Gardening in a bottlerack

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 bottlesMay 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 :

1. In the drylands, where it can be interesting to fix the bottlerack against a shady wall (less evaporation when limiting direct sunshine).

2. Fixing the bottlerack on a wall protected from the main wind direction (less evaporation when less wind).

3. Fixing one or more bottleracks against a wall when not enough open space is available for growing plants directly in the soil.

Here are some drawings, made by my son Paul with the SketchUp program, to illustrate my ideas about such a bottlerack (with bottles prepared according to my suggestions in the former posting mentioned above).

Rack 1
Bottlerack with 20 bottles attached to a wall (double click on the picture to enlarge it).

Rack 2
Top view on the bottlerack.

Rack 3
Materials used for the bottlerack:

1. A (wooden) board

2. in which the chosen number of screw eyes, each with a piece of rope (to fix the upper part of the bottle)

3. and the same number of square screw hooks are drilled.

4. The necessary number of prepared plastic bottles.

Rack 4
The way the bottles are fixed on the board:

1. The bottle will be put on the square screw hook (of which the hook points upwards), with the drainage hole sliding over the hook.

2. The small rope will be knotted around the upper part of the bottle and tightly fixed on the screweye.

This way, the bottle is firmly sitting against the board and all bottles are in an upright position.

The board should be strongly fixed on the wall with 2-3 hooks. Take into account the weight of the bottles with their content of potting soil, water and plants.

Please give it a try and let me know about your experience with your own version of THE BOTTLERACK (preferably with some pictures).

With my sincere thanks.


Comment on “Mon potager dans des bouteilles en plastique / My vegetable garden in plastic bottles”

This morning I received a fine email message, putting me in a good mood.  It contained a comment on my yesterday’s posting:

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

Thanks, Mary, and looking forward for your observation notes (and photos ?).

Read at :


this is amazing, I had worked today in my small garden outside. I ran out of space and I still have seedlings, tomorrow first thing in the morning I’m going to try this experiment.
I’m glad I looked at Bobs 34cents blog today and saw your comment, that made me get here.
Fantastic, will keep my results posted here and on Africa54.


For those interested in africa54:

Africa54: Share your knowledge here benefit communities

Africa54 is a social cultural exploration of the African continent and its diversity. Issues such as information technology, sustainable agriculture, community economic development, food and Nature will be our regular fare. Your expertise in the topics covered, will be of use here, and will benefit many villages. We are looking for partnerships with NGO’s that have experience in eradicating poverty in Africa.

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

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.

Growing Vegetables in Pots (About Gardening)

Read at :

About Gardening

“Marie Iannotti – Gardening Guide” <>

Growing Vegetables in Pots

You don’t need a plot of land to grow fresh vegetables. Many vegetables lend themselves well to container gardening. With some thought to selecting bush or dwarf varieties, almost any vegetable can be adapted to growing in a pot. Vegetables that take up little space, such as carrots, radishes and lettuce, or crops that bear fruits over a long period of time, such as tomatoes and peppers, are perfect for container vegetable gardens. Continue reading “Growing Vegetables in Pots (About Gardening)”

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

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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. Continue reading “Renew used potting soil (Google Alert / Gardening-Yardening)”

Container-Free Balcony Gardening (Katie Humphry)

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Google Alert for gardening

Katie Humphry

 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.


willem van cotthem said,

May 9, 2007 @ 4:04 am

Excellent idea. Recently, I developed some plans to use plastic bags, as a sort of very cheap containers, in a school garden project in Algeria. I believe we can educate pupils and students to “recycle” those plastic bags (and bottles) by growing vegetables, ornamental plants and even fruit trees in them. Instead of throwing them away and pollute our environment, they can have a lot of interesting activities and fun. I will report on the results of our initiatives with plastic bags and bottles on my blog

Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem

My comment to Paul Duxbury’s “Potager”

I like Paul’s contribution very much (see the former message on this blog).  Although it contains mainly some general views on the matter, it may invite some people to start “potagering” at home.  Well done, Paul !

Let me just make a comment on one sentence : “Most potagers are grown in raised beds that allow better control over the drainage and reduce the chance of the vegetables from becoming waterlogged.“.  Alright, but !

