Some very varied approaches to growing your own vegetables raised lively discussion at the well-attended talk on the Grow it Local theme on Thursday evening, 15 November. The audience of Glebe Society members and local residents was treated to illustrated talks by Jock Keene, who grows herbs and vegetables in raised beds on the footpath outside his house in Toxteth Rd, and Karin Steininger and Paul Aylwood who have taken an aquaponic approach to growing vegetables on their back deck. Our last speaker was Mark Driver from Council, who developed the Council’s policy on footpath gardening. The audience was impressed by the simple, un-bureaucratic process.
Jock has developed his kerb garden as a resource for the neighbourhood, and his talk emphasised making the garden welcoming and creating a sense of neighbourliness and ownership. His garden beds vary with the season, but currently hold 25 different herbs and salad vegetables. His kerb gardens are well known for their sign ‘Help yourself’ and the pair of scissors hanging from a tree for passers-by to use.
Jock commented on how many people he has met because of the garden, and showed samples of the many ‘thank you’ notes that he has received. He feels that the garden has more than met his aim of bringing the neighbours together.
Karin and Paul felt strongly about the importance of growing their own food but were hampered by their shady backyard which was not suitable for vegetable growing. With the support of Council, and their neighbours, they built a deck above the back section of their house, which gave them the sunny exposure they needed. The aquaponic system which they have implemented relies on circulating water from their tank of silver perch, which provide the fertiliser needed by the vegetables. They are constantly experimenting with different vegetables and variations on their system, which is powered by a small solar panel.
Council’s footpath gardening policy is aimed at ensuring that concerns about the safety and convenience of the public are met. The policy is accompanied by checklists, one for garden beds and one for planter boxes. You must be able to answer ‘yes’ to all relevant questions, and the results submitted to Council. However, no further approval is needed. One of the critical factors is that footpath gardening must either be on a nature strip, or in a planter box that leaves a clear path 1.5 m wide. In his presentation Jock referred to the policy and showed the range of streets in Glebe where this requirement could be met.
The policy and checklists can be found at http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/community/participation/gardening-on-the-footpath