I am new to this forum and to Earthbox gardening. I was looking into ways to do veggie gardening on my deck and around the condo building, so checked their site. I was pleased to see the educational section because I am doing a Master Gardener project for a Chicago Public School and this may be the answer to how best to do something this year that is educational, quick, and reasonably priced.
Originally I was to revive two table gardens for this magnet school of which about 25% of the children have special needs (physical and cognitive). A sensory garden was suggested for the varous ways it could be used in lessons for kids of all ages and abilities. But with the prospect of extra funding we pursued getting three new wheelchair accessible wooden tables built in a sunnier and more spacious area in back of the school. This has proved to be a hangup though since we are not hearing back on Home Depot requests for funds/supplies/expertise and are not sure if other funding sources will come though. Nor are we (my colleague is a MG and a parent there) savvy about building things. I will be starting work for the garden season in April so time is a factor for me. I had hoped my design and material ideas would be set by now and we would pursue purchasing plants, soil, etc. as the season approached and have a planting day. Lessons and maintenance are to be handled by school personnel.
Having researched many grant sources and taled to the Chicago Botanic Garden Hort Therapty expert, we are both of the mind that the School may be best off pursuing a program next year now that we know the options available and the money and timeframes required. But ths year we thought we would do freestanding tall (or raised) containers as a start and they can be fitted into any future design. I am pursuing container sources but have no strong leads yet. Last night I came across this info and thought - wow - this could be the answer. Everything comes in a kit with lessons and we just choose the plants (and soil and fertilizer if we choose.) Plus there is a discount for schools.
While we were looking at a garden that stimulates the five senses and could be used for arts & crafts and culture, as well as botany and environmentalism, food was part of it and I can see the need here too for urban kids (some on reduced lunch programs.) So here are my two basic questions:
1. Does this method of growing preclude herbs, flowers, some perennials (e.g. lamb's ear) and other sensory plants? Can I combine them in one container since we are trying for a mix of materials, including examples from different continents? We have a big open space with sun so that is not an issue - only if various plants do or do not do well in these boxes and if you can mix things up. I am familiar with doing that choosing plants of similar cultural needs but the watering here is different. Can we customize? The watering would be by hand.
2. Here is the dealbreaker question. How can we make these of the appropriate height and accessibility to be used by kids in wheelchairs? The ADA rule is 24 inches high and of course there needs to be open space for the chair to fit underneath. Safety is a factor regarding stability and materials used. I thought of cinder blocks since no building is needed - not very attractive though. Is there an easy to make, attractive, safe option that is also cheap?
I truly appreciate any input, ideas, questions. This is a new area to me - I am a perennial specialist at a garden center and a garden consultant/coach but not conversant in carpentry or personally familiar with Earthboxes. I am also new to creating a childrens/enabling garden. I have plant, design, and lesson ideas and my colleague has enabled kids, the school connection and grant writing skills, but we need some practical advice. Thanks so much.