Plants in Plastic (Green Roof Growers)

Gardening is natural. Wholesome, organic, healthy, pure, part of a timeless cycle.

Growing plants in plastic containers seems to stand all that on its head.

I still think it’s a great idea.

DSCN4060These planters let non-gardeners, like myself, get great results. I’d guess that most of my peers haven’t thought about growing anything since they were in elementary school and started something from a seed as a science project. Sub-irrigated planters (SIPs) are perfect for them.

Around the world, large numbers of people are moving to cities, and at least here in Chicago, the Community Gardens that exist have long waiting lists. Why not offer those people the chance to grow something on their balcony or deck (or roof)?

The simple act of growing a little bit of your own food can lead a previously apolitical person to question any number of things: the subsidy program that is the lifeblood of agribusiness, how modern agriculture contributes to global warming and produces tainted food, the prevalence of chemicals (and yes, plastic, more on that in minute) in our lives, Energy Policy, air and water quality, how access to fresh fruits and vegetables is largely determined by race and class. And more. The increasing numbers of city residents imply a growing level of political power. It makes sense to reach out to as many of them as you can.

Don’t get me wrong. I love permaculture, vermicomposting, and the ideas of Wendell Berry, but I’m not there yet. Living in the center of a large city, most of it seems out of reach. And as I said earlier, I’m not alone.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Plastics.

In building these SIPs, I learned about different kinds of plastic. Some are better (less bad?) than others. Before I started this whole project, my attitude towards it was something like “well, if PVC is good enough for potable water lines, how bad can it be?”. I don’t think there’s any way to talk about this without sounding like a lunatic, especially with (to?) strangers. All I can say is go read the links and make up your own mind.

I suppose I should issue a disclaimer: This is a blog. I’m not an expert. These are my opinions, even if they’re supported by Experts.


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.