Brighton Group – verge makeover

By Veronique

This is number four in a series of posts describing our local community initiatives and activities during Autumn/Winter 2012.

A few weeks ago, on our way home from our walking bus adventure (see previous post), someone suggested we could plant out a verge in our street. The following week, one of our neighbours agreed to a verge makeover. Volunteers were recruited, a date and time was set, the resources required were listed and a plan of action drawn up. All this sounds very easy, and the truth is…it was. We also sought advice from our local council and took account of their recommendations regarding local verge plantings.

On the day, nine people and two dogs participated and, with so many volunteers, the whole project only took an hour to complete. First we mowed all the weeds with the lawnmower on its lowest setting. This is a lot easier than digging them out. The weeds could also have been whipper sniped.

Then we covered the verge with newspapers – six households in the street kindly saved all their newspapers for us. When we recycle newspapers in the garden we also return their carbon content to the soil – this is good for the soil, the plants, the planet and us.

To stop the papers from flying off we watered them thoroughly – a wind-less day is best for such a project. We added pea straw mulch on top of the newspapers and added more water. Mulch looks good, saves watering and protects the soil and worms. It feeds the soil and plants as it breaks down and makes future weeds harder to grow and easier to pull out. As an alternative to pea straw, we could have used mulched garden waste or dry lawn clippings.

Then we decided where to plant our 12 seedlings. These were provided, at a greatly reduced price, by our council as part of its ‘Sustainable Futures Plan’ – most councils now have a similar plan. Our seedlings were all indigenous species and included low growing ground covers, grasses and small bushes. They will eventually look like the mature specimens shown above. These can be seen outside the Brighton civic centre and library. For safety reasons, it is important to avoid restricting visibility from driveways so these plants’ growing habits are very suitable. They are also water-wise and will promote biodiversity by attracting and sheltering native insects and wildlife. Their roots will capture rain water and hold the soil. Plants also sequester carbon dioxide so a planted verge can act as a ‘carbon sink’. Once established, indigenous plants should require no watering.

When deciding where to plant, we needed to leave a plant-free area for the bins and stepping in and out of a car. We mixed compost with manure, dug a hole through the wet mulch and newspapers, added our plant food and planted our 12 seedlings. Baby seedlings need protection against wind and foot traffic, so we placed a protective shelter around each seedling. These shelters were made from plastic bottles which we picked up from recycling bins. We used sharp scissors to cut the bottles’ top and bottom and form an open-ended tube.Then we carefully watered all the seedlings. Finally, we cleaned the road and footpath by sweeping all the organic debris back onto the verge.

In a couple of years, these plants will require clipping back once a year to keep the gutters clear – this should be the only maintenance needed. When we finished cleaning up, putting away our tools and carefully washing our hands, we were invited to celebrate a job well done over a glass of champagne and delicious homemade goodies. Now every time we see that verge we remember… people working together = much less work + lots more fun!

Check out Veronique’s blog here!




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