Plastic bottles and bags: precious jewels for container gardening (Willem)

On September 12th, 2007 Riziki SHEMDOE sent the following message :

“I have been reading on the container gardening experiments that you have been doing. This has encouraged me to put up a proposal on introducing this technology to the rural semiarid areas of Tanzania where normally crop production is very poor due to drought and poor soil fertility. I am requesting to know whether there are some best practices from the third world countries that you have come across regarding the use of this technology in improving rural food security and poverty alleviation? I will be grateful if you share with me some of the best practices so that I may use them to strengthen my proposal. I look forward to reading from you.
Kindest regards,
Riziki. “

Riziki Silas Shemdoe (MSc)
Institute of Human Settlements Studies,
University College of Lands and Architectural Studies
P.O.Box 35124 Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Here is my reply :

The easiest and most practical way for people in developing countries to practice container gardening is to collect a large number of plastic (PET) bottles and plastic shopping bags. It’s clean and cheap. Moreover, it helps to take care of our environment !

The plastic bottles should be cut in two : a shorter bottom part (the cup, used as a water tank) and a longer top part (with the stop still on), to be filled with potting soil. In order to cut the bottle in two optimal parts, define the length of the two parts approximately so that, turning over the top part (that will contain potting soil later on) and sliding it into the bottom part, the stop is touching or almost touching the bottom of the cup. If this is not the case the bottle will be rather unstable. Then, a small slit should be cut at the edge at two opposite sides of the bottom cup so that the top part of the bottle can be pushed into the cup until the stop reaches the bottom (short slits will open a bit). It is better to have the bottom cup a bit too long than too short (stability). One can always cut the two slits !

The bottleneck should be perforated at two opposite sides, close to the stop, to create drainage possibilities if too much water is poured in the bottle and to create water absorption possibilities from the bottom cup. Holes of 5 mm diameter are sufficient.

When filling up the inverted top part with potting soil, the soil should be well compressed in order to avoid larger air cavities in the bottle. I recommend to mix a water stocking soil conditioner with the potting soil, but if this is not possible for financial constraints, don’t hesitate to do it without.

During the first days, watering should be abundant to eliminate too much air in the potting soil. As the infiltrating surplus of water will run through the two openings in the bottleneck into the bottom cup (water tank), and as evaporation will be limited (only through the top opening of the bottle), one can save a lot of irrigation water and produce significantly more biomass with less water (less leaching of nutrients from the potting soil, and less evaporation).

Isn’t this a nice solution for some of our main environmental problems in the drylands ?
—————-
The same advantages are offered when growing vegetables or young trees in the classical plastic shopping bags.

Fill up a plastic bag with potting soil for 2/3, and keep the two handles of the bag upright, simply by pushing them up and sustaining them with two pieces of a small branch or another support (one at each side of the bag). Thus, a shallow cavity is created above the potting soil in which water can be poured from time to time.

Don’t forget to perforate the lower part of the plastic bag a couple of times at the two opposite sides of the bag, e.g. 2-3 little holes (not slits !) at both sides approximately 1-3 cm ( 0.5 – 1 inch) above the bottom (and not in the bottom itself, so that a bit of water can be kept temporarily in the bag). Vegetables can be seeded or planted in the potting soil. Young tree seedlings can also be grown in such a simple plastic bag.
—————–
FOR BOTH BOTTLES AND BAGS :

Considerable advantages :

(1) more biomass with less water (because of less leaching and less evaporation).

(2) eliminate plastic from the environment by burying the used plastic bottles and bags at the end of the growing season, e.g. when planting the tree seedlings in a planting hole (ecological cleaning).

Caution : avoid heating in the bottles or bags by keeping them in half-shade or in places where the number of hours of sunshine is limited (not a full day).

Please set up some experiments and discover the real advantages of gardening in plastic bottles and bags, not in the least the provision of food security and the alleviation of poverty. That’s what I call a success story or best practice for sustainable rural development. I hope that once my preaching in the desert will be heard.

PS. Have a look at my former postings to discover pictures and drawings.

————-

RIZIKI’s IMMEDIATE REPLY

“Thank you so much, Prof., for the explanations and the methodological approaches. I will try something in this area. This will really relieve our poor people in the dryland-areas to improve their nutrition. Similarly this will assist in improving the environmental sanitation by giving use values to the plastic bottles that are being thrown everywhere in our cities. Thank you.
Riziki.”

Container gardening: growing edibles (Google Alert / Daily Times)

Already published on my desertification weblog on May 31, 2007

Container gardening: growing edibles (Google Alert / Daily Times)

May 31, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in desert/desert gardening, women/youth and desertification, container/bottle gardening, food / food security, success stories – best practices, soil, sustainability, water. trackback , edit post

Read at :

Google Alert for Gardening

The Daily Times

http://www.delmarvanow.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070529/OPI06/705290308/-1/OPI

Container gardening: Fun and simple way to grow edibles


OCEAN PINES — Spring is the time of year when the spirit of Martha Stewart comes out in many gardeners who dream of growing flowers, herbs and enough fresh vegetables to make homemade salads every night. However, many have not grown careers out of planting seeds and may not always have the time to dedicate like Martha does. According to Laura Hunsberger, an agriculture educator in Worcester County, even though time may not allow for constant gardening, there are fun, cheap and easy ways to produce vegetation. Hunsberger spoke at a recent meeting of the Ocean Pines Garden Club about the advantages of container gardens in a presentation called, “Container Vegetable Gardening: Healthy Harvests from Small Spaces.”

Hunsberger said container gardening is a fun and simple way to grow edible gardens, and everyone from novice gardeners to college students, children and people with physical limitations can participate. “In my head I may have a beautiful garden, but time doesn’t allow that,” Hunsberger said. “Instead, container gardening is a great way to grow a vegetable and you can do it with your kids and family.” “By growing a vegetable, people are having a connection with their food source and it is just more fun and rewarding,” she said. Continue reading Container gardening: growing edibles (Google Alert / Daily Times)

Gardening in a bottlerack (Willem)

 Already published on my desertification weblog on May 12, 2007

Gardening in a bottlerack

May 12, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in gardening kids, horticulture/gardening, desert/desert gardening, container/bottle gardening, family gardens, school gardens, success stories – best practices, water, soil, desertification, sustainability, technologies. trackback , edit post Being convinced there is a nice future for growing vegetables or other plants in plastic bottles, filled with a mix of potting soil and a soil conditioner like TerraCottem, I am continuously thinking about variants to enlarge application possibilities.

As in the drylands extreme drought, and thus extreme evaporation, is one of the main problems for agriculture and gardening, I suggest to limit this evaporation by using a plastic bottle to obtain a higher water use efficiency. Indeed, water can be stocked in a volume of potting soil, wherein a water absorbing soil conditioner can play its supplementary water stocking role. Please have a look at my former posting on this blog:

Mon potager dans des bouteilles en plastique / My vegetable garden in plastic bottles

May 10, 2007

This message contains info on how to transform a normal plastic bottle into an efficient container for growing all kinds of plants, even young trees (to be transplanted when reaching sufficient height).

Today, I present you an idea on a “bottlerack“, useful under different conditions : Continue reading Gardening in a bottlerack (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

http://katiehumphry.wordpress.com/2007/05/08/container-free-balcony-gardening/#comment-1281

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)

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)