A fortnightly visit is all that’s required to sustain a Fresh Prince planter box. Built with a reservoir at its base, simply top up the water supply and leave your plants to drink at their leisure.
“The idea came from a purely pragmatic approach – a combination of function and form,” says owner and creator Richard Northcott. When travelling at length last year for work, he was after a low-maintenance garden solution. “I wanted to be able to go away and know that my plants would still be alive when I got back.”
Designed to have minimal environmental impact and to withstand the heat, Northcott experimented with several timbers before settling on a sustainably sourced cypress. “It’s got an amazing smell, and is really dense,” he says of Australia’s only native pine. The timber’s natural resin wards off termites, so it lasts up to 30 years without chemical treatment. Reclaimed timber discarded from properties is also used as much as possible. “The boxes have to be durable, because that’s what makes them sustainable. And if it’s beautiful, then people will want to keep it.”
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Northcott’s green thumb sprouted during a nine-month stint working on a small-scale farm in Sudan. “From there, I became passionate about growing my own veggies. You save so much, because you don’t have to pay $3 for a tiny bunch of herbs,” he says. Six months ago, he began hand-making planter boxes for his own backyard and building them for friends. “I just started buying tools and mucking around with wood.”
After designing a salvaged apple crate installation for the bar at Woodford Folk Festival, Northcott is now building in his Sydney beachside workshop. His boxes come with five or so herbs and veg-friendly flowers like marigold or borage – pretty to look at, lovely to eat and scary to pests – nestled inside a custom soil mix that drains well. “They’re good for basically everything except pumpkins,” Northcott says for gardeners keen on using the boxes for homegrown foods.
Sitting on the ground, the small size has handles for easy lifting, while the larger version is built on wheels. If you live in Sydney’s east, inner west or CBD, there’s even a free delivery service. “I like to meet with people face-to-face to talk them through it.”