A simple question about hunger, a difficult answer (Willem Van Cotthem)

Today, all over the developed world, important parts of the population are combating the economic crisis and in particular the food crisis by switching to production of fresh food. Produced at home, even in the smallest quantities, this “own fresh food” plays a considerable  role in the well-being of families, in particular of children.  Container gardening, vertical gardening, bottle towers, gardening on risers, balconies or windowsills, hydroponics, aquaponics, gardening in self-watering buckets, bags, sacks, crates, boxes, pots, guerilla gardening, edible forests, …, it are all different initiatives taken to alleviate  hunger and malnutrition problems.

Day after day, messages and photos or videos on the internet confirm that people feel the need to produce  their own fresh food, even in the smallest available space, e.g. a balcony on the 17th floor in the city.  It is marvelous to notice that most of these “novice farmers or gardeners” proudly announce the successes of their first experiments and the swift progress made thanks to “lessons learned” and “exchange of information”.

Thanks to these personal initiatives of private gardening, the most vulnerable part of the population in developed countries is less affected by the food crisis, in particular by the high food prices.

Therefore, I feel the need to formulate a very simple question :

“If a large group of people in developed countries, affected by the actual crises and suffering from hunger or malnutrition because of the high food prices, is successfully setting up actions to produce an important part of their own food, why don’t we teach the billion hungry people, mostly living in developing countries, to do the same ?”.

The answer to this question seems to be a very difficult one.

My Chinese friends are telling me : “Don’t bring that hungry man a fish that he will eat in one day, but teach him how to fish and he will eat all year long“.

As Chinese is not my mother tongue, I translated it into : “Don’t bring the hungry people rations of nutritious food that they will eat in one day, but teach them how to grow their own fresh food and they will eat all year long”.


Purely by coincidence I found today these 3 publications confirming that food production has become a very hot topic all over the world.  Please read :




Captions of photos :

  • “By growing different vegetables, Ainob Bibi is able to supply her own family and earn money”
  • “Sack gardening does not require much space”
  • “Sack gardening has also empowered women, who most often organise and take care of the gardens”



2012 : And the result of growing vegetables and herbs in bottle towers (Photo WVC)
Fresh food galore in a small space : The result of growing vegetables and herbs in bottle towers (Photo WVC)

Involving young people in food production in arid regions (Willem)

During the last 20 years, we have booked a lot of successes with involving girls and boys in food production in arid and semi-arid regions. No one denies that children are very keen on participating in gardening activities.  Many initiatives are focusing on “Kids Gardening“.

Have a look at some of the many examples :






Today I was reading a publication, confirming how interesting it is to involve kids in food production :


Pangasinan pupils to learn ‘pinakbet’ gardening


URDANETA CITY – Schools in Pangasinan are set become venues for food production by elementary students. Through Gulayan at Maisan sa Eskwelahan or GAMES, students are going to be encouraged to engage themselves in vegetable gardening, said Abono Partylist Representative Rosendo So.

The project aims to encourage instill to pupils, at their young age, the value of nutrition, good health, as well as productivity and love for work. It further aims to establish schools as small-scale food production sites which would help ease shortage of food, So added. Students would be taught how to plant “pinakbet vegetables” such as string beans, squash, okra, tomato and bitter gourd, together with high-value crops like yellow corn. Seeds and fertilizers would be given free. Aside from enjoying the fruits of their labor, students and schools with winning gardens would reportedly be awarded a new school building.

The creation of family “kitchen” gardens and school gardens can indeed play a very important role “as small-scale food production sites which would help ease shortage of food“.  Striking examples of the positive contribution of such small gardens can be seen in the refugee camps of the Saharawis people in the Sahara desert (Tindouf region, S.W. Algeria).  One can find a number of pictures of these gardens on this very blog.

Combating desertification, preventing food insecurity and even hunger or famine, even alleviating poverty by installing small-scale kitchen gardens for families and schools should be considered by any international organization concerned, by any governmental and non-governmental organization.

