risk of suffering from wind and dust. The design plan recommends planting perennial low maintenance plants outside to create the protected area for annual crops inside. So some bush natives or dry tolerant herbs are recommended. They also can create a microclimate and habitats which will lead to a low maintenance sustainable garden.
In the annual crop area, plants must be reachable for easy care and harvest. 60 cm is the most distance to be able to reach. So it is recommended that every garden should be less than 120 cm width in order to be reached from both sides. Also we encourage the use of companion plants such as planting Allium species (garlic, shallot, onion and etc...) between Brassica family. The benefit of mixed planting is to isolate disease and pest in one area. Also this can reduce the burden of soil because we mix heavy feeder, light feeder and Legume in one area. This especially works well for the small garden such as nature strip.
Drain gutter system besides footpath with planting herb and garlic.
Drain gutter system with mulched footpath. We created mulched foot path between the garden bed. It makes easy access to crops and also provides good irrigation and drainage to all over the root system.
It is also possible to create edible garden beds besides trees. We laid a plastic sheet at the bottom of the garden bed to prevent invasion from the tree root. Also the sheet holds the water. So we created the meshed drainage area (you can see red and white striped mesh sheet on the photo) at the opposite site of tree. At the result, the garden bed has a small water and coir mixed reservoir at the bottom. This area will be a great habitat for worms as well. Below figure is a sketch of plan for this nature strip.
We used layered soil into garden bed. So the nutrients added are slowly decomposed for the growing plants. Basically more stable soil / compost is used for the upper layer for the young plants root systems. We used heaps of our local materials such as seaweed, coffee ground, worm juice, and dried leaves.
Because permaculture design is simple and easy, you maybe able to create a No-Dig nature strip garden, although it is a challenging process to create one on a nature strip.
The steps are:
1. Add manure and compost on the lawn.
2. Lay wet cardboard and newspapers on.
3. Put thick layer of mulch (4-8 inches) such as hay and straw.
4. Make a hole and cut the cardboard where you want planting.
5. Add some potting mix and plant.
The problem of this method is the thick layer of mulch which can be a trip hazard (by council regulation) on nature strip although it will shrink down as the composting process happens. But straw mulch may not be a good idea on the top because it can be blown over by the wind easily. Putting some heavy mulch such as seaweed / wood chip on the top could be one solution to this problem. Another problem is the border between the lawn and garden area. If you leave the lawn surrounding, it will often invade to garden area to suck the nutrients. Recommendation is also to put cardboard/newspaper with deep mulch such as pine needle mulch surrounding vegie patch to keep lawn away.
Altona Community Gardens is assisting residents to transform their nature strips into gardens.
Please contact us to talk further about how we can support you.