The Container Gardening Ambassadors (the Fresh Food Home Guards)

All we need is your free moral support to make this world better

by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (University of Ghent, Belgium)

Become a member of our container gardening group by clicking the ‘JOIN’ button at  

(today almost 43.000 members).

Here are some of your trumps

Bottle towers with vegetables and herbs - Photo WVC P 1070455 - Video
Bottle towers with vegetables and herbs – Photo WVC P 1070455 – Video

1. If we show how to build a bottle tower <> to all the schoolchildren of this world and teach them how to grow some vegetables and herbs at school, they will enjoy building more towers for their family at home.

Riser with vegetables and herbs growing in recycled bottles - Photo Jojo ROM (The Philippines)  56269_1483085875405_1181604134_31159685_1301366_o.jpg
Riser with vegetables and herbs growing in recycled bottles – Photo Jojo ROM (The Philippines) 56269_1483085875405_1181604134_31159685_1301366_o.jpg

2. If we alleviate child malnutrition in our countries by teaching them container gardening at school, recycling all discarded containers in school gardens, e.g. on risers (see


and <>),

there will be sufficient food for decent daily meals and a cleaner environment.

And soon there will be fresh food galore everywhere.

Dwarf orange fruit trees grown in pots - Photo Container Growing - .jpg
Dwarf orange fruit trees grown in pots – Photo Container Growing – .jpg

3. If we convince all young mothers to plant only one fruit tree for every newborn baby and if we plant a fruit tree for every dear family member passing away, we will soon have orchards protecting us against global warming and climate change.

Barrels  cab easily be transformed in vertical gardens with a lot of fresh food - Photo Grow Food, Not Lawns - 542232_449799711742313_474788682_n.jpg
Barrels can easily be transformed in vertical gardens with a lot of fresh food – Photo Grow Food, Not Lawns – 542232_449799711742313_474788682_n.jpg

4. If we pass this message to the world leaders and publish all our photos to show them our green container gardens, it will be a giant convincing step towards a global food revolution.

And soon there will be less hunger because container gardening means solving these major problems at the lowest cost.  People in developing countries have been inventive to grow fresh food in a panoply of containers (pots, buckets, bags, sacks, barrels, …).  There is a lot of indigenous knowledge about best practices and success stories in food production. It is our moral duty to follow their examples and invest in large-scale application of their methods and techniques.  International organizations should reach hands with NGOs to ban hunger and malnutrition without any delay.  They should start in all the schools.

Let us put an important step towards a better future today:



Look at beautiful life around your house (Willem Van Cotthem)


One of the most exciting views is the back and forth flying of birds around the house. It is quite easy to attract a number of birds close to the window, particularly in winter time, by hanging a bird feeder close to a window. A cheat and simple bird feeder can be made from a discarded plastic bottle. Hanging such a “bird bottle feeder” close to a window of the living room assures a daily wonderful show.

A plastic soda bottle made entirely from plants (Food Politics)

Read at :

Today’s oxymoron: a greener soda bottle

On the plastic bottle front, much is happening.

BPA plastics are banned from the European market, only to be replaced by other plastics that seem to have their own problems.  These are detailed in three articles in Food Additives and Contaminants dealing with the migration of chemicals from baby bottles.

Santillana et al.,  Migration of bisphenol A from polycarbonate baby bottles purchased in the Spanish market by liquid chromatography and fluorescence detection (2011); doi: 10.1080/19440049.2011.589036.
Simoneau, et al., Comparison of migration from polyethersulphone and polycarbonate baby bottles (2011) doi:10.1080/19440049.2011.604644.
Simoneau, et al.,  Identification and quantification of migration of chemicals from plastics baby bottles used as substitutes for polycarbonate, ( 2011); doi 10.1080/19440049.2011.644588.
In response to such concerns, soft drink companies are engaging in the latest form of “cola wars,” this time the race to greener bottles.  As the New York Times puts it,

Over their decades of competition, the battle between Coca-Cola and PepsiCo has taken on many colors — brown (cola), orange (juice), blue (sport drinks) and clear (water).

