Kerbside veggie patches, community herb gardens allowing neighbours to forage for food, or rows of native bird-attracting plants could soon be popping up in more Wollongong suburbs, as the council inspires residents to build new "verge gardens" across the city.
On Friday, the council will release a new set of guidelines to help residents design these gardens safety and so they don't affect pedestrians and power lines, as part of a wider push to encourage more greenery in the suburbs.
Residents will also be able to apply for $250 vouchers, redeemable at the Botanic Garden Greenplan nursery.
While planting on the council strip has not been illegal in Wollongong, it has previously been unclear what the rules around verge gardens are.
I've got lots of good feedback from my neighbours already and I've had seeds given to me to contribute to the project.Kristy Lee Hammond
Greens councillor Cath Blakey asked the council to come up with more formal guidelines after a Woonona neighbourhood dispute in 2019.
Then, a couple on Hillcrest Avenue was threatened with a $330 council fine for obstructing the public road reserve when they covered their front yard grass with mulch and neighbours complained.
The issue was eventually resolved without a fine, and Cr Blakey said the homeowners had been able to create a now established verge garden.
She said the new guidelines would help ensure there were no similar issues in the future.
Bellambi resident Kristy Lee Hammond had the idea to create a community garden out the front of her rental property months ago, and was given a council grant of $250 to do so earlier this year.
With her project aimed at bring her neighbours together, she delayed it during the peak of COVID-19, but has now got a thriving patch of seedlings poking their heads out of her garden beds.
Soon, she hopes to have enough produce be able to advertise the patch to her neighbours, and will come up with a traffic light honour system to encourage people to help themselves to fresh veggies.
"I'm the type of person who wants to do something beyond myself, and I'm a gardener in my own back yard anyway, so I thought this would be a way to make the street look nice, and bring people together," she said.
"I've got lots of good feedback from my neighbours already and I've had seeds given to me to contribute to the project."
"It gives my neighbourhood character - so it's not just a strip of grass - and I love the idea that we could be seeing more of this type of thing around Wollongong."
There are also the environmental advantages as verge gardens help cool the heat from the street and use less water than a lawn, not to mention attracting birds and creatures like butterflies and lizards.Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery
The council's parks and open spaces manager Paul Tracey also said he hoped to see many more verge gardens, especially those making use of the many local natives available at the Greenplan nursery.
"This is part of our urban greening strategy," he said. "The verge outside homes is a significant amount of public land and we want residents to green it up."
He said residents were not to plant trees on their verges, but noted that council staff would happily come and assess the area if people did want trees planted outside their homes.
"The key things to avoid - don't plant trees, and try to avoid anything that can cause harm to the public like seating, sculptures or hard edging," he said.
"Otherwise, it's about residents being creative and pursing their own gardening interests - but we would like to see more local natives."
The guidelines will give requirements for the space needed around the road, and state that the gardens must be well-maintained, safe, and keep the footpath accessible for everyone.
Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said there were great benefits to planting a verge garden.
"These gardens create more liveable space for your home and street appeal, opening up more opportunities to connect with your neighbours," he said.
"There are also the environmental advantages as verge gardens help cool the heat from the street and use less water than a lawn, not to mention attracting birds and creatures like butterflies and lizards."