All seeds aboard

Photo credit: WVC

Plastic tray, plastic bag and a marker to build a mini-greenhouse

Starting your own transplants

By MINNIE MILLER, T&D Garden Columnist

How much money do you spend every spring buying vegetable and flower transplants to fill your garden or make up containers? Make this the year you save a little cash by growing your own starter plants. You will be able to pick and choose the exact varieties you want by selecting your seed. The sense of accomplishment you will gain by growing your own, start to finish, will be priceless.

Now is the time to start gathering the supplies you will need including containers, seed starting mix, liquid fertilizer, labels and seeds. Seeds ordered online take time to be shipped as do related supplies. If you are going to need to set up grow lights you will want to come up with a plan and implement it as a first step to successful transplants.

Be sure you can supply the right conditions for starting seed or you will not be successful. Seeds do not necessarily need light to germinate, but most do need warmth. Once they have sprouted, you will need to supply them with 16 to 18 hours of light daily to grow strong seedlings. Grow lights or regular florescent lighting can be used.

You don’t have to purchase special containers to start seed, but there are some handy ones out there that include trays and “domes” that help keep moisture regulated. Ordinary flats that have drainage holes, used pots and even recycled plastic produce containers (such as greens or berries are packaged in) can be used. The container simply needs to hold soil and provide drainage. You will want saucers or solid trays underneath to catch excess water.

Have on hand a supply of liquid or soluble fertilizer for watering the seedlings as they grow. Regular light doses of liquid fertilizer, along with adequate light, will keep plants strong and stout so they will be more successful transplants.

Read the full article: The T and D

Tips for winter sowing

Photo credit: Recordonline

Winter sowing in mini-greenhouses

Get a jump-start on veggie garden with winter sowing

By Susan M. Dollard
For the Times Herald-Record


Winter sowing is an outdoor method of seed germination that requires just two things: Miniature greenhouses (made from recycled milk jugs and various other containers) and Mother Nature. After planting in January-March, these mini greenhouses are placed outside to wait for winter to end.

Here are some suggestions for what to plant and when, based on zone 5b:

Read the full article: Recordonline

Bottle tower gardening: how to start ? (Willem Van Cotthem)

Together with my friend Gilbert VAN DAMME (Zaffelare, Belgium) I have set up some successful experiments with vertical gardening in “container towers”.

We are using all kinds of recycled containers, e.g. plastic bottles, pots, buckets.  The containers are stacked into “towers”.

Today, I will describe the way how to start a “bottle tower”, illustrating the different steps with some photos:

2011-09-07 - Step 1 :We leave the lid on bottle No. 1 (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 2 : We cut the bottom part of bottle No. 1 (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 3 : Bottom part of the bottle No. 1 cut off (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 4 : With a sharp object (here scissors) the wall of bottle No. 1 is perforated at 2-4" (5-10 cm) from the top of the lid (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 5 : A second perforation (drainage hole) is made diagonally across the bottle No. 1. Below the 2 holes a small reserve of water is kept in the bottle. Through these drainage holes a possible surplus of water can be evacuated(Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 6 : Bottle No. 1 is filled with potting soil (or a mixture of dirt and manure) up to 1-2" (2,5-5 cm) of the edge of the bottle (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 7 : Bottle No. 1 is the bottom bottle of the future tower (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 8 : For the next 3 bottles (No. 2, 3 and 4, without the 2 drainage holes) we take the lid off and cut the bottom part (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 9 : After filling the 3 bottles (No. 2, 3 and 4) with potting soil, they will be put upon the bottom bottle of the tower (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 10 : A tower of the 4 bottles (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 11 : The bottle tower is kept upright with a couple of simple wires (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 12 : We use the top part of a bottle (No. 5, without the lid) as a funnel and push the bottleneck into the soil of the upper bottle No. 4 (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 – Step 13 : A bottle No. 6 will be used as a watertank on top of the funnel (Bottle No. 5). Therefore, a small (1 mm) perforation of the lid is made (here with a drill) (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 – Step 14 : Bottle no. 6 is the top bottle, used as a watertank, water running slowly through this small hole (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 – Step 15 : Watertank bottle No. 6 is pushed into bottle No. 5, the funnel (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 16 : The whole tower is now gradually moistened by pouring water in the top bottle No. 6 with its perforated lid. Water drips into the funnel (Bottle No. 5) and through this it infiltrates into the potting soil of bottles No. 4, 3, 2 and 1, where a possible surplus of water will be evacuated through the 2 drainage holes in the wall (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 17 : Water runs slowly from the watertank (Bottle No. 6) into the funnel (Bottle No. 5) and from there into the soil of Bottle No. 4 (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 17 : Water running slowly from the watertank (Bottle No. 6) into the funnel (Bottle No. 5) (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 18 : With a sharp knife we cut a horizontal slit and two vertical slits in Bottles No. 4, 3, 2 and 1(Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 19 : Thus a small "window" is created in Bottles No. 4, 3, 2 and 1 (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 20 : With a finger one can push a small cavity in the potting soil (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 21 : The rootball of seedlings or young plants can be planted in the "window" of each bottle (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 22 : Pretty soon new roots will be formed in the humid potting soil and the young plants will start their growth without to be watered regularly, because the complete tower is almost not loosing water (almost no evaporation) (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 23 : It takes only a couple of weeks to see all the species of vegetables and herbs, planted in the "bottle windows", developing into fantastic fresh food, full of vitamins and mineral elements (Photo WVC)
2011-09-07 - Step 23 : A remarkable kitchen garden is born with minimal means and efforts. It can be set up at any location in rural and urban areas, a very effective tool in the combat of hunger, malnutrition and poverty (Photo WVC)



