12 June 2023

You could be on the verge of saving up to 40,000 litres of water a year

| Dione David
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Verge garden in Austinmer

If you’re keen on conservation, a verge garden is a simple (and beautiful) way to contribute. Photo: Dione David.

A simple initiative on the council-managed verge in front of your house could save you up to 40,000 litres of water per year.

Converting verge lawns to water-wise gardens is one of three recommendations under Wollongong City Council’s Community Greening initiative.

Waste Education Officer Penny Hoswell runs workshops on how to plant verge gardens on behalf of the Council. She says the initiative has multiple environmental benefits.

“One obvious one is how much it helps our pollinators. Not just bees but butterflies, beetles and even ants are looking for a variety of flora from which to harvest their nectar and food. If all we grow is clover and grasses, they’re not getting that,” she says.

“From a water conservation perspective, verge gardens slow water runoff. Otherwise, a lot of the water we pour onto our lawns ends up in the gutters.

“There’s also lots of organic matter carried on the wind, straight into our gutters. The autumn leaves that are everywhere at the moment, or the dirt runoff from your neighbour who’s dug up part of their land – it can blow straight over our lawn and into the gutter, or it can be captured by a verge garden where it will become a lovely compost and humus.”

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But the upside of verge gardens extends beyond the environmental.

“As the population grows we’re seeing people on smaller plots of land. They simply don’t have yard space to grow gardens,” Penny says. “But there’s this beautiful space outside the front of your house where you can do that – and you don’t need to ask Council’s permission.”

Verge garden in Coledale

Verge garden plants don’t need to be natives to help conserve up to 40,000 litres of water a year. Photo: Dione David.

Council does have verge garden guidelines, but they are straightforward. Keep a 600 mm clearance from the edge of the kerb (for car doors to open), a 1 m clearance around letterboxes (for the postie) and maintain a safe level pathway 1500 mm wide (for pedestrian access).

Select plants with a max height of 700 mm (to maintain sight lines) and never use hard structures – plants and organic mulch only.

And talk to your neighbours about your plans. After all, Penny says, one of the best benefits of verge gardens is what they do for the surrounding community.

“I got to speak to a lovely lady on Gipps Street in Gwynneville who had planted a stunning verge garden, and she included veggies in it. She told me people sometimes knock on her door, asking if she can spare certain things. So there’s an element of bringing the community together as well, which I think is just wonderful.”

READ ALSO Prehistoric survivors find a safe new home at Wollongong Botanic Garden

Other elements of the Community Greening initiative involve encouraging residents to adopt a tree or, as 75 per cent of the land in Wollongong is private property, look at ways to green their own properties.

As it emerges that suburbs of Wollongong have some of the lowest tree canopy cover in NSW, the Council is also planting tiny forests, such as the Tarrawanna Tiny Forest, which just turned one.

Coledale Community Hall verge garden

Verge gardens should be maintained to keep sidewalks clear, like this one outside the front of Coledale Community Hall. Photo: Dione David.

One of the key goals is to increase average tree canopy cover from the current 17 per cent to 35 per cent – the percentage currently found in places such as Wollongong Botanic Garden and suburbs like Mangerton.

Residents who want to know how they can help achieve better, greener outcomes for their community can seek advice from Council on verge gardens, adopting trees and more.

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