Now, they are fighting over green: The beverage rivals are racing to become the first to produce a plastic soda bottle made entirely from plants.

Coca-Cola has signed up with three biotechnology companies to produce materials for 100% plant-based bottles.


Become a Rich Person with a Seed Safe (PSFK / Treehugger / Willem Van Cotthem)

A message of my son Paul : Please have a look at PSFK’s website

Seed Bank Helps Make Environment Richer

The Seed Safe adds to an already large assortment of food-related products from Spanish designer Marti Guixe. The Seed Safe helps motivate people to store away seeds from fruits and vegetables that we eat instead of just throwing them away or having them composted. The innovative tabletop product aims to create a currency in seeds that encourage people to help save them to make the environment richer. Users deposit different types of seeds into the stoneware safe through its multiple cutouts, and eventually withdraw them to help stimulate our recessive ecosystem.



Read at : Treehugger

Become a Rich Person with a Seed Safe by Martí Guixé

by Petz Scholtus, Barcelona, Spain

Alessi has just launched a new product by Spanish designer Martí Guixé; the Seed Safe. It is a beautiful jar, dedicated to collect the seeds from vegetables and fruits we eat so that they can be planted instead of thrown away or composted. Guixé, who has a thing for seeds (see the Plant Me Pet), believes that the Seed Safe is a must in every home, and since “seeds are in some way more valuable than money”, planting those seeds can make you a rich person.

Of course you can use any old jar to store seeds, but do you? Maybe this product is simply a nice way to get more people to collect and value seeds, and to grow their own plants. It is a reflection about how we feel about where our food comes from, and nature. The designer, Martí Guixé, collects himself seeds from what he eats at home. The idea came when he was asked to design a money bank for a ceramic company. Guixé thought that “in our era, money is loosing its value, and a good way to change the perception of values, was to put it into seeds”. The Catalan designer is fascinated with seeds and likes the potential in them, as well as all the information they contain depending on the specie. If money doesn’t grow on trees, we should definitely plant more seeds and grow things.



MY COMMENT (Willem Van Cotthem)

Very attractive design. And indeed, “Seeds are in some way more valuable than money“. More and more people are “fascinated with seeds and like the potential in them, as well as all the information they contain depending on the species. If money doesn’t grow on trees, we should definitely plant more seeds and grow things.

This nice tabletop “Seed Safe” can certainly help to motivate some people to save the seeds from fruits (and vegetables ?) they eat from the garbage bin.  However, the seeds should be dried for quite a time before throwing them in the “Safe”, otherwise fungi and bacteria will develop on them.

Once thoroughly dried and saved, all together in the one and only Safe, the seeds will have to be planted in the right way.  Suppose you want to do this.  Will you plant all the seeds on the same spot and in the same way in your garden ?  Of course not ! One will have to separate again the different species before planting.  Do you know which species are adapted to the type of climate in your area ? Do you have the necessary horticultural skills to handle the seeds in a proper way ? Are you ready to proceed like this ?  Forget it.  When someone offers me a box with a mixture of seeds for our “Seeds for Food” action (, I really don’t know what to do with it.

Maybe this “innovative tabletop product aims to create a currency in seeds that encourage people to help save them to make the environment richer“.  The question is how people will ever make the environment richer, withdrawing the seeds from their beautiful Seed Safe, and not knowing how to plant the different species in an optimal way.

It may take some time “to become a rich person”, even with the biggest Seed Safe.

An interesting message (Dan GRIFEN)


Did you know that in the last 100 years, our agricultural habits have left us with about a quarter of the crop diversity we once had?

Encouraging grocery shoppers to branch out from their usual selections will help us conserve the forgotten species, and create a more sustainable agricultural system.

I’d like to take a moment to discuss this with the readers of <; . Please consider this as it would be a privilege to submit a guest post.


