My children's school installed a bunch of concrete planters around the exterior perimeter of the building. They were part of a security measure to make sure that cars don't ram into the building (there are several classrooms below street grade).
They are ugly and sterile at the moment - and starting to fill up with trash deposited by our neighbors!
Most of the planters are on the north side of the building -which means they will never get full sun - even in the peak summer months.
There is a bus stop on this part of the street, so whatever we plant I was thinking to either turn a few into benches, or install some benches in between the planters for people waiting to rest and cool off.
I was also thinking about leaving one or two as rain catchment basins.
So can any Permies help me figure out what to do with these ugly concrete planters???
It appears that they have drains on the back half way up the sides which is good. For ease of watering put a flexible drain pipe in the bottom coming up to the surface on one end, Fill around the pipe with gravel and then sand up to the drain holes then planting soil. That reservoir of water in the pipe, gravel and sand will last a week or more. For the shady North side I recommend New Zealand Spinach. It is a vine with leaves that look like the spade on playing cards. The leaves get larger and more edible in the shade. It produces an abundance of seed all along the vine at each leaf node so it can be kept going after the winter freeze. Flowering bulbs can be interplanted in the fall to come up first in the spring. I have bluebells that have come up and multiplied for 10 years with only 2 hours of sunlight one at sunrise and one at sunset..
Don't think of them as ugly. Think of them as blank canvases. So first get the kids to paint the outsides. Then fill them with soil, of course. Get really good soil. I would install some sort of trellis on the building and grow plants that will use all of that vertical space.
There isn't enough room there to actually change people's diets. But you're in a school, so you can change people's minds. A lot of children in cities don't have any experience of food growing out of the soil. Igniting that spark in the children is the best permaculture output from that small space, and it's worth more than an acre of good farmland.