Growing vegetables and tree saplings in recycled bottles, pots and trays (Willem VAN COTTHEM)

The most simple, but very effective way to grow vegetables or tree saplings is the one I use since years : in recycled, otherwise discarded plastic soda bottles, yogurt pots, pastry trays and other ‘daily used containers’.

2007-02 - Parsley, cabbage and lettuce in smaller and bigger bottles (Photo WVC)
2007-02 - Small kitchen garden at the window of my office at home (Photo WVC)
2007-06 - Experiments with different types of pots and bottles in my garden (Photo WVC)
Mini-greenhouse made of 2 yogurt pots with an avocado seed germinating (Photo WVC)
Avocado sapling grown from that same seed in that tiny little bottom part of a yogurt pot (Photo WVC)
Seedlings of dragonfruit (Hylocereus undatus) grown in a blue mushroom tray covered by a transparent pastry box, used as mini-greenhouse (Phopo WVC)
Dragonfruit seedlings in a black pasta tray covered with an ordinary plastic bag, used as mini-greenhouse and kept upright with an empty plastic pen (Photo WVC)
2011-10 - Sapling of spekboom (Portulacaria afra or elephant's bush) grown in a soda bottle. Right : a bottle insect trap (Photo WVC)
2011-10 - Roots of the spekboom sapling splendidly developed. Notice one of the 2 drainage holes 2-3 cm (1 inch) above the bottom to keep temporarily a small quantity of water in the bottle without limiting soil aeration (Photo WVC)
2011-10 - Bottom part of the soda bottle showing 1 of the 2 drainage holes and the well-developed rootball (Photo WVC)


2011-10 - At plantation time I will cut the bottom part of the bottle off to set the lower part of the rootball (which I describe as 'the shaving brush') free, leaving the rest of the bottle around the rootball. I will then plant the sapling with its plastic cilinder still around the upper part of the rootball, so that no absorbing root tips are broken. thus keeping the survival rate at 100 %. Leaving the top edge of the bottle above the soil surface in the plant pit, I can than pour from time to time some water in the bottle, so that it runs through the cylinder directly to the 'shaving brush', growing in the bottom of the plant pit. The plastic bottle will finally be broken by the growing tree (Photo WVC)


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Willem Van Cotthem

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