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Two square boxes made of old decking, with plants growing in them in a concrete area - one with a sign giving instructions on making mint tea from the mint growing in the planter Two square boxes made of old decking, with plants growing in them in a concrete area - one with a sign giving instructions on making mint tea from the mint growing in the planter

How show and tell with meanwhile planters can help you get started

By Sarah Ward

Growing food in public place is at the heart of Incredible Edible – we think it’s really exciting and transformational.  However, sometimes it can be difficult to explain that excitement – which is why temporary, or meanwhile, planters can be a good way to start your Incredible Edible activities.

Sometimes it’s easy to start your growing activities, especially when there’s a site which is ripe for growing and there’s no chance you’re going to be turfed off by the land owner.  However, if there’s never been any Incredible activities in your area, or nothing similar, it can sometimes be hard to convince people of the positive impact of growing food in the middle of your community space.  It might be that you can’t get permission to start growing or it’s hard to find people to get involved in your new group.  This is when using the children’s approach of show and tell is really useful, avoiding investing lots of time, money effort on something which may not be permanent.   By planting up small, moveable – meanwhile – planters, you create the opportunity to show how great it can look and tell the stories about how people have responded to your mini-growing space.  This can help convince the powers that be to give you permission to take on a more permanent growing space or just to start connecting up with Incredible people in your area.

Incredible Edible Conwy started this way, with a few meanwhile planters which are still being used years later.  Celia Williams, lead at Incredible Edible Conwy takes up the story… “The decking square planters (pictured above) were made from old decking re-purposed into planters.  They are what we call our ‘little moveable feasts’ as we have now relocated them three times due to either initial wrong choice of location or because we have had to move them due to building work going on in the area. They are small enough to be able to use a sack truck to move them however it is still necessary, because of the weight, to remove the plants and half the compost beforehand.  This does enable the compost to be enriched and to plant fresh plants to replace any straggly or spent ones.”

Any container that’s safe for food use could be used for meanwhile gardening but one of the issues to think about is how easy will it be to remove them at the finish? Will you have the physical power or machinery to do so? Recycling, re-purposing or re-using to create beds out of waste materials is the meanwhile gardener’s friend – we’ve got lots of ideas on recycling and upcycling in our Toolshed, so sign up to access this if you haven’t already.  It’s also important to make it clear to your group members that it’s only temporary, so people don’t get disheartened or feel upset when the garden has to go – ideally it doesn’t have to go completely, and can just move to another space!

For established groups looking for new growing sites, meanwhile growing ideas can still be of use, especially if you’ve got land you’ve got temporary permission to grow on, maybe a year or two.  You can grow in skips or ton bags, and we’ve also heard of portable orchards with trees in movable containers – always plan how you’ll move it at the end of your meanwhile growing site.  If you’ve got any great examples of meanwhile or movable growing spaces then contact us – we’ll share any top tips.  And our Growing in your street section of the Toolshed has some great tips on what to consider when choosing a growing site (sign up required).