Container gardening in Malawi (Patrick DIMUSA)

Read this personal message of Patrick DIMUSA :

“Dear Professor Willem,

I hope your wife is better now after that terrible brain stroke in October 2008.

I lost my job last month and I am back in my village.

After I learned about the significance of container gardening for rural people in the drylands from you,  Professor Willem, my life has changed for the better, because in otherwise useless plastic bottles and plastic bags I can now grow vegetables for offering fresh food to my family, as well as for beautifying my home with flowers.  At the same time I am keeping the environment around my house totally clean (no more littered bottles or bags).

My fellow villagers in Piyasani village in the outskirts of Lilongwe city are flocking around my house to learn about this new initiative.  In November, I started collecting tree seeds from the surrounding remaining forest. Now that the rain has started I am planning to set up a community nursery of tree seedlings using the container gardening method.  I hope to be able with this plan to donate  tree seedlings to one school, so that they are able to plant a school woodlot.  At the same time, this will motivate other schools to start the same initiative as it is one of the cheapest kinds of agriculture and afforestation methods for the poorest countries in Africa, as no financial resources are needed since you can do this prioject around your home with empty plastic bottles and plastic bags.

I have a lot of photos of this project to be send to you, Professor Willem, so that other people can see the importance of container gardening for a poor country like Malawi.

Apart from container gardening,  I am also doing vegetable farming at a small scale for sale and for feeding my family with nutritious meals.

However, I am looking for well-wishers and donors who can come forward and assist me in buying a piece of land, which shall become an education centre for container gardening in Malawi. Any one who is interested can either e-mail me at or call me on +2659028290.

May God bless you, Professor Willem, for introducing this container gardening method to the people of Africa.

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)

Plastic containers and strawberries (Plastic containers city)

A comment on a former posting :

A new comment on the post #168 “Choosing containers for strawberry growing (RHS)”

Author : San
Just visited your site and found the general content to relate to each other’s services. What I would propose is a one way single reciprocal link exchange between our website. The page we have placed a link to your website is
We would prefer that you reciprocate similarly. The Page containing our link shouldn’t have the term “link” or any alpha numeric characters mentioned anywhere just like us.

Waiting for your reply.

Service Team”


See the link on my Blogroll.

Going to that website, one will find a number of interesting references, like :

Growing Strawberries in Containers
Apr 23

How to Plant and Grow Strawberries in Containers |
2006 Growing Strawberries in Containers. I live in Oregon

Planting a Strawberry Tower – Container Gardening
in the valley

Reusable Plastic Agricultural ContainersStrawberry Box
rain and sun!
I am wanting to container garden strawberries.

Continue reading Plastic containers and strawberries (Plastic containers city)