Bendigo could be home to nature strip fruit and vegetable gardens

FRESH: The City of Greater Bendigo has discussed the possibility of the nature strips being converted into fruit and vegetable gardens.
FRESH: The City of Greater Bendigo has discussed the possibility of the nature strips being converted into fruit and vegetable gardens.

The City of Greater Bendigo is considering a plan to permit residents planting vegetable gardens on their nature strips.

Active and Healthy Communities Manager Patrick Jess said the idea, which is about to take effect in the Australian Capital Territory, had been discussed internally since council passed a food security report in 2014. 

The report recommended a range of ways for residents to access healthy food and increase their fruit and vegetable intake, including urban agriculture initiatives like community and kerbside gardens. 

Mr Jess said as many as 90 percent of people in Bendigo were not consuming enough vegetables and nature strip gardens might help make healthy eating more accessible. 

The council had been in contact with Melbourne municipalities like City of Yarra, which had already introduced nature strip gardens. 

But Mr Jess also said what worked in urban communities might not fit a regional centre like Bendigo.

"The work we've done so far suggests there isn't a one size fits all approach to this," he said.

He said physical differences between neighbourhoods meant nature strip vegie patches might not work for everyone and if council were to pursue the idea, a trial of interested residents would be the first step. 

Bendigo Sustainability Group committee member Evan Davies, who also runs Bendigo Organics, said nature strip gardens will mean Bendigo residents have more secure access to fresh fruit and vegetables, and would reduce demand for overseas imports. 

"We're concerned we live in a non-food producing region," he said. 

"We don't have irrigation systems, market gardens, extensive orchards apart from Harcourt. We're a sheep and olives and wine kind of district.

"If the trucks stopped today, the supermarkets would be empty in three days."

He said the patches could benefit people who struggle to afford fresh food, as well as renters who need permission from landlords before planting in their backyard.

"If its on the nature strip, as long a the local council are on board with that, you're OK," Mr Davies said.

"These days with council approving subdivision of land, backyards are becoming a thing of the past."

Roadside gardening will also promote social connectedness, Mr Jess said, with green-thumbed neighbours interacting on the street while tending to their plants. 

But he acknowledged anti-social behaviour could threaten the gardens.

“Vandalism and unwanted access is something that would be of concern," he said.

Visitors to the Bendigo Advertiser’s Facebook page yesterday welcomed the the idea but shared worries about security and the possibility of contamination from the exhaust of passing cars.