It does not suffice to “speak” about best practices and success stories, we should apply them at the largest scale possible.  Probably one has to adapt these best practices and success stories to the local conditions?  Probably one has to combine these with traditional methods and technologies?  Why not?  But it should be done, and as soon as possible.

We can even make all the kids of this world in crisis happier by offering them a chance to contribute to finding a nice solution for food shortages and poverty.  Let’s give them this chance by helping them to their own family garden, even in the cities (see possibilities to start with allotment gardens, vertical gardens, indoor container gardening,).  Why would people start guerilla gardening, if there weren’t reasons enough to produce food on every available “square foot”?

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

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.

Automatic Watering For Plants (Plant Care Tips)

Read at : Plant Care Tips


Automatic Watering For Plants

Plant Watering Even When You’re on Vacation

Question: I’m looking for some advice on ways to automatically water my plants. I enjoy my houseplants very much and they look great thanks to many of your tips. However, my family is finally taking a vacation and I hate the thought of all my plants suffering while we’re gone for 2 weeks. How can I mix a vacation, watering and plants together? Diane, NJ

Answer: Diane, watering your plants while out of town or on vacation can be a problem. On the market you can find a self watering pot, large and small in size but it can get expensive outfitting all your houseplants for a short time. I happen to like self watering pots especially for those with a busy lifestyle.

Automatic Plant Watering

SmartHome.com offers an “automatic watering system for plants” system. It’s called the Deluxe Plant Watering System and is capable of handling the automatic watering for 14 plants over a two-week schedule.

The plant watering system is intended for indoor use only. The system comes equipped with a lightweight 7-liter plastic container to hold water, a 65-foot hose (19 meters approximately) and 14 taps with adjustable nozzles to regulate how much water each plant receives.

The automatic watering tank needs a firm level surface and should sit above or the same height as the plants you plan on watering. Since we’re talking about water – potential leaks can always be a problem, DO NOT sit the watering tank on any electrical appliances.

With 65-foot of tubing you have plenty of tubing to spread the plants out, give them good lighting and still water them. Spacing the plants a foot or two apart should be fine.

The back of the watering tank has an outlet connector where you’ll connect the first tube after cutting the tube to the desired lengths. The other end of the tube gets placed into it’s own “water tap.” The tap connects to another tube going to the next plant in a daisy chain pattern. You’ll repeat the process until you have all of your houseplants or window planters “ready for automatic watering duty.” On the last plant you’ll put a stopper in the outgoing tap.

Make Your Own Self Watering System Continue reading “Automatic Watering For Plants (Plant Care Tips)”

Container gardening inspirations (Appartment Gardening Homes)

Read at : http://www.apartment-gardening-homes.com/containergardening.html

Container gardening inspirations

E-book- The home of indoor plant careClick Here!

Container gardening can be a hobby in itself. It is one means of bringing life and colour into a concrete jungle. With this style of gardening, rooftop penthouses shine and unit balconies and window sills glow with vibrant colour. Yes, and indoor plant-life, too, will bring a smile. One reason? Container Gardens are easy to establish and maintain, taking up so little time, but rewarding you with so much.

Put ‘em anywhere- well, almost.

Plants in pots need not be limited to soil-less areas. They can be used to spice up entrances, terraces, patios, and to create lovely vantage points around the garden. So be creative. Be daring. Use your imagination. If it doesn’t work, all you’ll do is develop a bicep in moving them.

Tip. Keep roots trimmed as they come outside the pot. Re-pot the plant when it becomes root-bound, and go up one-third the size the original pot when re-potting. Re-potting and prunning helps and encourages rejuvenation. In container gardening you need to prune and re-pot late in the afternoon out of the sun, or on cool days.

So many varieties of plants can be grown in this way. These include shrubs, small trees, herbs, vegetables, flowers, annuals, perrenials, bulbs, rockery plants and more. Whatever style you desire can be created using the correct techniques.

