This humble wicking box on a nature strip in Ballarat could be the beginnings of a gardening revolution.
Food is Free Inc. is claiming the rainbow decorated planter outside 305 Ripon Street South is Ballarat’s first ‘legal’ veggie verge.
The community grassroots organisation installed the wicking box on the nature strip in January.
City of Ballarat councillor Belinda Coates said a revised Nature Strip Alteration Policy has helped streamline the process of applying for a permit and made it easier for residents to meet requirements.
She hopes the Food is Free nature strip planter will provide a living example of public gardening opportunities to other residents.
Food is Free founder Lou Ridsdale has advocated for the importance of food sharing and urban farming on verges since 2015.
She said she was ecstatic to be able to set up the new verge garden as Food is Free had shown the transformative power of public gardens and food sharing.
“It seems really simple, but when you really step back from it and look at the impact, this really penetrates people’s lives in so many ways,” she said.
“It would be a wonderful thing if neighbours got together in each street and put a veggie verge out the front, they take turns sharing the roles of looking after maintenance and then it really is a collaborative effort.
“They become like mini milk bars in the 70s and 80s when you would congregate at the milk bar and find out how each neighbour is doing and what everyone is up to. They are a conduit for community, exchange and cohesion.”
Gardening Australia host Costa Georgiadis has been advocating for verge gardens since he had a dream to start a community garden on his doorstep in 2012.
Watch the live Facebook video with Costa and Lou filmed in Ballarat.
The lively and well-loved host visited Food is Free Laneway on Thursday to celebrate Ballarat’s new verge garden.
In cities around the world it has helped communities re-imagine how public spaces are used, empowered communities with the skills and knowledge to grow fresh and healthy food, improved food security, community cohesion and opportunities for residents who may not have a backyard to grow their own food.
Ms Ridsdale shared a vision of Ballarat as an edible city, citing Incredible Edible UK city Todmorden as an example of the potential of verge gardening.
“A roll out of vegetable verges would be an incredible thing but to be able to see it in the CBD and outside businesses and in places where the community do gather – the whole of Sturt Street as a cabbage patch where the town hall is and corn growing at the police station and places where a lot of people congregate would be incredible,” she said.
Residents can contact City of Ballarat to apply for a nature strip alteration permit.
Ms Ridsdale is encouraging experienced and new gardeners get started on simple projects.
Food is Free can provide advice and seeds.