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:



Improve survival rate when planting tree saplings

Photo credit: WVC 2010

2010-08 Avocado sapling planted with bottle


Plant seedlings with their plastic bottle

A video on growing seedlings (saplings) in plastic bottles and planting the saplings with their bottle.

2010-08 Avocado sapling after planting it with bottle (Photo WVC 2010)
2010-08 Avocado sapling after planting it with bottle (Photo WVC 2010)

In most cases, the rootball of seedlings is severely damaged at transplantation.  Grown in more or less ideal conditions in classical plastic bags in a nursery, they are transported to the field, where the bags are cut open and the rootball roughly handled, whereby almost all the fine absorbing roots are broken.  When seedlings are grown in plastic bottles or pots, this damage is avoided.  Young saplings show a survival rate of almost 100 %.  A few examples to show details of this method.

It would be nice if you could give it a try !


Plastic bottles for growing and planting saplings (Drawings by Liesbeth ORMEL / Captions by Willem Van Cotthem)

How to use a plastic bottle for growing and planting saplings ?

Materials : Plastic bottle, knife, seeds, bucket with water, local soil, sand with manure
Use the knife to cut the tapering end of the bottle
Cutting the top of the bottle
Bottle without its top
Fill the bottle with the mixture of soil and sand
Bottle filled with the mixture up to 3 fingers from the bottle edge
Pour water in the bottle to moisten the potting mix and plant one of more seeds in it
Place the bottle on a shady spot ...
where animals can't touch it
The seed(s) germinate and the sapling(s) grow
When the sapling is tall enough, cut the lower part of the bottle at two fingers of the bottom
Cut the bottom part (5-7 cm, 2-3 inches)
Take the bottom part off to set the lower roots free
Lift the bottle with the sapling carefully to keep the free roots intact
Put the sapling with its bottle gently in the plant hole
The plant hole is filled with local soil, leaving the upper edge of the bottle free and water the sapling

Easy and cheap pots for successful plantation of saplings (Google / Mother Earth News)

Make biodegradable newspaper pots in a minimum of time. You can plant your seedlings (saplings) directly in the soil. Maximal survival in reforestation projects. Brilliant idea.

Easy Newspaper Pots

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 8:28 AM

By Angela Blackerby

Read more: pots#ixzz1g54dV78E

Planting container-grown trees (Google / Bangor Daily News)

Read at :

Advice on planting container-grown trees and shrubs

By Reeser Manley

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”

— Chinese proverb

Unlike the hard-wearing daylily that can be uprooted time and again, woody plants should grace the garden space we give them for decades. Their planting should be approached thoughtfully and methodically.

At planting, a container-grown tree or shrub has less than 20 percent of the absorbing roots as the same size plant established in the garden. The gardener’s goal at planting is to promote rapid root growth and reduce the water stress imposed by a limited root system. Soils in Maine are often compacted or poorly drained, conditions that give woody plant roots a hard time. Compaction of the soil prevents adequate aeration of the root zone, while too much water drowns roots. Neither of these conditions are remedied by planting in a hole barely larger than the root ball.

Roots of plants placed in small holes soon reach the compacted native soil and, unable to penetrate it, begin to circle in the hole, much like the circling that occurs when roots meet the impenetrable sides of a pot. Circling roots can become girdling roots, cutting off water flow to the plant like a crimp in a garden hose.

Small planting holes surrounded by compacted soil may also drain slowly after a hard rain. Roots die in the waterlogged soil.



How to conserve moisture around the roots of saplings with cardboard / Conservando la humedad con cartón (Fabio RUIZ)

Read at :

Pieces of cardboard can be placed around saplings with the aim to conserve some more moisture between two irrigation rounds. It was noted that sufficient soil moisture was retained for up to 8 days more. Besides conserving moisture, it also keeps out weeds.

The only cost is to get the cardboard, cut it and place it. Used cardboard boxes and egg trays can perfectly serve the purpose.

2010-11-24 - A piece of cardboard placed around a sapling conserves moisture around the roots (Photo Fabio RUIZ)
2010-11-24 - Lower part of the stem of a young papaya plant and an egg tray (Photo Fabio RUIZ)
2010-11-24 - Papaya sapling's roiots kept moistened with an egg tray (Photo Fabio RUIZ)

Conservando la humedad con cartón.

Se puso cartón alrededor de los árboles con la finalidad de que les dure un poco más la humedad al regarlos. Comprobamos que les puede durar hasta 8 días más en este tiempo. Además de conservar la humedad, el cartón impide que salgan hierbas.

