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Productive Gardens for Urban Environments

Both the South East Queensland regional plan and Brisbane City Plan target increased high density development. Inner city and activity centres are aiming for a more compact urban footprint as a long-term sustainability measure. 

It is important to consider measures to make these developments liveable, functional and sustainable. Gardens of all kinds have been shown to have a positive effect on human well-being. In addition to this also achieving positive environmental effects. 

One viable and practical measure is to incorporate productive vegetation for the benefit of occupants/users.

Vege Gardens in the City?

While the idea of a vegetable and/or herb garden may not be for some the ideal landscape solution for a high-use area, it is important to consider the potential social benefits.

Communal gardens can provide a means of bringing people living in close proximity together to share and build relationships.

Many herbs, fruits & vegetables require good sunlight, so a rooftop location is an ideal situation for maximizing productivity.

As with any other climbers, fruit and vegetable vines can be trained to maximize the use of small spaces.

Design Considerations

A significant design consideration is that edible and productive plants must be easily accessible as they will generally require more maintenance, as well as the obvious need to access the produce.

This is why it makes sense to position vegetable gardens near high pedestrian traffic areas. It is more likely that it will be maintained in a place that people walk past every day rather than a hidden corner.

In a highly built up urban environment, extremes in heat, cold, shade & sun are likely to occur, and only the right plants will thrive.

Design considerations are:

  • Make the gardens easily accessible;
  • Position vegetable gardens near high pedestrian traffic areas;
  • Consider extremes in heat, cold, shade & sun;
  • Provide maintenance guidelines for users.

In any case, only a small percentage of residents may actively take ownership of gardens to maintain and reap the benefits, which will normally be the people who know what they are doing.

The long-term management of productive gardens in any communal setup therefore requires flexible approach, as well as a backup plan if community participation does not happen automatically.

Other Benefits

It worth considering the benefits that may come with a development that is recognised as an environmentally and socially conscious development. Productive vegetating of buildings can contribute to EnviroDevelopment recognition.

BHCL Creating Livable Communities and Citicene recently endeavored to include herbs and vegetables amongst the new planting of a few high-density housing developments.

Different herbs and vegetables were planted in communal areas and individual balcony gardens to encourage sharing between residents. At another development, a number of new residents have planted herbs and vegetables of their own initiative.

The successful incorporation of productive gardens into our urban environments could allow more of us to enjoy local produce while contributing to the sustainability of our cities.

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