Water-wise gardening (Google / Clovis Independent)

Read at : Google Alert – desert gardening


Water-wise gardening tips

Water-wise gardening is a hot topic. Landscape irrigation accounts for 50% of the average household’s water usage. As more communities are forced to regulate and reduce water usage, conservation efforts are directed, first and foremost, to educating homeowners about water conservation in the garden. Some of the terms used in discussions about water-wise gardening may be unfamiliar or a little confusing. Here is a brief explanation of a few of the most commonl used terms in discussing water- wise gardening.

Xeriscape: The word “xeros” comes from the Greek word for “dry.” Some earlier examples of xeriscape gardening did indeed look dry, dusty and empty with a few cacti and other desert natives scattered over barren soil. Newer methods of teaching xeriscape gardening include:

– Adding organic materials (compost, humus) to create well-draining soil that holds water well.

– Topping planting beds with a 6- to 8-inch layer of mulch to cut water needs in half.

– Reducing the size of the lawn.

– Replacing thirsty turf grass with drought-tolerant ground covers or perennials.

– Choosing native perennial plants or those that are suitable for the local climate.

Hydrozone: Refers to the practice of grouping plants with similar irrigation needs together. Gardens can be designed so that heavy water users such as roses are irrigated separately from more drought-tolerant plants.



Urban gardening with waste water in Zimbabwe (Willem Van Cotthem)

When reading a former posting on my desertification blog, I could not resist thinking how easy it could be to help the gardeners in Bulawayo by sending them lots of free seeds of vegetables collected by our action “Seeds for Food”.

Please read the second paragraph :

“Using waste water has helped me to grow vegetables for sale,” Maziya told IPS. “I have used money from the sale of these vegetables to put my children through school. The project has made a difference for my family and I. “My wish now is to improve the variety of vegetables I grow here to include carrots, spinach, tomatoes cabbage and onions which will increase my income.” Maziya is one of about a thousand farmers who are part of a project to grow leaf vegetables such as rape, sugar beans and maize using treated waste water. “

Now suppose that some development aid organization or a NGO wants to help these urban farmers in Bulawayo to seeds.  Probably they would buy them in Zimbabwe (thus helping the local seed producing companies).  Wouldn’t it be wise to save that money for other aid actions and use our free seeds for urban gardening ?

We can only offer to help gardeners, wherever they need seeds.  Just ask !

2008 - Allotment gardens Slotenkouter (Ghent City, Belgium) - Successful application of an Indian organic fertilizer (left untreated, right treated).

Rainwater storage and drip irrigation (Kenny Point – Veggie Gardening Tips)

Read at : Kenny Point – Veggie Gardening Tips


Use and Storage of Runoff Rainwater

One thing that really stood out was the importance that is placed on water conservation in St. Croix despite the fact that the land is situated in the midst of a vast ocean. Fresh water is crucial to survival and a resource that is valued and preserved.

Every building is required by law to incorporate a design to capture and recycle runoff rain water rather than allow it to simply filter into the ground. Most businesses and residences sit atop cisterns that store thousands of gallons of runoff water for future use.

At the sustainable farm where I stayed, all of the irrigation water is distributed through drip tape and lines arranged on the soil’s surface to reduce losses through evaporation or spray drifts and to deliver the water precisely where individual plants are growing.

There are many advantages to the commercial use of drip irrigation systems and emitters but I’m beginning to consider experimenting with some type of drip system for my backyard in the near future.

Rain Reserve Water Conservation Kit

Your water supply may not be as dire as what I noted in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but here is a great system for catching roof water runoff and putting that rain water to better uses around your home and garden.

This kit includes everything that you need except the barrels (which can easily be sourced locally) to convert your homes downspout system into a water saving source of pure, distilled rainwater for irrigation and other non potable uses.

Best of all, this is a two barrel system that will provide you with twice the water storage capacity that you’ll find elsewhere. I used this kit to convert my downspout this past summer and the process was quick, easy, and painless! Now I always have a reserve of clean rainwater on hand to use in the garden, pond, or patio anytime I need it.


Effect of a new Indian organic fertilizer (Willem)

My Indian correspondent Yogesh PATEL has sent to me 5 kg of a new organic fertilizer he has developed. With my friends of the allotment gardens Slotenkouter in 9040 ST.AMANDSBERG (Belgium) we have set up some tests on different vegetables. In due time we will present a detailed report on the results. Today and with great pleasure, I can publish the first pictures showing the very positive effect on the growth of carrots. Please enjoy with us this remarkable success in one of the allotment gardens :

Edward VUEGHS in his nice allotment garden, showing proudly the effect of the PATEL- fertilizer on carrots.

Four rows of carrots sown the same day. A few weeks later the soil along the rows was treated from left to right as follows :

Row 1 and Row 2 (left) : carrots treated with a mixture of 4kg of PATEL-fertilizer per 80 kg of local garden soil.
Row 3 (center) : carrots untreated, growing in local, quite fertile garden soil.
Row 4 (right) : carrots treated with a mixture of 2 kg of PATEL-fertilizer per 80 kg of local garden soil.

See the remarkable difference in growth and this only 14 days after treatment.

Row 1 and Row 2 (left) : carrots treated with a mixture of 4kg of PATEL-fertilizer per 80 kg of local garden soil.
Row 3 (center) : carrots untreated, growing in local, quite fertile garden soil.
Row 4 (right) : carrots treated with a mixture of 2 kg of PATEL-fertilizer per 80 kg of local garden soil.

Still any doubts about the positive effect of PATEL’s fertilizer ?

In a couple of weeks, I will gladly inform you on the results of the carrot harvest by Edward VUEGHS. Stay tuned on the value of Yogesh PATEL’s organic fertilizer !

I am now wondering if this fertilizer can help us to combat drought and desertification. Therefore, I intend to use it in combination with our TerraCottem water and fertilizer stocking soil conditioner in some of the drylands, e.g. In the refugee camps in Algeria or in Tamil Nadu (India).

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

Already published at my desertification blog : http://desertification.wordpress.com

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 <willem.vancotthem@gmail.com>. 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 : http://desertification.wordpress.com

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 http://zadenvoorleven.wordpress.com).
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).