Bamboo nursery with plastic bottles (Willem)

We intend to grow many young bamboo plants in a nursery in S.W. Algeria.  These plants will then go to the Sahrawis refugee camps, where they will be used to produce a dense living hedge around the small family gardens.  Thorny mahogany shrubs will also be used in the hedges.

I did some experiments with tiny little bamboo plants (pieces of rhizome of only 1-2 inches/2-5 cm), which I planted in plastic bottles (see different former messages on this blog to see how we prepare these bottles).

 Bamboo in a bottle  bamboos grow well in bottles  p1010327-crop.jpg

(Click on the photos to enlarge them)

This method to launch a nursery with plastic bottles has given already some remarkable results.  I am getting convinced that this will lead to a series of opportunities to grow young bamboo plants in bottles, that are very easy to transport to the plantation site (anyway, much easier than the classical black grow bags used in nurseries).

Moreover,  it is much easier to cut the bottle vertically without breaking up the rootball (one of the current problems for people in forestry).  We recommend to bury the two bottle halves in the plant pit to get rid of the plastic.  So, we will create living hedges and meanwhile take care of the environment by eliminating plastic from the surface.

An entire ecosystem inside two soda bottles (HGTV)

Here is an interesting publication on ways plants can be grown on or in a bottle, serving as an “aquarium”.  I find this once again a very nice way to “recycle” plastic (PET) bottles.  The publication is nicely illustrated.

Read at :


Science in a Bottle

Environmental expert Michael Fritzen explains how to build an entire ecosystem  inside two soda bottles. Continue reading An entire ecosystem inside two soda bottles (HGTV)

Food production in transparent plastic bottles and cups (C. ASH, J. TOLLEDOT, Willem)

Here is nice additional comment of Charles ASH on :

Recycling plastic bottles and pots (Charlesash / Willem) August 3, 2007

“You don’t really need to cover the transparent plastic because there appears to be no harm or set back to the plant if you don’t. It’s mainly cosmetic. Not only that, seeing the roots creates more interest. When we used them we got many youngsters interested because we could explain easier and show “what grows underground” of a plant. It created huge interest and some of those youngsters went on to a career in horticulture. So my suggestion is, don’t permanently cover them. Enjoy a sight you do not normally see.

We don’t have any problems removing plants, even well established or large plants, from plastic plant pots. They always come out with the root ball intact and unharmed. They may need a gentle tap once or twice but they always come out ok. And we get to use the pot again!


Thanks, Charles !  It encourages me to continue my efforts introducing plastic bottle gardening in schools of developing countries.  I strongly believe that every kid in developing countries should set up its own vegetable garden in plastic bottles and shopping bags, not only at school, but also at home.

At school, they can be helped by the teachers, at home, by their mothers.

The result would be :

1. A remarkable enhancement of fresh food production, particularly in desertified areas.

2. An interesting improvement in the situation of food security, malnutrition or famine.

3. A very profitable improvement in public health (less deficiencies, less diseases.

4. Better environmental  conservation and protection (less littering of plastic).

5. Enormous educational value.


Will this appeal on all stakeholders (decision makers, authorities, donors, NGOs, local people, …) one day be heard ?  I hope it will happen before the end of my days, with all my heart !

Who can resist the beauty of vegetables and fruits growing close to or even in our house or school ?  Look at this beautiful picture of Joseph TOLLEDOT :

Party cup Pepper

Black manaqualana Pepper growing well in a recycled party cup (J. TOLLEDOT, July 25, 2007)

Gardening on your balcony (Google Alert / China Daily)

Read at :

Google Alert for gardening

China Daily

Gardening on your balcony

All it takes to introduce a breath of the outdoors into your house is a balcony. Planting vegetables on the balcony is trendy among urbanites. Regardless of attitudes towards planting vegetables on the balcony, it demonstrates a desire for a slower pace of life amidst today’s urban rush. “The life of a farmer, springtime and a patch of grass are my dreams,” reads a real estate sign in the Beijing subway. It is difficult to make out the writing with the endless stream of people passing in front of it as they board and exit. Continue reading Gardening on your balcony (Google Alert / China Daily)

Kids gardening in a bucket (Google Alert / About: Gardening / Willem)

Already published on my desertification weblog on May 31, 2007

Kids gardening in a bucket (Google Alert / About:)

May 31, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in gardening kids, desert/desert gardening, women/youth and desertification, container/bottle gardening, horticulture/gardening, success stories – best practices, water, ecology – environment, desertification, drought. trackback , edit post

Particularly interested in all kinds of information on “Gardening with kids“, I find today this article on the use of a container variant: the bucket.

