Having an Office Garden can be awesome – You save money on salad, and everyone bonds a little over having to care for a mutual living thing. But like all team bonding exercises, things can also go horribly wrong.
Here are 6 Office Garden fails and how you can avoid them in your workplace:
1. Making a Mess
Gardens are beautiful, but can be a mess to maintain. Soil, pollen, falling leaves, all of these things can make the workplace an untidy place and play havoc with a clean white shirt.
Luckily, there are many ways to get around this. Location is one, a common rooftop, balcony or breakout area ensures that any mess is kept separate from the main work areas.
But keeping your office garden separate from your actual office may just defeat the point, so the alternative is investing in some great planters, and choosing your plants wisely.
Planter boxes are a neat option, sitting on top of storage they make a stunning privacy screen. If you have the money, vertical garden walls are a fantastic option, and their style ranges from neat lines of plant pots to a seamless wall of green. The more sophisticated versions also have their own self-watering systems to take an extra layer of responsibility off your staff’s shoulders.
In terms of plants – big leaves are better, as they are much easier to clean up.
2. Sorry, I’m just too busy
Even the toughest plants have a hard time in the office, but more often than not it has little to do with the physical environment.
Neglect is probably the biggest killer of plants in the office environment – because nobody (except maybe the receptionist) sees watering the office garden as part of their job description.
A simple solution may be to approach your office garden as you would a share house – by starting with a roster. Not everyone needs to get involved, but make the incentives clear – if you help out with the garden you get to reap its rewards.
3. Pests (of the human kind)
Like with all things office related, some people just can’t get enough of the freebies. They hoard all the stationery, they take handfuls of the free mints and they are first at the bar at the company function.
Unforutnately once your office garden starts to bloom, this source of healthy delights is likely to get pillaged as well without some clear guidelines. Every plant has an ideal harvesting time during the year, and there is a definite limit to how much a plant can be stripped of it’s leaves and fruit before it struggles to come back to life. A one season office garden can cause more damage to morale than good, therefore like any new process, some rules need to be laid down before any seeds are sown.
Perhaps instead of letting workers simply pull fruits straight off the plant, consider having all the ripe plants harvested regularly at once, and then distributed to staff. Each department may be delegated a fruit and veggie bowl that gets refilled each week.
4. When your co-workers can’t tell food from weeds
Not everyone is a home gardener and sometimes the best of intentions can cause destruction in your office garden.
In this case, education and reminders are key. Think of this office garden as a public nursery rather than your personal herb garden, and use clear and helpful labels to inform people which plants are which. Every company has staff turnover, so photo labels with care instructions on the back will help direct any newbies before they cause too much damage to your garden. I particularly love this paddle pop stick solution below as a non-intrusive way to quickly discourage over zealous gardeners.
5. ACHOO! Hayfever 365 days a year
Allergies are more common than ever, so make sure when you are selecting plants for your office garden that your choices have little to no pollen. Most herb and vegetable plants such as lettuce, tomato and cucumber have virtually no flowers and therefore you will have few issues.
Containment is another option – just like those winter colds that spread like wildfire throughout the office, your air conditioning system may assist the spread of pollen throughout the building. Once again, location of your office garden is everything. If you know allergies are a major issue in your office, try and place your garden on a balcony, a rooftop, or even make a small space in the carpark as long as there is enough open air and sunlight for your plants to flourish.
6. Wasted Food
What is the point of having a great garden if no one is using it? If your office garden has an amazing yield, it is unlikely to go untouched, but if there are a few dodgy looking vegetables in the
bunch, make sure to promote these as being just as beautiful and edible as the others.
One way to do this can be to gather up all the unattractive fruit at the end of each week, and distribute them throughout the team. Sometimes this is as easy as leaving a bowl with a “free food” sign in the tea room. For your fussier colleagues, consider personally approaching each person’s desk and offering them a piece of fruit, preferably in front of the rest of the team. Peer pressure may help to push them into trying that first piece, which may be enough to get them to thinking differently about food waste, and what really makes a bad apple.