The Johnson Strip Seeks Approval

Turns out for all my dreams of anarchic planting I’m actually a goody two shoes, front of the permaculture, gold star for following the rules sheep. As such tomorrow is a big day. Tomorrow is the day when the council comes to tell us whether we are allowed to do the nature strip planting that we have already done, (okay so maybe I’m not completely obedient!). I’m really hoping that we get the thumbs up because I think that will lead to more people going ahead with reclaiming their curbs. I’m also really excited to say that the cuts on the silverbeet suggest that people have finally got the message that we will not be sitting on our porch in a rocking chair with a shotgun guarding ‘our greens’ but rather encouraging people to take what they need. That said we are still busy building the sign to explicitly explain what is growing, how, how to get involved and that they should just take what they want!

Anyway, the council visit has made me think about where this all ends. So this is not an explanation of what we’ve done, but more a little dream about what I’d like to do.

Phase 1. The Johnson Strip

This is what we’re working on, the greening of our street. This began a while ago by engaging with our neighbours, having discussions and holding street  barbecues to get people out of their houses and into their street. The next part of this was to get people either talking, or doing things that would move towards a more ecological and sustainable street. This is where the boxes come in. There are 58 blocks on our street. We currently have 3 boxes of vegies, 1 olive tree, 1 plum, 1 bay and a lemon tree. We have 5 neighbours who are planning to either go native or get some vegies on their curb and a couple of neglected strips that don’t really belong to anyone (at least anyone who cares).

How will we know when phase 1 is done. Well actually as with most garden type things it’s never going to be done. But I guess I’ll be pretty chuffed when the neighbours are coming together to build or maintain boxes, working out what we need (as a community) to plant in various boxes and when no-one on the street ever has to buy mint, lemons, herbs or greens. Where children can go searching for berries and no one is under any illusion what a truly fresh carrot , tomato or pea tastes like.

Phase 2. The Food Mile

This is where we really start to get speculative. You see about 1 km from our house sits ‘Our Apple Tree’ (check them out on facebook). Just past that is a guerrilla garden that has taken up a vacant block and on the other side of the train line is a formal community garden. I’ve gone and chatted to people in each of them (it turns out that 2 small children can get you in and chatting just about anywhere) but it always makes me think that if there were links between these points of green then they would become not just for those people involves, but for everybody and really provide education, inspiration and an alternative to the supermarket down the road. So phase 2 is the food mile (actually I’ve no idea how long it would be!). This would involve a little more council involvement and planning since the route as you can see takes us next to a train line.

S StreetBut surely it doesn’t take too much imagination to see that this space could not only have a swath of fruit trees but also productive vegie growing spaces that would turn an ugly bit of partially dead grass into a thing of beauty, with no real downside! Well actually there’s one, you see I’ve come to realise that even with wicking boxes it is the access water that makes the difference and there aint no roof catchment here except for passing trains. But still a line of fruit trees to protect from the afternoon sun, a line of boxes connected in series and filled by a well meaning council, surely it’s at least possible.

Phase 3. The Station Food Forest

If the first was happening, and the second was speculative then I think this bit is just dreaming, but what a dream. I’ve been reading a lot about food forests recently. Food forest are self sustaining plantings where fruit trees and understory plants support each other to make a little productive micro-ecosystem with only minimal input from people.

In the absence of car travel I tend to spend quite a lot of time on train platforms and it was here that I got all inspired.C StationI don’t know if this is very visible, but it’s a sloping site that just screams “I’d make for some awesome swales” (there’s a discussion about what swales are here  But the bonus is that there is a building that really does nothing except remind you that there used to be people involved in ticketing and helping you use public transport, not just semi-functional electronic ticketing systems! But this building provides a great opportunity for diverting water to a tank that could then be used for the growth down the hill. Perfectly passive water collection and use and how cool would it be to grab and apple as you stroll for your morning train!

Sadly I’m sure that the reality of this project with OH&S and safety concerns will probably render it impossible. But hey, I’m an optimist so I’m just going to carry on thinking that as we green our street and try to build a food mile we will meet people and learn things that might just make the impossible possible.