Carolyn Boyd June 12, 2012
Three months after planting a native garden on our nature strip (as detailed here), it is beginning to finally settle in.
It has been a nice feeling to be rid of the grass, and the mowing that goes with it. But there have been a few lessons along the way.
Challenge: Trample zone
Because everyone is so used to stepping on grass nature strips, we found that with just mulch and baby plants in place, pedestrians would simply walk over the top of them and not realise that the nature strip was in fact a garden.
Solution: We placed flat, stone steppers throughout the nature strip, close enough together for adults and children to be able to step on them without trampling the plants.
As well as providing a practical place to walk, the steppers signal that the surrounding plants aren't grass.
We made sure the steppers were stable underfoot for safety reasons.
A second solution has been to add in a few slightly higher plants than the ground cover (creeping boobialla, or myoporum parvifolium) that we had originally chosen to also create more of a garden look.
We chose a dwarf dianella, similiar to this, planted sparsely through, but just enough to get noticed.
In the longer term, we plan to add some lights to the nature strip, either a solar set-up (they are so cheap these days and provide just enough light for this sort of area), or a low voltage LED kit (also rapidly coming down in price).
Seeing as we no longer need the conduit we put in place for the watering system (when we were planning a new grass nature strip) it is now free to be put to good use housing the low-voltage lead.
The wires will be buried so they can't be seen or tripped over. And the lights won't run all night, to give the insects their night-time rest, but just in the early hours of the evening when people are more likely to be using the footpath or parking their car next to it.
Challenge: Keeping it local.
Our initial goal had been to use only plants that were endemic to our local area as it would be better for the insects and birds in providing a food source.
Solution: We did fail on this, and have ended up with a mix, as we had to add more plants into the nature strip. Being time-poor working parents we resorted to visiting the most convenient nursery/hardware store rather than doing the longer trip to the purely local native plant nursery.
We still opted for mostly native plants, but some are variants bred out of the area. But they are drought tolerant and once established, they won't need additional water, fertilisers or, unlike grass, mowing.
Challenge: Loose soil washing away
Living at the bottom of a slight slope, it was disappointing to emerge one morning, after a night of heavy rain, to discover part of the native nature strip had gone AWOL – washed down the gutter in a big gush of water that banked up against the wheel of a car parked on the road.
This erosion didn't happen when the grass was there as the old root system held it altogether.
The solution: Replace the soil and place some stone steppers in that corner until the plants start to spread their roots and protect the soil better.
Challenge: Lack of variety
With all low plants, the nature strip and the narrow garden (about 15 cm wide) in front of the fence were looking a bit boring.
Solution: Break it up with some taller grasses planted in front of the fence. We chose a commercial variety of Lomandra longifolia called Soft Touch. It isn't endemic to our area, which had been our initial goal, but it is a native plant that is hardy and should withstand life at the side of the path.
It's easily cut – in fact it looks better when cut back every so often – so if it starts to intrude upon the path at all we can easily snip it.
One thing that hasn't been too challenging is the interest from neighbours and passersby. The nature strip has been a focus of conversation and more than a few people have expressed a desire to do the same.
Check with your local council for any guidelines they may have.
Have you replaced the grass on your nature strip? If so, have you had to adjust your design?