Growing bulbs on a bottle (Willem)

Here is a simple idea for growing bulbs on a plastic bottle (a nice way to recycle plastic !) :

A bulb rack

A number of bulbs can be grown on one single bottle. Cut the wall of the bottle crosswise at 3-4 places and bend the 4 triangular parts outwards to form a cuplike cavity in which the bulbs can be placed. The bottle is filled with potting soil, mixed with a bit of water stocking soil conditioner, e.g. TerraCottem (see

Bulb bottle

We are getting a maximum of water use efficiency !

Bulb bottle detail
Detail view on two holes for holding a bulb.

Onions on a bottle
Onions on a bottle

One can also put the bottle upright and have the bulbs developing in 2-4 vertical rows.

Cheap grow bags (Willem)

More and more advertisements on grow bags are found on the internet. These are plastic bags, used as containers, filled with a quality substrate (potting soil with a good mineral and organic content). One recommends to purchase these grow bags in a green center or nursery. Of course, there is always a price tag on each of these grow bags.

However, we all know that numerous simple plastic bags (white, blue, black, etc.), used everywhere on all continents as shopping bags, constitute a heavy burden on the environment. Generally, these bags are thrown in the garbage bins, but in many developing countries they are simply littered and fly around in the streets. You will find many of them hanging in the trees as if it were huge blue, white and black flowers.

Here is my idea : why don’t we use them as cheap grow bags? We can easily fill them up with soil (possibly improved with some animal manure), close them tightly and cut some small holes (slits) for drainage in the bottom part. Seedlings or seeds can be put in small holes on top of the bag (number to be decided in function of the adult plant’s dimensions).

For climbing plants (like tomatoes, peas or beans) a cage or deepee can be put over the bag.

All kinds of vegetables, or even young trees can be grown on such cheap plastic bags. One can even imagine that school children use this system in the school yard, creating a school garden even on a concrete surface, thus helping to get rid of all that plastic in the streets or the environment. The kids would thus help to keep the environment cleaner, growing vegetables at school to supplement their lunches with vitamins and mineral elements.

Therefore, cheap plastic grow bags can be used as a simple didactic tool to create a sort of school garden in the school yard or along the wall of the classrooms. Millions of plastic bags all over the world would not be littered anymore, but taken to school to create productive gardens. Vegetables and young trees can thus be grown with a minimum of water, because the soil in the grow bags will be kept moistened for a longer time (less evaporation).

Young fruit trees, grown by the kids at school in those cheap grow bags, could be taken home at the end of the school year and planted close to their house. It suffices to dig a plant pit, put the plastic grow bag with the young tree in the pit, cut the bag open at 4 sides, bend the plastic completely open and fold the plastic under the rootball, fill up the plant pit with local soil, water the plant pit thoroughly and let the roots grow out.

The young fruit tree will continue its growth and we get rid of the buried plastic. Isn’t that nice ?

I wonder if you will set up an experiment with a couple of plastic grow bags. I am looking forward to read your comments and, hopefully, nice results (with some pictures?).

Strawberries in plastic bottles (Willem)

 Already published on my desertification weblog on May 24, 2007

Strawberries in plastic bottles

May 24, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in desert/desert gardening, container/bottle gardening, soil conditioning, horticulture/gardening, water, desertification, technologies. trackback , edit post

In former postings I described already the possibilities of growing vegetables in plastic bottles, e.g.:

Container-Free Balcony Gardening (Katie Humphry)

Mon potager dans des bouteilles en plastique / My vegetable garden in plastic bottles May 10, 2007

Gardening in a bottlerack

Jardinage dans une étagère de bouteilles May 12, 2007

Gardening in a bottlerack or simply on a bottle May 14, 2007

Today, I bring you some nice pictures of strawberries growing in such plastic bottles. Please look at the healthy condition of the flowering plants, bearing young, ripening fruits. I strongly believe that people in the drylands (but in fact everyone) can use this method to grow food crops with a minimum of water and fertilizer. Massive use of this kind of containers can help us to limit plastic waste, as also plastic bags can easily be used as containers for gardening in the vicinity of the house (and later on buried in the soil). Continue reading Strawberries in plastic bottles (Willem)

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

Already published on my desertification weblog on May 10, 2007

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

May 10, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in hunger / famine, soil conditioning, desert/desert gardening, container/bottle gardening, horticulture/gardening, success stories – best practices, experiments, technologies, water, desertification, pictures. 1 comment so far , edit post

Mes expériences avec des légumes poussant dans des bouteilles en plastique ont été très convaincants jusqu’à ce jour. Non seulement toutes les espèces se sont bien développées (sauf le chou-fleur qui a été infecté), mais je suis de plus en plus convaincu que cette méthode de jardinage peut être une contribution significative dans la lutte contre la désertification, la faim et la polllution de l’environnement (moins de plastique dans nos déchets). C’est une excellente pratique dans le domaine du “jardinage dans le désert“.