Dan Grifen



Dear Dan,

Your are most welcome to submit your guest post and open a discussion with our readers.

A convenient truth for family gardening (Willem van Cotthem)

In August 2007, I launched a new project “Seeds for Food” (see <>) for collecting seeds of vegetables and fruits, in order to offer people living in the drylands opportunities to grow fresh food themselves in small family gardens or community gardens.  This action is growing into a dramatic success as people on different continents are now sending seeds of the fruits they eat or from vegetables grown in their own garden.

Nevertheless, a number of people express their concern about the possibility that some of these seeds could belong to “invasive species”, which would rapidly invade the local ecosystems and thus be a nuisance for the local biodiversity.

Here is one of these “critics” and my reply thereon :

“I have some problems with the scheme you are talking about. It is not good for biodiversity. For example here in SA when people imported bramble berries they took off so well that now they are a huge problem covering millions of hectares of land that would otherwise be used for grazing or local crops. I have just spent an hour near the bridge removing the bramble before it takes off after a very good spring rain.

In SA what we need to do is gather and care for our own indigenous seeds, not plant foreign seeds. So the scheme wouldn’t work here. I hope the scheme will really not cause more problems in the long run for the countries where the seeds are being grown. …………..


MY REPLY (Willem)

I understand fully your concern about the possible introduction of so-called “invasive species of plants”, rapidly dispersing in the original ecosystems and developing into a catastrophic nuisance.  This is certainly the case with bramble berries.  One should never send bramble berries abroad because this plant species is known as an invasive one of which the seeds are dispersed by a lot of animals.

Most of the vegetables, on the contrary, are not invasive.  And so are most of the fruit trees.

Now, let us suppose for a moment that tomatoes, onions, carrots, celery or parsley would spread quite rapidly over the dryland areas where we introduce them.  Would the local people mind finding these food crops around their houses after a certain time? If ever tomatoes would spread massively over desertlike areas, would we speak of a catastrophe for biodiversity ?  Or would it be even positive to see some green plants covering the dry soil?

So, I understand your concern, but I am very sure that the seeds we are sending abroad will never create such a problem.  Moreover, it would be better to create a vegetation layer over a dryland area with vegetables and fruits than to leave it barren, due to desertification.  Drought will always be the limiting factor in such areas.

I hope you see my point : we want to offer fresh food and fruits to the rural people in the drylands, not by sending them “food baskets”, rice, dry beans, peas, canned food and the like, but by offering them free seeds to be grown in their own small family garden.  Our “food aid” brings life into the drylands and takes care of the causes of hunger, drought and desertification.  That’s providing sustainable development, not by sending a billion of dollars load in an airplane, but in a small package full of different seeds.

And we are not sending invasive species !

Thanks for your remarks.

Friendly greetings,


Getting Teens Involved in Greening (Moss in the City / NGA)

Read at : Moss in the City

National Gardening Association <>

Getting Teens Involved in Greening

Many readers have written to me asking how to get teens involved in gardening. This challenge is very near and dear to my heart because for years I coordinated environmental science programs for youth at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The biggest hurdle is to revive their sense of wonder. Our fast-paced, materialistic society bombards us with shock-and-awe entertainment. Parents, mentors, and educators have the tough assignment of making science as relevant and exciting to youth as pop star dating scandals. It’s tough to scrape away enough cynicism and sensationalism to get kids to make connections between gardening and their lives.