Together with UNICEF Algeria, I am setting up family gardens and school gardens in the Sahara desert. For youngsters at school it should be fun and interesting to grow vegetables with a minimum of water, because drought is of course a major problem in this dryland area of S.W. Algeria. We want to show them how to grow vegetables in plastic bottles and bags (see my former postings on that topic), otherwise polluting their environment, but we will certainly use also “old” buckets, no matter if “there is a hole in the bucket, dear Lisa“, or should I say: dear Marie Iannotti (see below)?

Read at :

Google Alert for Gardening

About: Gardening

How To Garden in a Bucket – A Portable, Private Garden for Your Child

From Marie Iannotti,
Your Guide to Gardening.
FREE Newsletter. Sign Up Now!

To make gardening fun and accessible to kids, you need to make it personal. This is a gardening project from my local 4H organization that you can easily do with your own little clover buds. ‘Garden in a Bucket’ lets kids create a personal, private garden that they can carry with them, take care of, show off and enjoy. Even the shortest attention spans can create a masterpiece and then these junior gardeners can enjoy their Garden in a Bucket all summer. Continue reading Kids gardening in a bucket (Google Alert / About: Gardening / Willem)

Number of bottle gardeners growing (Willem)

Already published on my desertification weblog on May 25, 2007

Number of bottle gardeners growing

May 25, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in social dimensions, horticulture/gardening, container/bottle gardening, success stories – best practices, sustainability, soil, ecology – environment, capacity building, water. trackback , edit post

Having seen the excellent results of my experiments with vegetables and young trees growing in plastic bottles (a special type of container gardening), I hope more and more people will give it a try and show other people around that “indoor” or “outdoor” gardening in bottles or bags offers some interesting advantages.

flowering strawberries
Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Very promising growth of strawberries in plastic bottles. Bottles can be re-used for other vegetables, or herbs, or tree seedlings. Eventually, one should bury the “old” bottles or bags. Continue reading Number of bottle gardeners growing (Willem)

Container-Free Balcony Gardening (Katie Humphry / Willem)

Already published on my desertification weblog on May 9, 2007

Container-Free Balcony Gardening (Katie Humphry)

May 9, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in gardening kids, container/bottle gardening, food / food security, horticulture/gardening, desertification, sustainability, ecology – environment. trackback , edit post

Read at :

Google Alert for gardening

Katie Humphry

Container-Free Balcony Gardening


From my grandmother:

I thought you might be interested in growing cherry tomatoes in a bag of potting mix. Before lying bag down flat put a few small holes on one side for drainage. Then turn over to the other side and cut holes big enough to put a plant in each. You will need to have some way to put stakes in for them to climb up.

I think she has her bags lying on the ground, but I bet you could keep the bags of potting mix upright, too (with some holes poked in the bottle for drainage). Cheaper than buying pots. Continue reading Container-Free Balcony Gardening (Katie Humphry / Willem)

My comment to Paul Duxbury’s “Potager” (Willem)

Already published on my desertification weblog on May 4, 2007

My comment to Paul Duxbury’s “Potager”

May 4, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in gardening kids, desert/desert gardening, women/youth and desertification, container/bottle gardening, land / land degradation, success stories – best practices, agriculture, forestry, ecology – environment, water. trackback , edit post

I like Paul’s contribution very much (see the former message on this blog). Although it contains mainly some general views on the matter, it may invite some people to start “potagering” at home. Well done, Paul !

Let me just make a comment on one sentence : “Most potagers are grown in raised beds that allow better control over the drainage and reduce the chance of the vegetables from becoming waterlogged.“. Alright, but !

I am very much in favor of setting up a vegetable garden in containers instead of in full garden soil, and this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, many people do not have the pleasure of disposing of an open gardening space. When Paul says : “Potagers are particularly good for people who live on smaller lots of land or only have room for a small garden“, I am adding : “and for all those living in apartments, and having some space for a number of containers“. Continue reading My comment to Paul Duxbury’s “Potager” (Willem)

Tomatoes in containers for food in refugee camps (HGTV / Willem)

Already published on my desertification weblog on April 30, 2007

Tomatoes in containers for food in refugee camps (HGTV)

April 30, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in desert/desert gardening, women/youth and desertification, container/bottle gardening, soil conditioning, horticulture/gardening, water, agriculture, rural development, technologies. trackback , edit post

Interested in container gardening for its potentialities to set up vegetable production in the drylands or deserts, I started some experiments in plastic bottles and plastic bags at home in Belgium (see former messages on this blog). Currently, I am checking publications on container gardening for their “tips” to enhance our chances to grow food in the refugee camps of the Saharawis in S.W. Algeria. Here is an article that may help us to grow tomatoes in containers, and why not, in plastic bags or bottles.

Read at :


Tomatoes in Containers

No room at all to garden? Not to worry. You can have a beautiful vegetable garden in pots. Here’s how to culture a tomato in a container: Continue reading Tomatoes in containers for food in refugee camps (HGTV / Willem)

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)