Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Transporting Delicate Plants by Bike

Flowers by Bike
Every now and again I am asked which everyday items I find the trickiest to carry by bike. The expectation is for it to be something fragile, like eggs or glassware. But those I've actually found pretty manageable. Eggs do just fine in their cartons. Glassware and picture frames can be wrapped in crumpled paper or bubblewrap. Honestly, I have yet to break an egg or a wine glass on a two wheeled commute, and I'm not even especially careful. But what I do find tricky to transport by bike is plants - in particular, small potted plants with delicate stems and flowers. So easy they are to bruise and snap, that merely placing them at the bottom of a pannier or basket can result in a sad mangled mess by the end of a bumpy ride home. But you can't exactly wrap them in bubblewrap either! So for these dainty, fragrant beauties, I've come up with a system: 

Flowers by Bike
Take, for instance, the lovely little cyclamen. They come in beautiful shapes and colours and are fairly low-maintenance to have around the house. But they don't do so well in transport. The petals bruise easily when they come in contact with pretty much anything, and the flowers have a tendency to snap off at the slightest provocation. The stems go limp and droop from being jostled. 

Flowers by Bike
To keep this from happening, I have taken to constructing a protective collar. It is extremely easy to make: simply take stiff paper or thin cardboard, wrap it around your plant and tape it together. 

Flowers by Bike
The idea is to fit it fairly tightly around the plant and to make it high enough to cover the whole thing. This way, the cardboard collar both contains the stems and protects the petals from contact with other objects - even if the plant should tip over in transit.

Flowers by Bike
But the key to preventing the plant tipping over is creating a stable platform. With the exception of rack-mounted crates, few bicycle baskets and panniers have stable, solid floors. More often the bottom of a bike bag or basket is curved, saggy, or uneven. So if you can find a small crate or box that will fit inside your bag and in which your plants can snuggly sit, this will make their transport a lot less perilous. 

Flowers by Bike
No matter what size you need, finding a suitable crate should not be difficult. Garden centers, flower shops and fruit and vegetable stands all have loads of crates and boxes that they happily give away to customers. 

Flowers by Bike
The crate I am using here is a tangerine crate that fits inside my Brompton "bagsket" snugly, and is extremely lightweight to boot (gotta shave off those grams where you can!).  

Flowers by Bike
To prevent the plants from shifting inside the crate, I stuff crumpled paper (or whatever soft objects are handy) into the gaps. 

Flowers by Bike
And voila, we are ready to ride! To provide some perspective, the places where I get my plants are 7+ miles from my house along bumpy roads. I've also carried my own plants as gifts to friends a similar distance away. And with the help of a stable platform and cardboard collars, they arrive intact. 

Geranium Portage
Of course, not all potted plants require this much fuss. Geraniums, for example, I have found to be surprisingly indestructible and can transport them without the cardboard contraptions. But it's good to be able to carry even the most delicate little blooms by bike if I feel like it, with the help of some simple DIY. 

23 comments:

  1. Thank you, can't wait to try this!

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  2. I am curious how many plants of this size you can realistically carry in your basket at a time, and would you have a solution for stacking them?

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    1. I kept it simple in this post, but yes I've carried as many as 8 potted plants in there, stacked using a deep box and a stiff layer of cardboard as the "2nd floor". Finding a box of the exact size and shape I needed was challenging for my basket, but otherwise it worked great.

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  3. From my experience, the trickiest "everyday item" to carry on a bike is a sleeping baby, for sure.

    http://bostonbybike.blogspot.com/2012/06/sleeping-beauty-on-your-bike.html

    Unless you have a trailer or a bakfiets, there is no way to transport a sleeping child on a bike safely. I could probably put it in one of long panniers on my Edgerunner but I don't think this counts as a safe transport.

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  4. Tupperware's good and quick for plants.

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  5. Nancy Fancy ShmancyAugust 27, 2014 at 6:25 PM

    Your complexion looks so pale in these photos, considering you write of going to the beach regularly! What sunscreen do you use?

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    1. It's the harsh light giving that impression; I actually have a bit of a tan right now! I use physical sunblock, aiming for 30SPF.

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  6. Yes, seen this solution many, many, times.

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    1. Done it many times myself. In fact I'm pretty sure I wrote about it here. Oh well, it's new to someone I suppose.

      This isn't brain surgery - I've done it in my cars for decades. Did it yesterday.

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    2. I find car easier than bike for plants; they don't seem to react to the bumps as badly.

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  7. The first time I carried plants on my bike, I strapped a rectangular plastic basket to the rear rack on my Giant, packed the plants in (they were in square planter pots) and luckily they fitted nearly perfectly! Got them home and into the garden in no time and with no damage. I was amazed at how easy it was, plus I loved having all those flowers on the back of the bike.

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  8. Which bag is that?

    Thanks!

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    1. It's a Dill Pickle custom bag, modeled after the Brompton folding basket (this one).

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  9. You see all sorts of methods to-ing and fro-ing around the Farmers Market around here, some inspirational (an old cardboard suitcase lashed to the side of a moped) to the cautionary(my old housemate carrying several 20" tall tomato plants by pinching the containers and dangling them by her side for a mile).

    This reminds me of the guy with the first Bob Trailer I ever saw, I came up behind him coming off the Wild Oak Trail in the Shenandoah National Park loaded with what I assumed to be camping gear. I tried to ask him about the trailer but he wasn't chatty, obviously wanted to be left alone so I did just that. I saw him one more time and so did a couple of other people I knew who rode out there but nobody knew who he was but with that trailer it was certainly the same guy. Anyway, he was farming pot up in the Park and eventually got caught bringing 20 pounds of herb out. The story goes that he wasn't smart enough to ditch the bike and hike the last quarter mile via different routes so when the Park Police got interested they just followed his trail right up to his plot. Clever, but not very smart.

    Spindizzy

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  10. Timely post, considering I have just broken a potted plant while bringing it home in a car!

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  11. The Brompton basket is definitely the go-to means for transplanting plants. I've never gone as far as a cardboard collar - I find a few sheets of newspaper rolled into a cone do the trick as well. And the thickness of newspaper at the bottom helps keep leakage from damp compost under control

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    1. Okay, so I might be somewhat odd in having card more readily available than newspaper : )

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    2. Ah, that's probably a generational thing.

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  12. Can you please tell me about your handlebars in this post? They appear to allow you to sit very upright!

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    1. They are Brompton's "M type" handlebars.

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