Teens are a tricky group. They are striving to find their identity and place in the world and therefore experience different societal pressures than younger kids. Teens are developing social consciousness but they are still fairly myopic and insecure. Many rebel against authority and seek to embrace counterculture. It’s difficult to get them to embrace gardening through aesthetics or altruism. Continue reading Getting Teens Involved in Greening (Moss in the City / NGA)

Gardening with Plastic Recycling (Google / Home Gardening Tips)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Gardening with Plastic Recycling: Help Protect Your Environment

Green concern and environmental issues are gaining important worldwide. More and more people now understand that clean and safe environment is must for healthy living and gardeners around the world have also expressed their concern equally. Every one of us has to contribute in its own way and if you are an active gardener you also can contribute. There are several small steps that you can take to save the environment while gardening. One really important of these is to recycle and reuse plastic. There are so many ways you can do that. Here are just a few tips that would help you think in this direction and you will surely create your own innovative methods to recycle plastic. Continue reading Gardening with Plastic Recycling (Google / Home Gardening Tips)

Five blogs on desertification, container gardening and seed collection (Willem)

This message to let you know that I subdivided my website into five blogs :

(1) English : On desertification, drought, poverty, agriculture and horticulture

(2) French : On desertification, drought, poverty, agriculture and horticulture

(3) English : On container gardening (this blog)

(4) French : On container gardening

(5) Dutch : On collection of seeds for humanitarian projects

Make your choice and click on these links.

Thanks for visiting my blogs,


Combating desertification and food insecurity with container gardening (N. ROTH / Willem)

Today, I received an interesting comment of Nancy ROTH on my former posting :

Great ideas for container gardening (Willem) August 14, 2007

I’m having a hard time imagining how this containerized approach, nifty as is appears, could be helpful at the scale needed to reverse desertification or to feed a major population. Isn’t it rather labor-intensive to create a separate container for each plant? Don’t the seedlings rather rapidly outgrow their containers? Then where do you plant them in the desert, which cannot sustain them?

Combating desertification and food insecurity with container gardening

Let us try to link different aspects of container gardening, desertification, desert gardening, food production, education and ecology.

Knowing that millions of plastic bottles and plastic shopping bags are littered every year all over the world, in particular in the desertified areas, it seems indicated to find incentives to get the local people aware these pollution problems.  Learning people, especially children, how these bottles and bags can be used to produce vegetables and young tree, seems to be a valuable (and acceptable) way to motivate the population to take care of the environment.  Less littering means less pollution, a form of desertification.

Motivating children to grow vegetables and young fruit trees in self-watering containers at school contributes directly to solve two major problems : pollution of the environment (less plastic flying around) and malnutrition (daily fresh food at school).  Moreover, the young fruits trees can be taken home at the end of the school year, planted around the house and thus contribute to reforestation (or afforestation) and provision of healthy fruits, not to forget the fact that the plastic bottles or bags should be buried at plantation time.

Considering desert gardening : it is quite difficult to improve the soil qualities in the desert, in particular its water holding and nutrients retaining capacities (too much leaching).  Let us imagine that in  small family garden a series of self-watering containers, e.g. plastic bottles and bags, are buried in the garden soil.  These containers can be filled with “improved soil” (for instance treated with manure).  As more water will be retained in the containers (less infiltration), more biomass can be produced with a smaller quantity of water and less fertilizer (less leaching).  This higher water use efficiency leads to higher food production and less influence of drought on crops (more food security).

Around the gardens, living hedges can also be grown in containers buried in the soil.  There is a significant enhancement in survival rate of the shrubs and trees in the hedges an those plants are growing quicker with less water.

From the educational point of view, container gardening is a fantastic tool for the teachers at school.  Less difficulties for the pupils to keep the school garden in good shape, closer contact with the growing plants in or around the classroom, opportunities to teach the kids a lot of things about differences in plant development from seed to vegetable or tree, are but a few benefits of this container gardening method.

You are most certainly right that it is hard  “imagining how this containerized approach, nifty as is appears, could be helpful at the scale needed to reverse desertification or to feed a major population”.

We are not claiming that container gardening itself can reverse desertification or feed  major population.  However, should every family apply container gardening, should every child at school take care of its own containers, it would create a new attitude, more awareness, less fatalism and neglect, more hope for a better future.

Of course, one needs a lot of support to introduce these ideas.  It will take a lot of time to convince people.  But the fact is quite clear : where container gardening is accepted people eat more fresh food and the environment is gradually cleaner.

It’s a simple as putting our shoes on !