Allotment gardens and container gardening in the Philippines (R. HOLMER)

I received an interesting email message from

Dr. Robert J. Holmer
Periurban Vegetable Project (PUVeP)
Xavier University – Research & Social Outreach
Manresa Farm, Fr. W. F. Masterson SJ Ave
9000 Cagayan de Oro City

telling me : “I just came across your great blog on Desertification which I started to read with great interest and joy since you share the same ideas about food security as me. Your comment on allotment gardening reflects exactly my sentiments. …………………………..  and possibly we can convince more people on the benefits of these programs, including container gardening.

The pictures I added are from two school gardens where we are establishing so-called container gardens to maximize space and to encourage pupils to replicate this at home. We also provided rainwater catchment since even in the tropics freshwater is becoming scarce (and the technology – as simple as it may be – was basically not known).

2008 Students filling plastic bottles with soil to set up container gardening
2008 Philippines : Students filling plastic bottles with soil to set up container gardening
A rack with plastic bottles for succesful container gardening in a small area (vertical gardening)
2008 - Philippines : A rack with plastic bottles for succesful container gardening in a small area (vertical gardening)
Efficient rainwater catchment with simple tools
2008 - Philippines : Efficient rainwater catchment with simple tools

In addition, one of our former staff members just started his Ph.D. thesis on ‘bio-char’ which you also mentioned on your blog. I added his thesis proposal for your reference.

Attached also a little brochure we just came out with as well as the link to our 103 “Philippine Allotment Garden Manual“, which may give some useful ideas to people in other countries (”.



Food garden blooms on skid row wall (Jazmine Hogan-Donaldson / LA Times)

Message from Jazmine Hogan-Donaldson :

Many thanks for your Desertification blog. Last year I volunteered in Burkina Faso for Helen Keller International. I’m always looking for news about Burkina and came across your blog from a google search. I saw the following article in today’s Los Angeles Times and thought you might find it of some interest:,0,872568.story

Best regards,

Food garden blooms on skid row wall

Fruits, vegetables and herbs tended by formerly homeless residents cover urban gray.

By Cara Mia DiMassa, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 14, 2008

It’s the smell you notice first: not the usual scent for this part of downtown, more accustomed to overflowing trash cans, sour urine and the stench of people who have spent too long sleeping on L.A.’s streets.

Instead, it’s sweet and green, with a tinge of lavender — and it comes from the vegetable garden that residents of the Rainbow Apartments planted last week in a most unlikely place: attached to a cinder-block wall of a parking lot off San Julian Street in the heart of skid row.

The 34-foot-long vertical plot, which looks like a swath of green carpet against the cinder blocks, is filled with strawberries, tomatoes, basil and other herbs and vegetables. It’s a step up for the dozen or so members of the gardening group at the Rainbow Apartments, all formerly homeless, who have spent the two years since their building opened learning about the caprice of nature and the promise of its bounty.

The first time they tried planting vegetables, in a couple of wooden bins on the rooftop of their building, their novice status meant that plants weren’t watered and cared for properly.

“Everything died,” said Chris Owens, the group’s de facto leader.

The second time, things went better. Members of the group paid special attention to the sprouts they planted, watering and pruning with care. And under their vigilant tending, corn stalks pushed upward. Watermelons appeared on vines.

Many residents were surprised by the way gardening united them, in an area where it sometimes seems best to mind your own business and keep to yourself.

“It brings us together as a group, kind of like therapy, to see something growing and flourishing,” Jannie Burrows said.

“We’re trying to feed our bodies with better nutrients,” Lance Shaw said. “But more than anything, we like getting together.”

The modest initial success led the Rainbow group to the nonprofit Urban Farming, which helped the group install the green wall last week as part of its Food Chain project. Urban Farming also erected “edible” walls at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank, the Miguel Contreras Learning Center and the Weingart Center.

The Food Chain project, said Urban Farming founder Taja Sevelle, enables residents in some of the city’s poorest areas to grow food in underused spaces at a time when food prices are soaring. The walls, she said, “get people to think outside the box. You can plant food in so many different places.”

As Owens and two other men struggled under the weight of planting grids filled with cucumbers, tomatillos and lavender, George Irwin, the president of Green Living Technologies, whose company manufactured and donated the system of planting grids, watched with a careful eye.

“Lift and slide,” Irwin told them as they carefully placed the grids onto brackets mounted on the wall. The plantings began above their heads, and vines and tendrils snaked down the wall. “One, two, three: good. Let it down.”

Sweating a bit as he took a break from lifting 51 panels into place, each filled with soil and plants, Owens stepped back and was impressed. “We’ve opened up a space we never would have had,” he said.

Rainbow resident Cenith Youngblood wiped the units with a white cloth, clearing away extra soil and organic matter. When she was done, she looked at the wall.

“It’s gorgeous,” Youngblood said. “I was trying to visualize what they meant by a green wall. Now it’s beautiful. I see cucumbers and strawberries, and what are these? Basil?”

No, she was told: peppers.

“Jalapenos! Oh, I love jalapenos!”

Owens said the group planned to be responsible for the pruning and harvesting of the garden walls. In the next few months, he said, they would evaluate whether the mix of plants worked for the residents.

“Everybody will have a say about what they want,” said Owens, who is partial to tomatoes because they are “very versatile.”

Regardless of what the bounty is, he said, they would share their crops with the building’s other residents.

