Transparent plastic pots as mini-greenhouses (ianramjohn / Willem)

Already published at my desertification blog :

An interesting comment at “ianramjohn’s blog” : FURTHER THOUGHTS !

Read at :

Yoghurt containers as mini-greenhouses

Willem van Cottem of Desertification has a very interesting post about the use of transparent containers as mini-greenhouses. You can use them to get seedlings started indoors in the Spring, or in arid environments (since it cuts down on water usage prior to transplantation). They are also useful for transporting the seedlings.

I would be a little concerned about hardening the seedlings – that they might not be able to handle the desiccation without significant die-back – but I suspect that he has taken that into account.

MY REPLY (Willem)

Thanks for your appreciation and linking on your blog. I fully understand your concern about the hardening of seedlings developed in such “optimal” conditions. My experiments showed that it suffices to take off the covering pot for a short time every now and then. Exposure to the “indoor drought” in my house seems to harden the seedlings significantly and limits the possible development of fungi, e.g. moulds. More experiments in different conditions on different continents are certainly needed to fine-tune this method. It would be nice if people, setting up trials with such mini-greenhouses, send a short report with a couple of pictures to me at <>. I could then collect their information and summarize the possible advices for improvement.

Yoghurt pots as mini-greenhouses (Willem)

Already published on my desertification blog :

Yoghurt pots as mini-greenhouses

A major part of my life has been dedicated to the combat of desertification and alleviation of poverty, in particular that of rural people in the drylands. One of my main objectives is to find cost-effective ways of helping these people to get better standards of life and to offer them opportunities to apply the best practices in that combat of desertification. Success stories have been registered in this combat all over the world. Unfortunately, these best practices are not yet applied at the largest scale. Although some very efficient and cost-effective technologies and methods have been developed and repeatedly described and recommended to decision-makers, their application rate is still dramatically poor. One wonders why it is seemingly more easy to spend billlions at enormous programs and projects than to provide reasonable financial means for large-scale application of the best practices. It sounds a bit discouraging, but it is not. The day will come that people will be aware of the necessity to turn to simple, but effective methods, instead of spending too much at non-productive initiatives. That is why my personal interest is focused on simplicity and cost-effectiveness, e.g. recycling waste or saving valuable seeds from the garbage bin (see our project “Seeds for Life” at
Continuously looking for new opportunities for container gardening, a wonderful method for producing food in the drylands, I recently did some experiments with transparent yoghurt pots. I thereby found an easy way to transform these pots into mini-greenhouses for a windowsill or a table close to the window.

Below you will find some pictures explaining the functioning of my new (?) mini-greenhouses, in which small quantities of seedlings can be grown before being transplanted. Maybe someone did the same before, but up to now I didn’t find traces of this method. Should you have more information, don’t hesitate to send it to me.

Advantages of this method
could be :

* Possibility to grow seedlings indoors (even before Spring in temperate regions, like in Belgium).
* Possibility to grow seedlings with a minimal quantity of water (avoiding drought outdoors) inside the house in the drylands (not in the garden outside) .
* Easy way to check germination daily.
* Easy way to regulate moisture level in the “mini-greenhouse” (lifting the transparent yoghurt pot, covering the seed(lings), to aerate whenever needed).
* Opportunity to choose the right moment (dimension of seedlings) for transplantation.
* Opportunity to reuse the same mini-greenhouse multiple times (easy to clean after transplantation).

This is probably a method which could tremendously help rural people in the drylands. It suffices to offer them free heaps of “yoghurt pots” (which should not be littered anymore by people in the developed world, but washed and cleaned!) to have them growing seedlings of certain crops in an optimal way, without having to irrigate their garden daily with a huge quantity of water (isn’t saving water in the drylands a MUST ?).

I wonder if we could not set up local or regional collecting points for these yoghurt pots and offer them afterwards to NGOs for their development projects in the drylands. Impossible ? Anyway, it would be much easier than constructing a dam or boring well No. 126.417 !

Why ? Well, here are my pictures. Enjoy !

Yoghurt 01
Using two yoghurt pots for one mini-greenhouse set :
Left : lid of one pot with lower part of the pot.
Right : another pot.
Click on the picture to enlarge it.
Mini-greenhouse before filling the cup inside with potting soil.
lid + cup greenhouse set
Left : lid + cup / Right : complete set of mini-greenhouse.
Left : cup with Sorghum-seedlings in potting soil.
Right : yoghurt pot used as cover.
seedlings in mini-greenhouse
Sorghum seedlings in mini-greenhouse. Top with 4 perforations to allow minimal evaporation and penetration of oxygen inside the pot.
Set of 3 mini-greenhouses
Set of 3 mini-greenhouses with cherimoyas (Annona cherimola), lychees (Litchi chinensis) and sorgho (Sorghum bicolor).