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Do you want greener and tastier cities? Build an Edible Parklet!

By Cristina Ramos

To those of you who haven’t heard about it, a parklet is often an extension of a concrete sidewalk, which stretches over the size of a car parking lot on the side of the road and is transformed into a green space. It is a resourceful way of creating green spaces within the urban environment, and we invite you to follow the process below to get inspired and perhaps take on your own edible parklet journey!

STEP 1: SITE ANALYSIS

1.1 Surrounding activities will define the functions that the parklet will offer

The site analysis is important and determines the design of the parklet. The analysis reveals the existing conditions and activities that take place around the site, which in turn defines the functions needed for the parklet. Here, we show an example of how the parklet can take different functions depending on the surrounding activities:

PRODUCTION: If a community or neighbourhood association wants to produce local and organic vegetables for their own consumption, they would need a “production parklet”; a parklet where there are available planting beds where crop growth can occur.

LEISURE: If a restaurant is interested in having extra seats with a nice little green environment for complementing the outdoor tables of the restaurant, they would need a “leisure parklet”, where some pots will be adapted as benches and others will be planting spaces creating a green nice microclimate around the dining area.

1.2 Microclimate conditions

Light, wind and water are basic natural elements that define the temperature and the humidity in a microclimate. Some plants, for example, need more sunlight than others or some plants need different amount of water to grow than others. Therefore, it is very important to know what kind of plants you will use on your urban farm. Read about how each natural element can be controlled by a good parklet design and location:

LIGHT: One should make shadow studies of the site. It is important to observe and choose a space where the sunlight is most abundant. The majority of the plants like sunlight, but of course there are some plants that are shade-tolerant. If you don’t know about shade tolerant plants, have a look at this interesting shade-tolerant plants list.

WIND: Wind affects plants in their growth. A breeze is always good for seedlings to grow stronger but a wind storm can damage your plants by breaking their main stem, or desiccating the plants, making them loose water while impeding them to regain the water lost. To prevent these situations, one must set wind barriers on the side where wind usually affects your planting space, for example, the North side of the parklet. One should avoid wind barriers placed in the South face, because this will inhibit sunlight exposure of the planting beds. Placing fences where plants can climb and grow can become a very aesthetic and functional green wall working at the same time as a wind barrier.

WATER: A water source close to the planting beds is required to make the maintenance easier, saving time and costs. It is important to observe the plants at least 2 or 3 days a week minimum but preferably every day to see if they need more or less water. An excess of water or a lack of water can spoil your plants.

 

1.3 Traffic safety

If you decide to build a parklet in an existing parking lot next to a road, fences are required to create a traffic safe zone where people can work, read or stay without risk of being run over by a car. A fence next to a road must be at least 80 cm high, measured from the road floor to the top of the fence. Also, protection bollards or heavy pots must be placed next to each short side of the parklet, avoiding collisions of cars parking in the lots located in front or in the back of the parklet. As mentioned before, fences can be a good input for climbing plants such as tomato plants or green bean plants.

STEP 2: MEASURE, SAW, SCREW & ASSEMBLE

The main principle is to create an easy-to-build and modular object. This way, one can reproduce the modules many times, and assemble the modules in a flexible way. Here we show how to build three box modules, following all of them the same proportions. We will now explain why we have chosen these dimensions.

Box Height: 41 cm_ Why? This is the normal height that a chair or a bench has, between 35 and 52 cm. Another benefit is when you put one box on top of another box the final height is 82 cm, a very ergonomic height to avoid bending your back when taking care of the plants.

Box Length: 140 cm or 98 cm_ Why? These two sizes are big enough for having a generous surface of the soil to grow plants and small enough for two people to be able to move the boxes and play with the disposition.

Box Width: 49 cm _Why? This dimension is half of the length of the box (98/2=49), this means it is proportional; so, for example, you can set the short side of two boxes next to one long side of one box. There are other many ways one can assemble the boxes as we show in the example above: pot [A]+ seat [A] + seat [C].

For building these modules, we used only wooden strips with a 0,28 x 0,7 cm section. We took measurements and cut the wood strips with a saw (manual or electric). After having all the pieces cut, we screwed all the wooden elements to each other and you will have your first box READY! You should plan in advance how many boxes you will need.

 

STEP 3: SOIL & PLANTING

3.1 What soil should one choose?

We have had a good result with the soil provided by RENOVA. The soil must contain enough nutrients and be constantly moist but not saturated with water. We should observe the plants and find their needs. If a plant starts to get yellow or red that means it is lacking some particular nutrients. It is very important to observe.

3.2 What plants should we plant?

It is recommended to follow a companion plants guide. Companion plants are plants that complement each other, these means that they can survive being next to each other since they do not compete to take the same nutrients from the soil for example.

The parklet is also a perfect opportunity for the city to educate others about the benefits of the Parklet when it comes to climate adaptation, food security and reducing green house gases. In the picture you can see how you can teach people about what certain plants contribute with when it comes to the cleaning of the air or protecting each other from insects. A good way to increase the interaction with bypassers and promote walking rather than going by car riding.

 

Here, we show an example of how our team did on one of the parklets in Södra Larmgatan, Gothenburg. If you have in mind a parklet project and need some help, you are welcome to contact our team!

 

The flexibility in the form makes it possible to adapt the parklet to any other setting or parking lot. Here is an example of how the city and property owners reused and painted the parklet the year after in another location to fit an event. According to the nearby stores the parklets received a lot of positive attention and increased the number of visitors to the store.

With Love,

Cristina Ramos Cáceres &

The Foodprint Lab team