Lane Cove is a community minded suburb and now and again you find some amazing individuals who go that one step further to make Lane Cove a special place. Meet Bridgit Kennedy who has created a Verge Garden for all to share.
Where is the Verge Garden?
On the verge at 3 Seville Street, Lane Cove.
What made you start the Garden?
I’ve enjoyed gardening ever since I was a kid. In fact, that’s why I chose to live in Lane Cove. At the time when I was looking to buy a house, Lane Cove was much cheaper than it is now and I was looking for a house with a bit of a yard. Previously I’d lived in terraces and another lovely house in Castlecrag which had a bush garden mainly in shade.
For me, gardening is both relaxing and very rewarding. It’s incredible that a plant/shrub/food can grow from a tiny seed. Seeds are AMAZING! Of course, it’s really the soil that you feed, not the plant…. The verge garden started after I made a commitment to living more sustainably by lowering the embedded cost of eating, both financially and at a broader community and planetary level (food miles, pesticides, soil degradation – don’t get me started!).
I imagined what it would be like to have a whole street filled with healthy food, plants buzzing with bees and happy insects, where kids could just help themselves to a tomato on the way home, or a nibble of sorrel, where people could pop up the road for some thyme or rosemary for dinner – just imagine a street full of edible plants, how cool would that be?!
The fact that the verge is also the sunniest part of my garden also contributed to this. I’d already converted both my front and back lawns to growing plants (but both are lacking in sun which has its limits).
People often ask me if it’s much work. It’s an evolving process and it certainly takes a bit of time to initially setup but in the long run, it’s an awful lot less work than having to mow a verge lawn every couple of weeks…and it doesn’t create noise pollution or use up petrol…and the end result is free food!
How long have you been doing it?
I’m not really sure. The verge section is about 5 years old, maybe?
How does the system work?
I run a full-time enterprise (an artist run gallery www.projectspace.studio2017.com.au), and a full-time family so my time is very limited. I’m now growing primarily perennial fruit and vegies on the verge which are low maintenance. I get out onto the kerbside every so often to keep the height of plants down and to ensure that the access pathway to cars is kept clear.
There’s a sign that invites people to help themselves to a little bit but leave enough for others. I also put up signs identifying edible plants. So far, people haven’t been greedy and have been respectful of the space, although someone did steal a whole chilli plant which was a bit disappointing. I’m more than happy to share cuttings of plants or seedlings if people drop me a note in my letterbox with their contact details.
The verge garden is a combination of both edible and non-edible plants. I prefer to mix things up as I find this more visually appealing and combining plants can help with reducing disease and bug infestations. The garden becomes a bit like a ‘food forest’ which involves foraging to harvest food but this also requires a knowledge of what is actually edible.
Generally, if I’m digging up a crop of food, like sweet potato, I’ll leave excess by the side of the garden with a sign for people to help themselves. Or if there’s heaps of something, I’ll put a sign up highlighting it. I ask that people don’t actually go into the garden and harvest crops like these themselves as the crops are also for my family’s use. For example, I will always leave some sweet potatoes in the ground to ensure next year’s crop. It’s important not to over pick a plant or any resource as there comes a tipping point where it’s not sustainable.
Once, I came home to find someone perched on my front wall filling up a shopping bag with a heap of lemons from my front yard….which wasn’t so cool.
What is your yield or output?
I don’t really know. I do know that I never have to buy sweet potatoes, lemon grass and other herbs, sorrel, spinach, kale, warrigal greens and things like that. The occasional strawberry and globe artichokes are a bonus. If you include the other fruit and veg I grow in the back yard, I would probably be fruit and veg self-sufficient if I supplemented my growing with a little crop swapping and limited my desires to eat to what was in season.
How many different types of fruit/veggie/herbs etc do you have in the Verge Garden?
At varying times of the year there might be:- strawberries, rosemary, sage, thyme, lemon grass, arrowroot, globe artichokes, warrigal greens, comfrey, lemonade citrus, sweet potato, regular potato, lavender, Fejoa, natal plums, perennial basil, chilli, parsley, sorrel, pineapple (which doesn’t seem to have grown in about 3 years but I’m eternally optimistic). I have heaps more in the back yard. One of the crops that was really successful this Summer was passionfruit – we’re still eating it.
What is the best thing about having the Verge?
Gardening on the verge is a great way to meet people. I’ve received some lovely feedback from people who’ve been inspired by the garden. I was really touched last Christmas to receive in my letterbox a beautiful handmade card and some homemade biscuits from a family who has used the garden to pick herbs and warrigal greens throughout the year. Another couple popped a home made CD of music in my letterbox once. There was another family with two young toddlers who used to regularly walk up the road to pick the little cherry tomatoes to eat.
On another note, it was a bit of an eye opener to have a conversation with another kid who, until seeing my garden, had no idea how tomatoes grew. For me, the garden provides a connection back to the community, the land and knowledge of how we grow the food we eat. I hope that it will, in some way, generate more of an understanding and appreciation of our reliance on our environment (no matter how disconnected we may seem to be) and the importance of maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
Anything else you’d like to share?
If anyone would love to grow their own edible plants but doesn’t have the space, Permapatch Community garden is a great resource.
I was honoured to be invited to open my garden as part of the last ABC Open Garden Scheme a couple of years ago. Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] if you’d like more info or knowledge of how to grow veggies in your own garden.
Bridget is married to Luke Torrevillas who is a film location scout, read ITC’s profile of Luke here.
Bridget is also a volunteer at the Repair Cafe – the repair cafe is where you can take your items to be fixed. Don’t throw it out, repair it.
Do you have a local issue you would like help with? ITC is here to help just email us at [email protected]
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