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Share your urban gardening difficulties - please

 
Charles Hiney
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Hello,

I am studying an engineering design degree with the Open University and I have an assignment to design a product to 'encourage & enable people living in towns cities to grow their own vegetables'.

Obviously the options are endless, so I have refined it to something that can help with the transportation of heavy/bulky gardening items from markets and shops etc. to the humble city garden (as I imagine this can present a challenge to the inner-city gardener). Therefore, to help my research I was wondering whether you could answer a few simple questions?

1. What gardening items cause you the biggest and/or most frequent problem in terms of transporting them from shops etc. to your city garden?

2. Are there certain times of the year when the problem is worse, and if so when and why?

3. Does the range of typical gardening materials (e.g. compost bags, fertiliser and tools) pose particular logistical problems when getting them to/from small city garden areas? 

4. How do you transport heavy/bulky gardening items to high-rise garden areas that only have small elevators or multiple stairs?

5. What would your ideal product be to help overcome such logistical problems?

Thank you in advance. Your participation is very much appreciated.
Charles Hiney
 
Regan Dixon
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Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
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When I was trying to garden in town, it was difficult to take advantage of bulk manure/topsoil etc. sales, needing a pickup truck and access with said truck to garden, to shovel it out.

Another problem I had, which you did not ask about but which drove me buggy, was people harvesting my fruit and veg. unseen and unasked--my first pears, and spaghetti squash.  Once I had a whole darned columnar apple tree taken, nothing left but a hole in the ground.  It kind of jaded me.
 
Anne Miller
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Charles, welcome to permies!  I have never used a community garden but there are quite a few threads here with some of the problems they present.

I would think that a big problem might be the need for water.  Like Regan said: theft of your harvest.  Another might be having to haul your garden tools.

Great topic.
 
Casie Becker
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I'm pulling from when I grew my garden on a third floor balcony. There are two major problems with most available means of transport for apartment gardens. One is that there's no room for storing bulky carts, the other is that wheels aren't designed to handle stairs. In fact, my experience it was better to simply carry items than to try any kind of cart. I think for the quantities that most apartment gardeners are working with it might be better to something like an easily washable hikers rucksack, where the weight is balanced on your hips rather than supported by your shoulders. A solid frame with a removable, washable combination of mesh and adjustable straps might be an option. Something like this https://pack-rabbit.com/black-pack-mule-ii-frame with a custom designed pack to attach to it. It would need to carry both large bags of soil and various sized containers of plants and soil amendments without tipping them over. Even better if it also had a way carry both delicate produce and heavy items without one crushing the other (maybe top and bottom compartment options?) Modular may be the way to go... sorry, you got me thinking and my mind ran with it.
 
Shaz Jameson
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I run a community garden and we have this transport problem all the time.

1. What gardening items cause you the biggest and/or most frequent problem in terms of transporting them from shops etc. to your city garden?
--- the biggest problems are soil and compost (a lot of people dont use sustainable soil techniques...). for a large community gardens its not worth buying bags and bags of soil, but rather having it delivered in bulk - problem is they'll deliver it, but just dump it on the doorstep loose. which is not always ideal, and there always is leftover.

otherwise, pallets and bricks for building are a royal painin the behiind to transport. people always spot free pallets when they're out and about, but who can go get pick them up and has a large enough car etc. etc.


2. Are there certain times of the year when the problem is worse, and if so when and why?

--- spring, late summer. why, because this is when the numbers of people getting interested in gardening, taking their first baby steps, suddenly swell. you have the hardcore gardenrers that are there all year round, but its the beginners that have more trouble, or are less likely to go out of their way, to do this transport stuff. Here in the netherlands there's also a few national 'volunteer days' that act as catalysts for a lot of activity in the garden (mid-March).
--- winter is a problem for another reason - its cold, rainy or snowy and there's a lot less enthusiasm to garden! in this time of the year (i.e. now) if you find materials, it's about storing them safely.

3. Does the range of typical gardening materials (e.g. compost bags, fertiliser and tools) pose particular logistical problems when getting them to/from small city garden areas?
--- Can't think of the range per se. Smaller items are much easier to transport when you're doing your average shop, i.e. tools. The question is if people are buying htem individually, they'll take 2 bags or something. If you buy as a group, thats when the numbers get big.

4. How do you transport heavy/bulky gardening items to high-rise garden areas that only have small elevators or multiple stairs?
Not applicable in our situation.