“We try to share food with everyone,” he said. “We don’t like people taking it just for themselves.”


Starting a DIY Vertical Garden (Google / Gardening Tips ‘n’ Ideas)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Starting a DIY Vertical Garden

Ever since coming across Patrick Blanc’s vertical garden I’ve been interested to observe how this technology might transform the home gardening scene. I mean, it’s only a matter of time before we begin running out room for gardens to grow on a horizontal plane. Yet vertical – that’s another dimension altogether. For most home gardeners the concept isn’t a new one. We’ve been staking tomato plants, espaliering fruit trees and training creepers to grow over undesirable fences for aeons. Yet the thinking behind vertical gardens still seems radically new. The reason: Whereas all our other vertical gardening exploits centred around plants being grounded in the soil, the vertical garden has absolutely no dependency on the ground. In fact, vertical gardens exist quite separately from soil and do so with inanimate ease. Continue reading Starting a DIY Vertical Garden (Google / Gardening Tips ‘n’ Ideas)

Container Gardening – Flowers (Google / Gardeners World Online)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Container Gardening – Flowers

The world would be a much different place, without the beauty of flowers. Children can contribute to the beauty of nature, while learning at the same time, by planting their own container garden of flowers. There are many, many kinds of container gardens. They can be as unique as each child who creates them. Large planting areas are not necessary. In fact, a container garden can consist of just one container. They are not expensive to create. There are several interesting variations of container gardens besides planting in an ordinary container, which sits on the ground. Allow children to use their imagination and come up with their own ideas. They can use hanging baskets, trellises or other types of vertical support (along with the actual container) and window boxes. Continue reading Container Gardening – Flowers (Google / Gardeners World Online)

Grow better tomatoes with this gardening gear (Google / Dallas News)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Grow better tomatoes with this gardening gear

By ERIN COVERT / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

Anyone who’s started spring with a tomato plant and high hopes knows how hard it is to finish with a bountiful harvest. Hungry insects and birds, cages that topple and difficult growing conditions often stand in the way of the perfect tomato. Products aimed at helping the home gardener overcome these challenges can make it easier. From new ways to prop up the plant to special self-watering and suspended containers, the contraptions offer alternatives to traditional propagation. “A lot of people don’t have the land or enough time to go out and dig in the garden,” says Calloway’s Nursery assistant manager Dina Hunter. The nursery sells the self-watering EarthBox kit, and Ms. Hunter says it produces better tomatoes because it takes the guesswork out of watering and planting. Ease of maintenance and lack of space were a couple reasons that led Grand Prairie gardener Brenda Motsinger to start growing tomatoes upside down in hanging containers. That was more than six years ago. Since then, she’s moved to a house with more gardening space, but she still plants at least a couple tomato hanging pots in addition to her tomatoes in the ground. Continue reading Grow better tomatoes with this gardening gear (Google / Dallas News)

TOLLEDOT’s container gardening experiments (Flickr)

News from Joseph TOLLEDOT’s container gardening experiments :

“Here’s the link to new photos on my Flickr page –

I agree with the root growth in the bottles, as you will see. Also, the party cup is excellent – I usually make small holes at the bottom and stand the cups in a tray and water once a day with a small amount of water to keep them just moist. To transplant, you just squeeze the cup a bit and out the root block comes!

I am now working on a cheap, recycled, vertical system which I will photograph as soon as it is set up…”.


Thanks, Joseph, I am looking forward !


Vertical gardening – the sky is the limit (Google Alert / Bugdugle)

Read at :

Google Alert for gardening

The Bugdugle Blog Network

Vertical gardening – the sky is the limit

2007-Jul-26 .. Posted in Other Gardening Topics


Ever seen a really nice fence? Me neither. So why not put up a ‘vertical garden’? Sounds weird huh? I know, but it can be done.

Vertical gardens are great for people who have ugly fences or limited space. Vertical gardens consist of hanging planters whether on porches, fence posts, or hanging from balconies. Wherever you live you can have vertical gardens. You can use a trellis, string, fishing line or a mesh fabric. The trellis can be wood or iron. The theory behind the vertical gardens is, if you provide a way for the vines to attach themselves to, you will have a wall of beauty.

Climbing roses are a favorite for these kinds of gardens, as is the Clematis. Other plants people love to see climb are morning glories, honeysuckle, ivy and in some areas grape vines. When you think about the different colors and varieties of these plant versions, you could add so much color to your outside area that will look elegant with color.

You can also add hanging basket plants such as carnations, petunias, dailies and geraniums to name a few. Making a hanging basket is easy and it gives you the opportunity to have a beautiful array of color anywhere.

Another type of vertical garden is the stacked box vertical gardens. These gardens are square boxes stacked on top up each other in a vertical direction. You then plant your plants inside with the flowers pointing out. This makes a box garden that can be use indoors or outdoors. Follow the link if you wanne know more about vertical gardening

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) :

The Homemade Strawberry Tower
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)”


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 !


Topsy Turvy Planter : Vertical Grow Bags (Garden Tool Guide)

Read at :

Garden Tool Guide
– Everything you need to know about gardening tools!

Vertical Grow Bags for Small Gardens


Vertical grow bags are fantastic gardening gadgets that allow you to grow both vegetables and ornamental plants in a small space. If you live in an apartment with a small patio, grow bags like the award winning Topsy Turvy Planter will allow you to garden, even if you have virtually no space.