We decided we needed to make a start. We would like to show people, or at least demonstrate how a boring strip of grass could become an engaging space.
Problem one. Grass. We thought over a couple of options. Poison seemed clearly against the whole ethos of our plan and covering it in plastic or carpet to let the grass die would take way too long. That left us with only two options that we could think of. The first option,well it wasn’t really an option but we thought we’d give the girls a chance just in case they ripped up our nature strip in record time. Whilst it was amusing and led to a whole heap of passer-by interest, the grass remained resistant.
So this left only the manual digging and sifting of the soil. Our day started with a delivery of pallets from the local bulk pet food store. I always thought that there was some sort of exchange or deposit on these things but it turns out that not only was this store really happy to get rid of them but was quite pleased to deliver them to me. They will, in time, become the first wicking boxes for other people in the street and fodder for our ‘box-building day’.
We set to digging and thankfully had not only some well needed support but also a great setup from ‘G’ down the street that allowed us to sift the topsoil that we dug up. We had also decided to hold off on making a box since we had acquired one from Nikki’s work which seemed to fit the bill nicely. Now I should say that councils have regulations about what you can and cant do on nature strips and whilst we are not entirely within them we are making every effort not to upset or mess with their plans. As a result we have left gaps near the street to let people open car doors, spaces at the edge to not cut down the view of people going in to their drives, left access and egress channels and also kept clear of the path to avoid trip hazards.
A couple of hours later we were well into the task. We had transformed a box into a wicking bed, dug a trench for our native planting and sifted a whole heap of soil to get rid of weeds and rocks. I must give a shout out (for those in Melbourne) to Victorian Indigenous Nursery Cooperative (www.vinc.net.au). We bought all the natives from these guys who source not only Australian natives but plants indigenous to our area of Melbourne. I should also add that they were very polite when, after doing ‘boy’ shopping and just buying stuff that looked good I asked, “so which of these should are not appropriate for what I am planning?”, there was a slightly telling pause before he answered “all of them!”. We got it sorted out though and left with an armful of plants.
By the end of the day we had filled the box with vegies and greens, sifted and replenished the soil and planted natives (and some sneaky herbs) in the new beds. We had also managed to attract the interest of most of the streets’ younger population and some of the older residents.
We added a coat of paint, mostly to small children but some on the box as well….
…and the following weekend added not only another section of bed and a lemon tree but also painted a couple of the side panels in chalk-board paint and attached a chalk box to the side so that kids can draw and we can leave messages.
The finished product looks awesome. Sure there’s still more work to do and we could do with a load of mulch to top once we dig up the remaining grass but it’s really starting to take shape. It’s also given us a really good idea of what it’s going to take to do the planned ‘blitz’. Next step is another box next to this one and then hopefully, pending approval from a resident and a business that has a parking lot on our street 4 more boxes about 50 metres up and down the street. With Autumn finally arrived it’s also the perfect time to be planting things like beetroot, radish, peas, onions and broad beans and with some enthusiasm from the street, some more links and hopeful ‘rent a crowd’ from some other groups our nature strip food strip may well become a reality.