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Sidewalk Specials

Published on September 20th 2021

by Going.Local. All rights reserved

sidewalks verges gardens open
Sidewalks are turning heads as spring has brought about the annual flush in delicate blooms. The normally grassy landscape is transformed into a carpet of blooms that has sparked many residents to apply for a ’no mowing’ ticket at the municipality.
This revitalised interest in verges is nothing new as many families have explored these tiny garden ways during the lockdown. It is a source of pleasure and an Open Garden of your own. As we edge closer to the National Open Gardens, we take a look at our own and how we can improve our verges for the betterment of the community.
A close up of a flower garden

Urban gardenscapes

The movement of community gardening is as old as time, yet it has taken a surprising turn in recent years. In fact, communities across the Southern Hemisphere have taken a particular interest this year.
In Australia, a small community in White Gum Valley has made headlines as Valley Vergers. These enterprising gardeners have taken the local council recommendations to heart and created nature strips that support local wildlife. A ‘nature highway’ if you will.
This movement is not limited to suburbs, in Sao Paolo (Brazil) vegetable garden initiatives like Hortas has Corujas have become inspirational in creating what they refer to as an “edible city”. Such projects create a stronger bond within the community while providing a cost-effective way of urban greening.
A close up of a flower
Image by J Garget from Pixabay

Greening Sidewalks

In South Africa, we see how the unkept grassy verges hide indigenous geophytes (tiny grass-like bulbs), seed stores of annual flowers (emerge from seeds in the soil) that flourish spectacularly come spring. The idea behind greening sidewalks is not to disturb such natural habitats but to support them.
The first step is to find out what is on your sidewalk. Candide can help with this! It might be a tiny rare flower, or low and behold a ground orchid! These little treasures should be admired and left for the many beetles, hoverflies and bees they support.
Common indigenous plants on verges:

Bachelor Buttons

Cotula turbinata

A close up of a pink Oxalis purpurea flower in the wild

Grand Duchess Sorrel

Oxalis purpurea

Cape Sorrel

Oxalis pes-caprae

Cape Marigold

Arctotheca calendula

Once we know what we need to protect, it is easier to go about selecting plants that would rehabilitate barren soil or replace Kikuyu Grass with a flower or two. There are many low-growing options, from locally indigenous grasses that support butterfly populations to bulbs or fynbos shrublets. We will touch on some noted rules and regulations, then provide a list of good sources for choosing new plants.
A close up of a flower on a sidewalk
Image by Takatoshikun from Pixabay.

Practical matters

There are some basic rules and regulations that apply to sidewalks. These should be considered before embarking on any new and exciting planting.
Sidewalks fulfil several practical roles that you as a gardener should be aware of.
  • Walkways: It is dangerous for pedestrians to walk or use a wheelchair on the road. The verge should ideally serve as a safe thoroughfare for individuals.
  • Access to municipal lines: Verges or sidewalks provide access to underground water, fibre optic and wastewater lines. As municipal land, any municipality has the right to dig up and disturb the land for repairs or new construction. You may not disturb any such infrastructure.
  • Line of sight: Verges improve traffic safety by providing a clear line of sight for oncoming traffic and pedestrians. Any planting should remain low.
  • Rainwater drainage: Soil and larger debris clog up stormwater drainage, leading to flooding of public roads. Well-maintained verges or sidewalks assist in minimising blocked drains or redirecting water flow.
A person riding on the back of a motorcycle
Let's take care of everyone by leaving room for passers-by to travel safely, be it grass, soil or paved pathway. Image by Kevin Phillips from Pixabay.
By-laws apply to sidewalks no matter where you are in South Africa. In order to protect all citizens on public roads, you have to follow your local municipality guidelines. The regulations will differ slightly depending on your area. For up-to-date information contact your local municipality. To find their contact details visit
The general rule of thumb:
  • Erecting a wall, pavement or other fixed structure requires approval.
  • Trees or shrubs that obstruct the traffic line of sight are not allowed.
  • Removal, climbing, damaging, or painting of any trees is prohibited.
Not all municipalities have the budget to allocate funds for aesthetic plantings or maintenance of verges. To overcome such hurdles, some have partnered with other agencies or with local residents in Greening projects. Here are a few noted projects to join.
A wooden park bench sitting in the grass
Image by tookapic from Pixabay.
Municipality greening initiatives:
eThekwini municipality- Reforestation and Greening programs
Cape Town
Spring 'No Mowing' Policy - To submit an application for your region contact the regional office at to
The department of Forestry, fisheries and environment hosts a Cleanest Town Competition each year that is open to all municipalities. Why not motivate your local council to participate?
A close up of a rock
Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay.

Inspirational sidewalks

Did you know Wheelchair Travel rated Cape Town as "the most wheelchair accessible sidewalks on the continent"? The Cape Town urban management team, in keeping with this wonderful statement, has encouraged its residents to join the edible city initiative by planting edible goods while still allowing space for safe travel.
Many shrublets do not exceed 30cm and are ideal to stop soil erosion and weeds. When selecting plants, look for the words creeping, indigenous and low-growing. The same applies to edibles, making sure the footpath remains unobstructed.
Here are some helpful Candide collections:

Share your sidewalk gems with the hashtag #sidewalkspecials

Useful links:
South Africa's By-Laws by region:
A person standing in front of a building
Photo by Chris Lawton by Unsplash.

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