El único costo es conseguir el cartón, cortarlo y ponerlo. Se usó cartón de cajas de desecho y cartón que se usa para el huevo, este último es reciclado y aún así alcanzamos a darle otro uso.

No Green Wall without small-scale gardens for women (Willem Van Cotthem)

My attention was caught by some statements in Mrs. Priscilla ACHAKPA’s interview, referred to a former posting on my desertification blog:

Nigeria: WEP Wants Green Wall Sahara Programme (

This Executive Director of the Women Environment Programme (WEP) urged the Nigerian Government to speed up the implementation of the Green Wall Sahara programme (GWSP), which she called “an integrated development strategy for combating desertification and mitigating the effects of drought and climate change” (see also UNCCD).

Mrs. ACHAKPA observed that the impact of desertification raised security concerns, especially among the vulnerable groups.  She stated that “the impact of climate change is more on women in the rural areas as they have little or no understanding of the issues involved”.  Her NGO, the WEP, intends to conduct a study on gender awareness of climate change issues, because adequate information on climate change is necessary to evolve steps to control it.

Agreeing with some of Mrs. ACHAKPA’s ideas, I want to congratulate her for asking to speed up the implementation of the Green Wall programme.  Indeed, such a nice programme, being a real challenge for all the Sahelian countries involved, merits massive support to speed up its achievement.

On the other hand, I disagree with her that Nigerian and other Sahelian rural women will be better off with “adequate information on climate change necessary to evolve steps to control it“.  Even supposing that there would be a small chance to find adequate information on climate change for rural women, I am not so sure that this will help these vulnerable women to handle their security concerns raised by the impact of desertification.

Even if the Green Wall programme may play a little bit of an interesting role in some aspects of climate change, it will not be tremendously important for the rural families in the northern provinces of Nigeria and in the other countries concerned.  I rather believe that it would be more efficient to invest in awareness building of the local population about the need to combine small-scale agriculture (or gardening) with reforestation in the Green Wall programme (agroforestry).

No doubt, we are all aware of the fact that such an enormous reforestation plan, with billions of trees to be planted in the Sahel belt, can never be achieved without “an army” of labourers for growing seedlings, digging plant pits and planting the seedlings.  These labourers will have to be well fed.  Tons of food will have to be produced at the local level.  By whom ?  By the local women ?  In this case, we would prefer that long time before the activities of the GWSP start all women can get “adequate information on ways and means to cultivate sufficient food for hundreds (thousands ?) of labourers of the GWSP working in their region”.

We can’t imagine that these women would be more interested in climate change issues than in best practices of food production in their dry region.

If well trained in cultivating all necessary species of vegetables and fruits, (dryland farming), they can not only use these skills during the implementation of the GWSP, but also for the rest of their life and that of their children, grandchildren, …

Therefore, just allow me this little piece of advice : start today laying out a small-scale garden for every woman in the northern provinces of Nigeria where the GWSP will be applied, because if there is not sufficient food production in those provinces when the labourers have to start planting trees, there will not be a Green Wall at all. Never, because planting trees with an empty stomach is so extremely difficult.  We all know this, even those strongly interested in climate change.

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)

Monsoon gardening (Google / Newindpress)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Monsoon gardening

M Subramaniam

MONSOON is the ideal time for planting trees. Planting trees at this time reduces much of your labour on their establishment and maintenance. While selecting trees for planting bear in mind a few points as these factors reduces your effort and anticipated problems that may come in time. The fast growing among trees have generally weak trunks, as rapid growth rate does not spare much time to harden the plant tissues with enforcing chemicals. Unless you need uniform reenery within a short period of time its dvisable to go in for slow growing trees with hard and sturdy wood. The other option is mixing the fast growing and slow growing varieties in trees to bring in a more or less unified greenery. Continue reading Monsoon gardening (Google / Newindpress)

Argania and palm seedlings in a bottle (Willem)

Some weeks ago, I got some seedlings of Argania spinosa and a palm tree growing in my garden. I transplanted them in a plastic bottle to study the possibilities to grow them with a minimum of water.

The potting mix in the plastic bottle was treated with 5 g of the soil conditioner TerraCottem per liter of soil. The water stocking polymers of the TerraCottem reduce the irrigation needs by 50 %.

Seemingly the 3 seedlings are doing very well.

Argania seedlings and palm seedling in bottle
Two Argania seedlings and one palm seedling growing together in a plastic bottle. (Click on the photo to enlarge it).