Crosslinking blogs on desertification and gardening (Google / Concrete Gardening / Willem)

Already posted on my desertification blog

http://desertification.wordpress.com

Read at : Google Alert – desertification

http://concretegardening.wordpress.com/2008/04/23/im-not-alone-out-here-in-gardenless-gardening-land/

I’m not alone out here in gardenless gardening land!

Starting this blog has been such an awesome experience for me. I’m not even sure how some people have found my blog, or how exactly I found their blogs, but I’ve found some truly inspirational stuff out there in the blogosphere. Here are some of my best finds:

Container Gardening – An entire blog devoted to the nitty gritty of growing in containers. How tos included, as well as an up-to-date cross referencing section of other blogs/articles. (My blog is on there! How neat!) The author brings to the blog a background knowledge of desertification & poverty, which is an interesting backdrop for container gardening. (With my undergrad in sociology and urban studies, this really makes me think, “RAD!”)

Sky Vegetables – These guys are creating large scale roof farms on top of supermarkets. The produce is picked, and delivered downstairs to the store. Talk about LOCAL! They’re putting together an internet resource for all things related to roof gardening. Truely inspirational. It makes me want to get involved in more than just my roof. Any other Philadelphians out there want to transform some serious roofs?

The Root – This is a blogging friend I found… I have no idea how I found her, but I just love her blog. A few days ago she posted about her attempts to transform a plain plastic planter into a copper-esk superstar. I despise the look of my plastic containers, but lets face it – on a roof – you have to hold the water in somehow! This weekend I’ll try my own transformation project. Who says function can’t be pretty? Thanks for the inspiration Kate.

(continued)

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I submitted the following comment, which is actually under moderation

Thanks for crosslinking our blogs. As a consultant for desertification and sustainable development matters, I am interested in ways and means to help the poor rural people in the drylands to grow food the easiest and cheapest way. Drought, lack of moisture and nutrients in the soil, erosion problems, lack of seeds, poverty etc. made me think of small space gardening (family gardens) and container gardening (plastic or PET bottles, yoghurt pots) as good solutions to tackle the primary needs of those people. Nowadays, I am collecting seeds of tropical fruits (melon, watermelon, pumpkin, papaya, avocado, …), which are generally thrown in the garbage bin in our Western countries. I would like to create an international network for this way of “recycling” the seeds of crops. Who wants to cooperate ?

A special container form : the grow tower (Willem)

Years ago, I visited a colleague in Beijing (Prof. Dr. WANG Tao), who showed me a peculiar way of growing garlic plants on vertical “poles”. In fact, the poles were PVC pipes, about 10-12 cm (4-5 inches) in diameter, in which a series of 4-5 cm (1 ½ to 2 inches) holes were drilled. The holes were spaced randomly around the pipe, about 4-5 cm (1 ½ to 2 inches) apart.

An impressive series of pipes were standing as “grow towers” in a greenhouse, so that in a relatively small space a maximum of plants were kept growing from floor to ceiling. Each pipe was filled with potting soil and the pipes were watered with a sort of drip irrigation system. In every hole of each grow tower a garlic bulb was growing splendidly (flowering towers !).

This brought me to the idea that a smaller number of plants could also be grown on PET bottles. It suffices to cut a number of holes in the wall of the bottle, filled with potting soil, to create a small grow tower (see my first experimental designs) :

Vertical grow tower

Bottle with 3 holes at one side. The same number can be cut at the opposite side. (Click on the picture to enlarge it).

Bottle grow tower

Mini grow tower : holes cut in the bottle wall fashioned with scotch tape.

 

I intend to set up some experiments with similar grow towers next week and I will post the results as soon as possible.

 

Today, I was reading an interesting description of other types of grow tower, made in wood. Here is the text that I found in The Tucson Gardener (2004) :

http://www.tucsongardener.com/Year04/strawberryadventures.htm

The Homemade Strawberry Tower
Y
ou would think by now that I’d be out of new strawberry plants but I wasn’t. I still had about 50 young, healthy plants that needed to find a place in the garden or were destined for the compost bin. I happened to read where someone suggested drilling holes in a whiskey barrel filling the barrel with potting soil and the holes with strawberry plants. That’s when I decided I’d build a grow tower from inexpensive wood just to see what would happen.

