City gardens: small and shared

Sustainable City Our Wellbeing People of Adelaide

Since moving out of the suburbs three years ago, CBD residents Kenneth and Michael De Boo have been loving every minute of their city life and the chance to introduce more greenery to Adelaide’s south-west.

These two life-long gardeners participated in the City of Adelaide’s recent Living Smart sustainability course and, as well as being among the most active contributors to the thriving Whitmore Square Community Verge Garden, have also transformed their apartment’s two balconies into natural wonderlands.

“A balcony that’s well-dressed with plants helps you feel connected to nature and the world outside, which is brilliant for your wellbeing."
Michael De Boo, city resident & community gardener

Measuring around 12sqm each, each balcony is unique and works with its environment. The sunny west-facing balcony can be protected from the sun by a vertical blind and is full of plants – among them a flourishing philodendron Xanadu, a big bowl of reeds and water lilies – even a delicate maidenhair fern. On the shadier east-facing side, a trio of hanging pots filled with Crassula Ovata (jade plant) and cascading String of Pearls is pure garden art!

Of course, many apartments have much smaller balconies but Michael’s adamant that shouldn’t be a deterrent.

“Whatever your balcony size, simply work to scale,” said Michael. “For a small area, maybe have one big pot that incorporates three elements: some undergrowth, a Tiger Grass for height and a sculpture. That can be all you need to create that connection to nature. Even a potted cyclamen on a table for two can add a splash of colour for months!

Kenneth and Michael’s healthy balcony garden tips

  1. Understand your balcony’s orientation to the sun and explore what protection you can create;
  2. Use a few large pots rather than lots of smaller ones;
  3. Fertilise with water-activated rather than temperature-activated slow release. Better still, use something organic like Dynamic Lifter - if you don’t mind the smell!
  4. If remembering to water is a problem, try growing bog or water plants like Didgery Sticks in a sealed planter or succulents.
  5. Chat with an expert at a nursery.

For this active duo, regular stints in the Whitmore Square Community Verge Garden (WSCVG) are another reason they love the village-like atmosphere of the city’s south-west.

“Community gardening is great for your mind and body. It also opens the door to meeting new people. I saw a TedX Talk that said something as simple as talking with more people on a daily basis is the single most important factor to a longer happy life – so we love engaging with people as they pass by. The verge garden is also a focal point for our community and gives us yet another way to connect with each other.”
Kenneth De Boo, city resident and community gardener

Running between Sturt and Wright Streets, the WSCVG is a showcase for water efficiency with its 17 raised wicking beds, installed by the City of Adelaide but planted and maintained by the local community. The raised beds retain water in a reservoir under the soil, which reduces the amount of watering needed to produce what’s become a perennial flow of food – with chillies, tomatoes, salad greens, chard, kale and a handy herb or two – likely among spring’s planting.

“The verge garden is unique in that there’s no committee or membership. It’s literally there for the community at large, with almost all the produce grown picked by people passing by,” said Kenneth.

“If you’d like to get involved in the verge garden, just say hi if you see us working there or pop into the nearby South West Community Centre and chat with the team. How much you do is your choice: you could plant a few seedlings or nominate to care for a raised bed on an ongoing basis.”

Within the City of Adelaide there are several Community Gardens where people can come together to grow fresh food, learn skills and make new friends.

Just a short stroll from Whitmore Square / Iparrityi you’ll find another green city haven filled with veggies of all shapes and sizes. The Walyu Yarta Community Garden is just behind the rose beds in Veale Gardens on South Terrace. Installed by the City of Adelaide about nine years ago, this is another open-access garden maintained by volunteers of all ages, including local residents and school students, and anyone is welcome to come and get involved.

Find out the location and contact details for all the Community Gardens inside the Adelaide metropolitan area at and visit for information on future Living Smart courses you can take part in.

Article by

Skye Murtagh

Skye Murtagh

Skye is passionate about sharing stories from all walks of life. When she's not busy weaving beautiful words together, she's singing a line or two from her favourite song.