So lets get to it! There’s fun to be had and lot’s to learn.

And more Tips

Keep pots out of the mid summer sun. Arrange it so they are placed to provide beneficial shade to one another. Choose a pot of suitable size for the plant. A guide to an adequate size container: it should be just a little wider than the spread of the plant. This prevents stagnation.

Drainage is important. So please use a recognised potting mix and not soil from the ground. Ground soil is not designed for the use in containers. It becomes air-less and creates bad drainage. Ground soil is prone to becoming stagnant creating disease and an unhealthy, unhappy plant.

How would you like to be in a confined spaced with mud up to your armpits? Even the bumbly bees snub a plant in this condition. Terracota pots are prone to drying out quickly so seal their insides with a quality sealant. Your local nursery can provide this.

In winter let that pot plant almost dry out occasionally; short periods, only of course. Keep it so the soil is slightly damp to 5cm-7cm deep.

Feed in Spring and follow requirements for individual plants. A general slow release potting fertiliser is okay for most plants. liquid fertilise every two weeks in spring and summer.

The Herbs? For container gardening



Feeding their hungry mouths (container gardening)


Repotting for container gardening


Howja do it?


Have A Tip, Or Article For Container Gardening?

“What’s your favorite container gardening plant?”. Add your knowledge here! Become involved. Upload a photo, let us all enjoy, and learn from your knowledge!

The Joy of Indoor Gardening (Google / Home&Family)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening


The Joy of Indoor Gardening

Indoor gardening involves so much more than sticking an artificial plant in the corner of a room and dusting the leaves off every so often! Growing plants indoors is a rewarding hobby that provides beautiful decoration and usable products, while removing carbon dioxide, pollutants and poisonous toxins from the air in your home. Indoor gardening is inexpensive and easy to do – even for those without green thumbs! The basic rules of maintenance for indoor gardening are different than outdoor gardens, but they can be learned easily. Continue reading “The Joy of Indoor Gardening (Google / Home&Family)”

Desk-top gardening (Google / Contracostatimes)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening



Desk-top gardening

  • Liven up office with greenery
  • By Joan Morris STAFF WRITER

    With winter weather making even the most dedicated horticulturist dread venturing out in the garden, itchy fingers may find solace in a little desk-top agriculture. Consumers have had an on-again/off-again love affair with houseplants, but more and more people are filling their office cubicles with bits of greenery these days. Industry experts report that houseplant sales are increasing each year, and surveys show people are using them in greater numbers outside the home.

    Companies that specialize in creating green spaces in work environments also are on the rise. “Green plants bring us many benefits, both physiological and psychological,” says Kenneth Brewer, national technical manager for Initial Tropical Plants, the nation’s leading provider of plants to businesses. And with people and businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprints, plants are finding a place in the office, Brewer says.

    “Plants are installed in buildings because they look attractive and help to provide a pleasant, tranquil environment in which to work or relax,” he says. “Research has shown that healthy, well-maintained plants can improve air quality, reduce background noise and affect peoples’ behavior. Plants help to reduce the irritating background noise produced by talking, office equipment and reverberations from hard surfaces. Plants help to keep the air in buildings fresh and at an optimal humidity level.”

    There’s just one little problem: How to keep the little green buggers alive. Continue reading “Desk-top gardening (Google / Contracostatimes)”

    Landscape gardening for the home (Google Alert / The Telegraph)

    Read at : Google Alert – gardening


    Landscape gardening for the home

    Interior landscaping isn’t just for offices: it can bring any room to life, says Sue Hoy

