Richie is a young urban grower from the beachside suburbs of Sydney building self-watering planter boxes big and small for personal homes and businesses. Known as the Fresh Prince Bondi, he came into the sphere of The Bharani Effect because I needed a planter box for my window sill. I wanted to grow greens & herbs that I use  almost daily for my morning smoothies and cooking. The box is simple yet amazing! It barely needs any upkeep as the water held underneath is where the plants nourish themselves.... perfect for the city dweller. 

Tell us why you started Fresh Prince Bondi and the concept behind the self watering planter boxes? 

I started Fresh Prince to share my passion for growing food with other people in the city.  I have noticed more and more people are interested in growing their own food, but are generally discouraged when they forget to water their plants or need to leave their plants for a period of time (usually over summer). In response to this demand for a constant water supply, without wanting to involve the need for irrigation pipes, timers or hoses, I designed the Fresh Prince self-watering planter box, with a passive watering system that relieves people of this burden.

What plants grow best in the planter boxes? 

The majority of annual vegetables and herbs will grow well in these boxes, the exception being woody Mediterranean herbs (such as rosemary) which dislike moist soil conditions, and other sprawling vegetables not suited to pots or planters. The self watering planter boxes are especially excellent for family favourites like tomatoes, basil and sunflowers, that love water and grow well in containers. Each box comes fully planted with vegetables and herbs that suit the season; I select specific plants based on the tastes of the individual, and then team them up with companion plants.

What would you recommend for people starting out with their own balcony or window sill / backyard home garden? 

You need to build your confidence as you are dealing with living organisms. So start small! Find out how much direct sun and wind your space is exposed to and begin with hardy plants that have watering requirements that suit your balcony’s conditions. The self watering box is specifically designed to take the guesswork out of watering and planting so you can enjoy harvesting your nutritious home grown food and learn as you grow.

Which edible plants are the easiest to grow? 

People would assume that herbs are the easiest to grow. This is true if they are in the ground, but in a pot they can be difficult if you don’t have the right soil and watering conditions. In a balcony situation lemongrass would be hard to beat and makes a delicious tea. Strawberries and kale are delicious and great to grow now, growing what’s in season will always give the best results. If you establish the right environment - well drained nutritious soil, water and sunlight - nearly everything is easy to grow, even from seed.

What are the top 5  products we need when starting our own garden? 

The first item is companion plants. These are important as they promote diversity which reduces disease in the soil and deters pests. You can purchase a beneficial insect mix off the website which you scatter in between your plants and or around the edges of your garden/box. 

The second item is the Plants Best Friend organic fertiliser. It’s important to maintain fertility in a planter box however it is easy to overdo it with synthetic fertilisers, you also don’t get the beneficial microbes that are present in organic fertilisers. 

The third item is the little succulent box called the ‘Shaka’ which is made from the offcuts of the self watering planter boxes and home-propogated succulents. This is Fresh Prince trying to close the loop on its waste stream!

The fourth item is the self watering planter box. This is handcrafted out of sustainably sourced native or salvaged timber, with a build quality to ensure that it lasts a life time. Most importantly it provides the shelter and nourishment necessary to achieve successful and low maintenance home growing, reducing reliance on non-sustainable food sources and improving the nutrition and health of your food.

The fifth item is the seeds which are organic heirloom varieties that are sourced from family run businesses around Australia. These seeds cover a variety of popular and exotic herbs and vegetables, as well as addressing vegetable and soil health and promoting native edibles. They are also available on the website store, as are the rest of the products.

What do you have in your own garden?

I grow a mixture of traditional and exotic herbs and flowers including peppermint, brahmi, oregano, thyme, sorrel, lemon verbena, rosemary, parsley, Corsican mint, lemongrass, marigolds, elderflower, passion flower, hibiscus, basil, nasturtiums, lavender and dandelion. I also have perennial/biennial vegetables and fruits such as kale, sorrel, chilli, lime, passionfruit, banana and olives. And I’ve recently made a large addition of native edibles such as warrigal greens, climbing spinach, native climbing grapes, midgum berry shrubs, Davidson plum trees, native grass (edible berries) and pigface. Then there are always new annuals I experiment with, they come and go, too many to mention!

What is your favourite edible plant to grow and why? 

I love cherry tomatoes. Seeing those tight bundles of delicious red/yellow fruit just makes me smile! I also have a soft spot for sorrel which is a lemon flavoured spinach that produces throughout the year in all weather and soil conditions and asks for very little in return. It’s also resistant to pests and diseases, possibly the ultimate backyard vegetable?

Visit Fresh Prince Bondi:

Photos + interview produced by thebharanieffect - our talented photographer is Maclay Heriot.