I am very much in favor of setting up a vegetable garden in containers instead of in full garden soil, and this for  a couple of reasons.  Firstly, many people do not have the pleasure of disposing of an open gardening space.  When Paul says : “Potagers are particularly good for people who live on smaller lots of land or only have room for a small garden“, I am adding : “and for all those living in apartments, and having some space for a number of containers“.

That vegetable gardens (potagers) can be developed in all kinds of containers has already been discussed on this blog (see my former messages on “container gardening” and “bottle gardening“).

We will soon be applying these interesting gardening types for our UNICEF ALGERIA project in the Sahara desert in order to grow several kinds of vegetables and even young fruit trees in plastic bottles and plastic bags.  In doing so, the Saharawis people, living in the refugee camps in S.W. Algeria, will be able to avoid excessive evaporation when growing vegetables and fruit trees in the Sahara sand.  Thus, they will save a lot of irrigation water and obtain a maximum of food production with a minimum of water and labour.

Secondly, we will recycle a large number of bags and bottles for an interesting activity in family gardens and school gardens, thus eliminating a lot of plastic from the environment.  Kids will learn at school that plastic should not dwell around in nature, but that it can be used for food production (or flower production if you want so).  Used bags and bottles will be buried when planting the young trees, thus again avoiding too much plastic from spoiling the landscape (pollution).

Isn’t this a nice extension of Paul Duxbury’s potager type ?


Tomatoes in containers for food in refugee camps (HGTV)

Interested in container gardening for its potentialities to set up vegetable production in the drylands or deserts, I started some experiments in plastic bottles and plastic bags at home in Belgium (see former messages on this blog).  Currently, I am checking publications on container gardening for their “tips” to enhance our chances to grow food in the refugee camps of the Saharawis in S.W. Algeria.  Here is an article that may help us to grow tomatoes in containers, and why not, in plastic bags or bottles.

Read at :


Tomatoes in Containers

No room at all to garden? Not to worry. You can have a beautiful vegetable garden in pots. Here’s how to culture a tomato in a container:

  • Place a transplant in a plastic 15-inch-diameter container. You can use any kind of container–from a brand-new faux terracotta pot to a large plastic bucket. Just make sure that the container has drainage holes in the bottom.
  • As the plant grows, it becomes top heavy. Use a wooden pot trellis, a stake or a tomato cage to keep it upright.
  • Container tomatoes tend to grow bushy and unruly. Prune the side shoots regularly to produce a single stem that’s easier to support.
  • When the stem is about a foot tall, begin attaching it to the support. Thin strips of fabric make great ties.
  • Potted tomatoes need to be watered more frequently to keep from drying out. The best time to water is early in the day. To help the plants get off to a good start, apply a water-soluble starter fertilizer at the recommended rate.


As the conditions in the refugee camps in the Sahara desert are really extremely difficult (high temperatures, saline water), we are filling the plstic bottles and bags with a mixture of sand, organic soil collected in the corals of the goats and sheep and some TerraCottem soil conditioner (to keep more moisture in the containers).


Our experiments are very promising.  We believe to be able to grow all kinds of vegetables in these bottles and bags.  Moreover, we clean the environment, as these bottles and bags are not flying around anymore : they are recycled for food production !

We will keep you informed. 


Urban container gardening (Google Alert / The Ottawa Citizen)

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Google Alert for : gardening

The Ottawa Citizen

The joys and perils of urban gardening

Kate Heartfield, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2007

For me, this year, Earth Day lost a capital letter. It was about earth this year: the brown stuff with worms in it. As an urbanite with an environmental bent, April 22 has always been a time for me to think about Earth, the planet. It’s been a time to conserve electricity, to walk, to reduce, re-use and recycle garbage. This year, it was also about tending the four tomato plants growing at an alarming rate on the top of a bookcase in my downtown apartment (one of the few places my cats can’t jump). It was about getting closer to the earth. Actually, it was about getting closer to a seedling mix of sustainably harvested peat, compost and perlite. But you know what I mean.

