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I believe that planted verges have a high value to West Australians that is often unappreciated. The value of these strips of land, which are Crown Land under the control of Local Government and able to be cultivated by homeowners is enormous. Verges help to cool the environment making suburbs more liveable. Biodiversity is enhanced not only through the use of different plants but also by attracting wildlife by offering refuge, feeding stations, breeding locations and movement corridors.
A well-designed and maintained verge can compliment both house and garden as well as contributing to the streetscape and improve the outlook of the neighbourhood. Some homeowners use the verge to produce food such as herbs, vegetables and fruit. A verge that gives open vision to the street helps reduces crime. Verges can provide overflow parking. I am particularly concerned about the loss of green space in our urban areas so for me verges are an opportunity to put back greenery.
What sort of gardening you can do varies by postcode as each Local government authority have its own regulations. My first recommendation is to check with your local council about their requirements. Council usually supplies street trees, although many offer a range of choices. A maximum height of around 600mm is recommended to allow clear visibility for vehicles particularly those reversing out onto roadways.
This means low growing shrubs, grasses and strap leaf plants, lawn and ground covers. Bare soil becomes dead soil quite quickly so one of the first recommendations is to grow something to cover and protect the soil. One of the groundcovers I have used to great effect at home is a variegated gazania. This plant needs no artificial watering after establishment and it forms such a dense cover that weeds struggle to invade. The only maintenance for me is to trim back the edges once a year.
If covering the soil with plants is not practical then a garden of mixed shrubs and ground cover can give you colour and interest. I would surround these with chunky mulch applied as a surface blanket to a depth of 50 to 100mm (Baileys Moisture Mulch is an excellent choice). For long term success with any planting you need to start with a good foundation. Our impoverished sandy soils need bolstering with soil improvers before the plant goes into the ground (Baileys Soil Improver Plus is my recommendation).
Irrigation systems need to be of a pop-up or dripper type so no sprinklers or piping sticks up above the soil level. Where no council path exists on your verge, you need to allow for pedestrian access in many cases.
Councils also prohibit wooden or metal stakes, rocks as well as loose fine rocks such as gravel and aggregate. Some councils have regulations about the use of paving and artificial lawns and some ban fruiting plants; others encourage these. Poisonous and spiky plants also come in for special treatment. Keep the water meter clear so readers can get easy access. When underground services, power telephone, gas and sewerage need to be uncovered the service providers are not usually liable for reinstating your garden.
My main concern about both paving and plastic lawn is the heat buildup in summer in an urban environment where we are already suffering from 'heat island effect'.