Using cedar fence boards and lots of screws I made a four foot tall by about 15 – inch square container. Then I drilled a bunch of evenly spaced inch and a half diameter holes.

I then treated the outside of the wood with a water sealer and moved the whole thing to a place in the vegetable garden where I placed it on four concrete stepping stones to keep it from sitting on the ground. I ran a loop of soaker hose down to the bottom of the four foot tower and hooked it up to the watering system.

Then came the hard part – planting the strawberry plants. I filled the container with a good potting mix and some slow release fertilizer putting plants in the holes as I filled the tower. At the top I added a few more plants. Eventually I had to replace three plants that didn’t make it because I may have planted them too deeply covering the crown.

I had plans to make a removable cage that I could slip over the tower with the beginning of fruit production to fend of birds and rodents but production wasn’t so great that I needed to build the cage. I did construct a simple frame to support shade cloth to help the plants make it through the hot summer.

I must admit I like the looks of my tower but it hasn’t been a big strawberry producer. My biggest fear is it may fall apart sooner than I’d like. I’m hoping it will last for three years. The verdict isn’t yet in. Until then the strawberry tower makes and interesting addition to the vegetable garden.(2004)”

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Looking at all these possibilities to construct “grow towers” from pipes, bottles, barrels, wood etc., I am wondering if some of you would come up with more interesting ideas. I am looking forward to your descriptions and preferably with photos.

What a wonderful world, this container gardening, in particular for people living in the drylands, who can grow vegetables and fruits without needing to install gardens in desertlike soils, saving a lot of water and getting fresh food with minimal efforts !

 

Joseph TOLLEDOT’s successes with container gardening

Here is some good news about Joseph TOLLEDOT’s experiments with container gardening (bottles, buckets, etc.) :

I saw your bottle garden and it’s looks like it’s going well. Mine were doing excellently, but we had very strong winds one night and the terrace looked like a tornado had been through!  I patched up the plants as best as I could and they are now doing well again.  Some I have transplanted into large buckets made into self-watering containers – in my opinion, definitely THE way to grow and use up all the water efficiently!  Nearly every weekend I can pick several tomatoes, peppers and radishes to eat. The lettuce has finished now and it’s far too hot to plant more.  I’ll wait till it starts to get cooler. Loads of different hot peppers (I got the seeds from a free offering from GardenWeb) are now starting to produce pods.  I never realised how beautiful and different they can be!

I’ll let you know when I get some new photos up in my Flickr page.

Thanks, Joseph !  This sounds fantastic and very promising for application of bottle (or bucket) gardening in very dry areas, like for instance our UNICEF project in the refugee camps of Algeria (Sahara desert).  Over there, the Sahrawi people only have a very limited amount of drinking water.  Although everyone accepts the importance of local production of fresh vegetables, it still sounds difficult to convince the authorities to provide some more water to irrigate their family gardens and school gardens.

different species
All kinds of bottles can be used for growing all kinds of plants (vegetables, herbs, trees) with a minimum of water (less infiltration in poor sandy soil, less evaporation in desertlike circumstances). (Click on the picture to enlarge it).

Therefore, I believe that container gardening would offer interesting possibilities to limit irrigation water to the strict minimum.

Could you, Joseph, send me a detailed description of your self-watering buckets, for I think it may contribute to food security for these people in the desert ?  Sincere thanks for your humanitarian contribution.

Bottle gardening – some experiments (Willem)

Already published on my desertification weblog on March 25, 2007

Bottle gardening – some experiments

March 25, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in fertilizer – nutrients, sustainability, horticulture/gardening, food / food security, hunger / famine, desertification, ecology – environment, water, poverty, agriculture, soil, rural development, research. trackback , edit post

In Februari 2007 I started some small experiments with what I call “bottle gardening“. I try to show that plastic bottles can be used as containers (see also “container gardening” informer messages on this blog). The main objective is to use plastic bottles for vegetable production in the drylands in order to save a maximum of water for irrigation. Within the framework of the combat of desertification, it is important to get a maximum of agricultural or horticultural production with a minimum of irrigation water. Moreover, enhancement of food production should also be realized in the drylands and on relatively poor soils.

Should these experiments be successful, a myriad of bottles, otherwise littered and dramatically degrading the environment, could play a very interesting role in sustainable food production for the rural people. Continue reading Bottle gardening – some experiments (Willem)