Continue reading “Urban container gardening (Google Alert / The Ottawa Citizen)”

Container gardening for food production, combating desertification and gardening in urban areas

Here are some general ideas on CONTAINER GARDENING, more and more successful for food production in the drylands, for combating desertification and for growing plants in urban areas.

Unlimited possibilities

When the ability to garden is limited by different factors, like available space or drought in the drylands, then consider container gardening. The simple concept of growing plants in pots or even in plastic bottles or plastic shopping bags, offers a variety of ways to enjoy gardening and produce plants in the most difficult circumstances. All you are looking for is: some containers (see below), the right growing medium, the right choice of plants (seeds, seedlings or young plants) and a window, a balcony, a porch or an open area, preferably with a sunny and a shady part. In these mini-gardens one can easily control the type and condition of the soil and pest control is easier since one can isolate the infected plants.

2007-03 Decapitated bottle2007-03 Bottle with parsley2007-03 2 bottles2007-03 : 4 bottles
Container gardening in plastic bottles : (1) Top of bottle sits over hole in bottom of bottle, (2) Bottle filled with growing medium and parsley seedling planted, (3) Lettuce and cauliflower growing on a bottle, (4) Vegetables growing on bottles of different sizes.

Containers will offer the joy of growing plants in an area where traditional gardening is impossible, e.g. in desert-like areas. Even when space is limited, like in urban areas, one can grow plants anywhere: on a windowsill, a doorstep, a balcony, a stair or a patio, even a rooftop, in hanging baskets or in old buckets. They all can provide enough space for an attractive and even productive (e.g. for vegetables) display.

One can also grow different plant species in one single container in ecological relationships. Container gardening makes observation easy and, whenever necessary, containers can easily be moved around. They can be positioned as screens, serve as windbreaks, brighten a room or create shade.

A well-planned container garden can be attractive (ornamentals) as well as useful (vegetables, fruits, herbs), e.g. to produce fresh food in the drylands or to combat desertification.

2007-03 Bottle collection
Vegetable production in plastic bottles

Taking good care of it will result in a beautiful and functional display, but whenever deciding to give it a try: start small.

Smaller gardens result in lower costs. Initial costs for container gardening may be a bit higher, but once all the necessary materials are purchased, costs are extremely limited: less growing medium, less fertilizer, fewer plants.

Container gardening is only limited by lack of imagination.

Continue reading “Container gardening for food production, combating desertification and gardening in urban areas”

Growing tomatoes in container (Google Alert / The News – Sentinel)

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Google Alert : gardening

The News – Sentinel

Gardening Q&A

By Nancy Brachey

McClatchy Newspapers


Q: Please tell me how to grow Big Boy and heirloom tomatoes in containers. How big should the pot be and what kind of soil?

A: You have a great opportunity ahead, one that is shared by many people living in townhouses and apartments with little garden space.

It is not hard to grow tomatoes in containers such as large black nursery pots, which people may have left over from their tree-planting. However, I don’t think you are choosing the best plants for this project.

The best choice would be one of the tomato varieties that grow to a set height, rather than produce vines that require a serious amount of staking and training.

I think Bush Celebrity is a good choice, but you should see others among the tomato plants this spring. It will still need a stake, but nothing like what your Big Boy choice would require. Also, Big Boy also does not possess the resistance to disease of newer varieties like Celebrity.

Heirloom tomatoes produce wonderful, good-tasting fruit, but most are quite susceptible to various tomato diseases. However, there is nothing quite as good as a Brandywine tomato in summer, so the risk is worth it.

The soil in these pots must be fertile and loose so that the roots can develop to the max. Buy fresh potting soil. Do not use last year’s or soil taken out of the garden. Garden soil is too dense for container plants.

Get a small amount of fertilizer formulated for tomato plants and use according to the timing and amounts stated on the label. This is a small project, so you should be able to tend those tomatoes like cherished babies.

The dicey thing is watering. The plants must not be allowed to dry out, and containers dry out much faster in the summertime.

During hot weather, that probably means watering every morning, taking care to keep the leaves as dry as possible. And because the pots will be in open sunshine, they will be at risk of drying out when July gets hot, as we know it will.

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