5. What would your ideal product be to help overcome such logistical problems?
--- Because its a community garden, we would rather stay away from gas-guzzling-SUVs. solar powered. bicycle. I've thought of building bamboo bicycle trailer with some electric help for the pedalling.
In terms of big bulk, it would be great to have something made of recycled materials, and then something that is on wheels so it can be moved around the garden. Getting it to the garden from the shop is one thing, getting it from the edge of the garden to where it needs to go is another.

Good luck with your assignment -- please do post back what you end up designing!

 
Morfydd St. Clair
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Location: Hamburg, Germany
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Charles Hiney wrote:Hello,

I am studying an engineering design degree with the Open University and I have an assignment to design a product to 'encourage & enable people living in towns cities to grow their own vegetables'.

Obviously the options are endless, so I have refined it to something that can help with the transportation of heavy/bulky gardening items from markets and shops etc. to the humble city garden (as I imagine this can present a challenge to the inner-city gardener). Therefore, to help my research I was wondering whether you could answer a few simple questions?

1. What gardening items cause you the biggest and/or most frequent problem in terms of transporting them from shops etc. to your city garden?

2. Are there certain times of the year when the problem is worse, and if so when and why?

3. Does the range of typical gardening materials (e.g. compost bags, fertiliser and tools) pose particular logistical problems when getting them to/from small city garden areas? 

4. How do you transport heavy/bulky gardening items to high-rise garden areas that only have small elevators or multiple stairs?

5. What would your ideal product be to help overcome such logistical problems?

Thank you in advance. Your participation is very much appreciated.
Charles Hiney


Hi Charles,

1. Mulch and compost.  They're so bulky I need a car to move them, and so cheap it feels ridiculous to rent a car just for that purpose.

2. Not really - I'm willing to store some bags of both for projects as they come up.

3. I don't have a problem getting tools or most small plants to my garden - it's purely the bulky stuff that annoys me.

4. N/A - I do buy small bags of potting soil at the supermarket or flower shop to start seeds, but I don't have room for anything larger than I can easily carry.

5.

I know you're looking for a physical product, but my needs would be best met with a garden center delivery service - and one that delivers to my kleingarten, not my apartment or work!  I would love a subscription-like service, where I could sign up for, say, a bag of compost per month during the growing season, and likewise a bag of mulch per month in the winter, so I could plan out a project a month and not have to worry either about transport or piles of bags.  (I would happily store a mountain of wood chips if they were freely delivered like in the US, but I'm probably an exception there.)

If you really need a physical product, how about a rolling cart that could safely transport small pots, shrubs, and bare-root trees

I have a few things like this:  http://www.containerstore.com/catalogimages/170931/ShoppingCarts_x.jpg already, and I think most city car-less dwellers do.  Perhaps you could create inserts that would allow me to stack 30 plant pots in there without damaging the bottom ones, or make sure bare roots are protected, and keep items at the right temperature and moisture?

(I've apparently just discovered bold tags; please forgive my enthusiasm.)
 
Shaz Jameson
pollinator
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Location: Hilversum, Netherlands, urban, zone 7
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Morfydd St. Clair wrote:
I know you're looking for a physical product, but my needs would be best met with a garden center delivery service - and one that delivers to my kleingarten, not my apartment or work!  I would love a subscription-like service, where I could sign up for, say, a bag of compost per month during the growing season, and likewise a bag of mulch per month in the winter, so I could plan out a project a month and not have to worry either about transport or piles of bags.


I wholeheartedly agree! Especially about delivering to the garden, and not to my house address, because it defeats the purpose. And, I was thinking about this today, if they would be specific with the delivery time so you don't have ot wait around all day at the garden (most post doesn't deliver on Sundays, for instance)

 
Karl Treen
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Location: Providence, RI, USA
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Basic materials: moving topsoil, compost, manure, landscape materials (like rocks and timbers) etc.

Turning the problem on its head, however, one of my biggest issues is not just shipping soil IN, but also shipping lead-contaminated soil OUT.  Do I pile it in one spot and let it fester there? Do I send it away, five gallons at a time, to the landfill? Do I call someone and have them extract it for me, hoping it doesn't end up on someone else's lawn?  Do I get a dumpster or Bagster and partly fill it (assuming a completely filled dumpster would be too heavy?  And then how do I get enough mulch and compost to replace it?  There doesn't seem to be a responsible, affordable option.

I've been mostly covering it with raised beds, but having it underneath still bothers me, especially since I do plant fruit trees, bushes and vines into it (which are supposed to be pretty safe but still make me wary).
 
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