    Indoor plants get a raw deal in Britain. The green-fingered Dutch understand only too well the benefits of flourishing house plants and use them as an integral part of their interior design, but we lag far behind. That may be about to change. Interior landscape design is big business. Modern buildings with their high glass atriums and huge areas of windows demand the softer shapes and contrasting green of plants. The time is ripe for homes to get the same treatment. Research has shown that plants can relieve sick building syndrome by increasing humidity, reducing noise and air temperature, and removing pollutants from the air. NASA has shown that the Dragon Tree, Dracaena, widely used in interior landscaping, is very effective for “scrubbing” pollutants such as benzine and formaldehyde from the air in stuffy offices. “Plants can also help to direct people into certain areas in public buildings, and to relieve stress and make them feel more comfortable,” says Nick Brammall, of Ambius, one of the largest international interior landscaping companies. Continue reading “Landscape gardening for the home (Google Alert / The Telegraph)”

    Growing plants in window boxes (Google Alert / Dersalsites)

    Read at : Google Alert / gardening


    Some Of  The Wonderful Plants You Can Grow In Window Boxes

    Here are some wonderful plants you can grow in window boxes:

    Canterbury-Bells. Choice biennial, with long-lasting bells in purple, lavender, blue, pink, and white. Worth the effort, even if they die after flowering. In the spring, garden centers offer budded specimens. For dramatic compositions, group several together. You can grow your own from seed sown in June or July.

    Delightful, with tall spikes covered with bells. Sow seed in June, or July and winter young plants in cold frame, or garden, covering with marsh hay, or evergreen branches. Old-fashioned kinds have bells on one side of the spikes, but the new English hybrids have flowers all around the stems. Pot-grown rosettes are available in spring.

    Herbs For Fragrance.
    If you like herbs and enjoy them in cooking, you can have an herb garden in containers. Try sun-loving rosemary, marjoram, parsley, sage, fennel, mint and chives in individual pots or tubs or with other plants in large boxes. Grow with them some of the scented-leaved geraniums, Perennials and Herbs like rose, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon, apple, and peppermint. Continue reading “Growing plants in window boxes (Google Alert / Dersalsites)”

    Growing herbs indoors (Dave’s Garden Weekly Newsletter)

    Read at : Dave’s Garden Weekly Newsletter for Dec. 10, 2007


    Growing Herbs Indoor Keeps the Fragrant Herb at Your Fingertips Year Round

    By Karen Jones (karri_sue)

    Regardless of the weather outside, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme can bring beauty and fragrance to your home anytime of the year. Fresh herbs liven up your recipes with little effort and oh so much pleasure! Just a few pots, a bright windowsill and a little attention will keep your herbs happy for months to come. The first, and one of the most important things to consider, is drainage.  Be sure that the pot has sufficient drainage holes as most herbs don’t like to have wet feet.  The soil  should be a quality grade potting soil that drains well.  Never use garden soil, it will become too compact for the roots to grow through easily.  An organic potting mix is ideal if you will be using the herbs for cooking.Light is an important factor to consider as well.  A garden window would be ideal, but you can make do with a sunny windowsill, preferably with a south facing exposure.  Most herbs are happy with six or more hours of sunlight a day.  If you cannot provide adequite light, a grow light can be installed for little money.  Most garden centers or hardware stores carry a variety of artificial lighting to suit your needs.

    Water your plants when the top of the soil feels dry.  Although herbs don’t require much fertilizer when grown outdoors, they will appreciate an occasional feeding, especially during the growing season.  An organic fertilizer would be preferable.

    Herbs should grow well in temperatures that are comfortable for people.  Most herbs are very forgiving and will tolerate differences in light and temperature if they are not extreme.

    Some varieties adjust better than others to growing indoors, so it is important before buying plants or seeds, that you read the label to see if that plant will do well indoors.  You may also want to consider the size that the plant will become as you won’t want a large bush taking over your kitchen!  Most herbs don’t mind being a bit crowded in the pot, the size of the pot will curb the growth to an extent.  Mint, chives, thyme, rosemary and oregano are good plants to consider growing indoors.


    Growing herbs indoors can be rewarding and enjoyable and anyone can do it, so give it a try!

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