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Advice for a level design project. Please Help!

Dear Gardeners,

I understand that you probably don't often get requests like this but I am looking for advice that could potentially improve my A level product design project. The project involves benefiting the environment by encouraging teenagers to grow fresh food and plants at home. I would appreciate it if you could answer a few questions in as much detail as possible.


How can I make a raised planter more comfortable to use?

How can I encourage a range of plants to grow alongside each other in the same planter?/ how could I make it easiest for a teenager to do this?

What materials are raised planters usually made from, types of wood ect, and what is preferred by most users?

How can I make a planter safe / safer for teenagers to use?

What kind of tools would be needed to maintain a planter? 

How would these tools be stored? How large would the space need to be?


I understand that these are some strange questions to ask of someone offering free advice.I appreciate your help with my A level project, I look forward to reading your replies, 

Emily Romer


Posts

  • jennifergilleecejennifergilleece Greater ManchesterPosts: 4

    Hi Emily,

    By planter you mean raised bed as opposed to a flower pot/hanging basket etc? The latter could be made from upcycling other materials (large bottles, cans, etc, etc) adding to the environmental element and can be moved around but would be smaller than a raised bed for growing in.

    I'm pretty new to gardening but for your second question: plant things which like the same growing conditions and preferably grow things which provide benefits to each other. If you look up companion planting there will be a lot more knowledgeable folk and information available than I can give you.

    I think a combination of plants would be best for them - things that the teenager gardener likes to eat and preferably things that grow fairly quickly to keep their interest, or at least some that grow quickly and some slower should work.

    It depends on how big the planter is but some hand tools such as a fork and trowel should be enough to get them started. They would need to be stored somewhere dry and secure but wouldn't take much space. A full sized spade and fork are longer and so would need somewhere tall enough to hold them but still not be overly bulky for storing. A watering can might be needed if they don't have access to a garden hose and the weather is dry but they could improvise with alternatives either (eg a jug)

  • Joy*Joy* Posts: 571
    I have just bought a Tom Chambers planter which is on legs. It would be very easy to access by anyone who is disabled as you don't have to bend to use it. Whether teenagers would be interested in using it would depend on the individual.  I intend starting to use it next year as it is a bit late to start using it now unless I plant it up with things like winter flowering pansies etc. I will either plant herbs in it, which can be used in cooking or will fill it with things like trailing fuchsias and Dichondra Silver Falls which is a silvery trailing plant with soft velvety leaves - very tactile! I might even try some cherry tomatoes in it. I have a question for you - are you intending making the planter as part of your course? If you are, we could possibly offer more constructive (sorry for the pun) help.
  • 18romere18romere Posts: 3
    edited August 2019
    Joy* said:
    I have just bought a Tom Chambers planter which is on legs. It would be very easy to access by anyone who is disabled as you don't have to bend to use it. Whether teenagers would be interested in using it would depend on the individual.  I intend starting to use it next year as it is a bit late to start using it now unless I plant it up with things like winter flowering pansies etc. I will either plant herbs in it, which can be used in cooking or will fill it with things like trailing fuchsias and Dichondra Silver Falls which is a silvery trailing plant with soft velvety leaves - very tactile! I might even try some cherry tomatoes in it. I have a question for you - are you intending making the planter as part of your course? If you are, we could possibly offer more constructive (sorry for the pun) help.
    Yes, I am planning to build the actual planter as part of my project, any more advice you have would be much appreciated! Thank you. ( I'm so sorry I don't know how to reply to comments.)
  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,532
    Hi Emily, We're for ever being asked to help with these sort of projects.  Your questionnaire is better designed than most, but I don't think we can give any answers that relate specifically to teenagers.  Plants of all kinds respond to such things as climate and soil chemistry, not the age of the gardener. 

    I've taken the liberty of numbering your questions for ease of answering.

    1.  Planters/raised beds are easier to cultivate if they can be made high enough to reduce bending.  Long and narrow works best for raised beds, so you can reach all parts of it without leaning too far forward.

    2.  I can't improve on Jennifer Gilleece's answer.

    3.  Anything you can build with is OK for building raised beds, or a raised surface on which to stand smaller containers.  For growing food plants, it's best to avoid old railway sleepers as they will have been treated with a toxic preservative.  Obviously, the environment benefits if you can use recycled materials and avoid new plastic.

    4.  Since most teenagers behave as though they are indestructible, it's difficult to make anything safer for them.  I suppose if your raised bed is built of wood you can sand it to reduce the risk of splinters, and if it's recycled wood, make sure there are no rusty old nails sticking out.  If you've used other materials, make sure there are no sharp edges.

    5.  If it's well built, the planter itself shouldn't need maintenance, there being no moving parts.  If you mean looking after the plants, you can get away with very little.  A trowel for digging planting holes; a hand fork (or even an old dinner fork) for weeding; a decent pair of scissors; something for watering - a watering can is easiest to use, but anything that can be used to carry and pour water will do.  Some plants, such as peas and runner beans, need sticks or nets to support them.

    6.  Whatever.  Shed or garage if you have one, a disused coal bunker, kitchen cupboard.

    When I first read your post, I had to read the heading twice before I worked out what it meant.  "A-level" is usually written with a capital A and a hyphen, this avoids ambiguity.

  • Joy*Joy* Posts: 571
    You want environmentally friendly materials so I would be looking for some used pallets. You would have some solid pieces which could be used for the main parts and thinner slats for the rest. If you have a building site nearby, you might be able to scrounge some. To make it safe, the pieces of wood need careful sanding and any old nails removing. To line it, old compost bags which are black inside could be used with the black side on the outside, but I would try to conceal the lining. It could be tacked inside the trough. It would need to have holes made in it for drainage. You don't need many tools but you could design a rack for them or add hooks if they had a hole in the handle to put twine through. Similarly, you might add a large hook on the end for the watering can. Putting it on legs could offer space for a shelf underneath.  That could be used for keeping things such as pots, or it could be used for pots or trays of plants which trail - you have to consider everything getting some sunshine. For storage,  could a 'cupboard' be arranged at one end? Usually you would store your tools in the shed. To make it more attractive perhaps paint it? I expect that you will have Googled planters to investigate products which are available to look at sizes? You could include some trellis at the back to make growing climbers possible. I'll keep thinking about it...... I hope some of this is helpful. I don't think that many teenagers look at this site so it might be a good idea to talk to some since they will be the end users. Is it essential that your project is for teenagers.? Your questions seem to be more appropriate for Primary age children. 
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