Afin de motiver un grand nombre de personnes à faire des essais pareils avec des légumes de leur choix (ou d’autres plantes), je vous montre quelques dessins et images. Je vous souhaite déjà beaucoup de plaisir et des observations intéressantes. Vous m’envoyez un petit rapport (si possible avec photos) ?


My experiments on growing vegetables in plastic bottles have been very convincing up to now. Not only all the species showed a good development (except for the cauliflower which was infected), but I am more and more convinced that this gardening method can be a significant contribution to the combat of desertification, hunger and pollution of the environment (less plastic in the household waste). It can efficiently be used for “desert gardening“.

In order to motivate a large number of people to set up similar trials with their choice of vegetables (or other plants), I bring you some drawings and pictures. Wishing you a lot a pleasure and interesting observations. Will you send me a small report (if possible with some photos) ?

Perforated bottles
Cliquez 2 fois pour agrandir le dessin

(1) Bouteille en plastique avec bouchon au sommet et le fond troué (drainage); (2) Bouchon enlevé et partie conique de la bouteille coupée; petite fente coupée dans la paroi du cône; (3) Cône glissé jusqu’au fond dans la bouteille; (4) Bouteille remplie avec du terreau contenant le conditionneur de sol TerraCottem hydroabsorbant, bien entassé jusqu’à 5 cm du sommet; (5) Graine(s) ou plantule(s) dans le terreau bien arrosé.

Beaux dessins faits par mon fils Paul avec le programme SketchUp (gratuit!).

Double click to enlarge the picture

(1) Plastic bottle with stop on top and perforated bottom (drainage); (2) Stop taken off and conical part of the bottle cut away; small slit cut in the cone; (3) Cone pushed to the bottom in the bottle; (4) Bottle filled with potting soil mixed with the water absorbing soil conditioner TerraCottem, well compacted up to 5 cm from the bottle top; (5) Seed(s) or seedling(s) in the soaked potting soil.

Nice drawings made by my son Paul with the SketchUp program (free!).

2007-03 Decapitated bottle
Une bouteille préparée : Le cône laisse entrer de l’air par le trou foré dans le fond de la bouteille; il facilite aussi l’évacuation d’un excès d’ (drainage).

Prepared bottle : Through the cone, air is penetrating in the potting soil via the hole in the bottom of the bottle; it enables also the evacuation of an excess of water (drainage).

2007-03 : 4 bottles
Bouteilles de dimensions différentes avec des légumes

Bottles of different dimensions with vegetables.

2007-03 Bottle collection
Mon petit potager dans mon bureau.

My small vegetable garden (potager) in my office.


J’espère recevoir vos commentaires et les rapports sur vos expériences.

I hope to receive your comments and the reports on your experiments.

Renew used potting soil (Google Alert / Gardening-Yardening)

Already published on my desertification weblog on May 10, 2007

Renew used potting soil (Google Alert / Gardening-Yardening) May 10, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in container/bottle gardening, soil conditioning, horticulture/gardening, fertilizer – nutrients, soil. trackback , edit post Read at :

Google Blogs Alert for gardening


Renew used potting soil

Old habits die hard, especially when it comes to gardening. At a time when recycling is considered a must rather than a movement, many gardening books still recommend replacing potting soil with fresh material annually. Wow, what a waste of valuable material. I’ve talked to growers at dozens of public and private gardens across the country, and they all reuse their potting soil from year to year. The caveat of course is a devastating disease that wipes out an entire pot, but that’s a rarity. It has happened to me. Forgetting to water doesn’t count.

To re-energize my potting soil I empty the contents of the container on a large tarp or work surface. I use the back of shovel or a garden fork to break up, mix and remove any vegetation from pile. This “waste” is added to the compost pile or dug into the veggie garden or holding bed.

When empty, pots with a whitish crust of salts around the edges should be scrubbed with a brush and washed with a bleach solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water, plus a few drops of dish soap and then rinsed.

Next, I mix the used container soil with fresh potting soil or compost at a rate of 2 parts used to 1 part fresh material and then dump it back in the pot.

When working with large containers, such as oak barrels, I take out about half the soil and break up what’s left with a garden fork. Fluffing the lower layer of potting soil helps to reduce compaction and improve drainage.

This year, I’m using the new premium compost, OrganiMax ( available only in southern Michigan; next year national), to enrich my potting soil. Along with top-grade compost, it’s laced with soil microbes, kelp and a host of other goodies, which I think will make my container gardens rock. It will be better than the original potting soil.

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)

Best way to keep container soils moist? (Willem)

Already published at my desertification blog on March 9, 2007

Best way to keep container soils moist?

March 9, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in fertilizer – nutrients, success stories – best practices, soil, water, technologies. trackback , edit post

Working for more than 20 years already with water absorbing polymers (also called “crystals” in gardening circles !) and having developed the soil conditioning method TerraCottem (see, I was very much intrigued when I encountered on the internet a discussion forum on “the best way to keep container soils moist“.

Let me take you through some nice and sometimes amusing contributions about several topics related to moist soils (!): Continue reading Best way to keep container soils moist? (Willem)