Urban Farming : combating desertification and poverty (C. DOHERTY Marion Institute)

My name is Caitlin Doherty and I am contacting you on behalf of the Marion Institute, who sponsors the ongoing Bioneers by the Bay Conference <http://connectingforchange.org/&gt; . We had Will Allen’s urban farming presentation yesterday and it was amazing!

Below is a short blog post about the presentation and what you can do to help in your community that we would love to have you re-post on your site.

Help us spread the word about this inspiring and essential environmental conference.

Please let me know if you have any questions at all and we really appreciate any mention you could give us.

Thanks so much.

Very best,

Caitlin Doherty

Common Sense NMS

http://www.commonsensenms.com <http://www.commonsensenms.com/&gt;


How You Can Take Urban Farming to Your Community

By Derek Christianson, Brix Bounty Farm

Inevitably when folks are exposed to the work of Will Allen and Growing Power their response is, “Whoa, he’s doing so much… composting with worms, aquaponics with tilapia and perch, economic revitalization, bringing healthy foods to inner city populations, and (pause)

How can we do this in our community?”

Will Allen often reminds people if they take away one thing from his presentation, “It’s about the soil”.  But when asked directly during his afternoon workshop at Bioneers by the Bay, How can we start this good food revolution in our community?, he responded with, “Start with building relationships.”

Relationships are one of the keys to developing access to land in urban areas, and they provide the security in tenure that allows the community to begin to create the healthy soil.  Fitting at a conference whose tagline is Connecting for Change, that Will would suggest in order to continue toward a good food revolution we must focus on our relationships.

I reckon its time we reaffirm our relationship to the soil and the wealth of nourishment it provides when cared for in a proper way.

If they do it in Washington, D.C. and Sulphur, LA, why don’t we do it in the drylands ? (Willem VAN COTTHEM / Google / The GW Hachet)

If students of the George Washington University in Washington D.C. can do it in the street “to teach people who and where their food comes from through service learning.“, and people in Sulphur, LA are laying out a community garden, why don’t we construc a vegetable garden for every hungry family in the drylands?  Wouldn’t that be the best investment ever to combat desertification and hunger in this world?

I hope this idea will be picked up by many student organisations and NGOs before the international agencies are taking the initiative to launch a “world programme on vegetable gardens“.

After all, if all over the world the so-called “guerilla gardening“-movement, allotment gardening and community gardening (see some former postings on this blog) shows that people react upon the food crisis by creating their own vegetable gardens at any available open space in the cities, time has come for decision makers to officialise this guerilla movement and multiply the small vegetable gardens at the largest possible scale.

As no special skills are needed, small kitchen gardens can be created everywhere in rural areas, but also in urban environment.

All those in favour, raise your hand (and your voice).

Willem Van Cotthem

‘Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the totality of those acts will be written the history of this generation.’

John F Kennedy


Read at : Google Alert – gardening


Students plant vegetable garden on H Street

by Elizabeth Hay
Hatchet Reporter

Most people know that George Washington was a revolutionary war hero, a founding father and America’s first president. Fewer know of his skills as a farmer.

But just like the name behind the University, a group of GW students have put their gardening skills to work in hopes of teaching people about the benefits of locally-grown food. Continue reading “If they do it in Washington, D.C. and Sulphur, LA, why don’t we do it in the drylands ? (Willem VAN COTTHEM / Google / The GW Hachet)”

Small-scale farming and gardening to alleviate malnutrition, hunger and poverty (Willem Van Cotthem)

As the representative of the Belgian experts on desertification, I had the privilege and honour of being a member of the Belgian delegation at all the meetings of the INCD (Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Desertification) and the Conferences of the Parties of the UNCCD between 1992 and 2006.  I am still a proud member of the CST (Committee on Science and Technology), and, as a co-chair of the Adhoc Panel for the Creation of the CRIC (Committee on the Review of the Implementation of the Convention), I have contributed to the improvement and enhancement of the input of scientific experts in the actions and initiatives of the UNCCD. I am also proud to be one of the fathers of the European DesertNet.

Today, I feel happy about the growing importance of the CST.

During the INCD-meetings (1992-1994) and at the COPs (Conferences of the Parties) in 1994-2006 I had many opportunities of collaborating with colleagues-scientists and representatives of NGOs from all over the world at the formulation of proposals for concrete actions to combat desertification and to alleviate poverty.

My personal main suggestion for successful interventions in developing countries, numerous times illustrated with a poster stand at the COPs, has always been and still is the need for small-scale farming or the creation of family gardens as the best option to halt desertification, to avoid malnutrition of the children, to alleviate hunger and poverty and to create sustainable development for the poorest people.  Our successes booked at many development projects in Africa, Asia and South America delivered sufficient proof for this view.

Today again, my most sincere wishes are one step away of coming true.  Indeed :

1. The European Union has recognized that one of the best ways to make sure people have access to food is to help small farmers increase production

(see my former postings on this subject)

2. WFP schemes helping mostly female small-scale farmers grow food more efficiently in Bolivia, Guatemala, Senegal, Nepal and the Philippines will receive the additional spending from the EU’s €1 billion Food Facility fund. That way, they can feed their families and increase availability of  food on their local markets.

Again today, I read with great interest that

1. Washington is committed to boost sustainable agricultural development in the world’s poorer countries as a way to root out global hunger and poverty.

2. There is a shift in emphasis – from dependence on food aid to greater investment in agriculture as a key to eradicating poverty”.

3. “We have spent too many dollars and too many decades on efforts that have not delivered the desired long-term results”.

4. “Investing in agriculture – and in particular smallholder agriculture – is indeed the most cost-effective way of reducing poverty, saving and improving lives”.

5. Rome-based IFAD works with poor rural people to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes, and determine the direction of their own lives.


After all, UNICEF ALGERIA’s project to create a small garden for every family in the refugee camps in S.W. Algeria is one of the best illustrations of the enormous potentialities of this “new” strategy.  Therefore, my sincere thanks go to all those who confirm at this very day that small-scale farming is the best way out of malnutrition, hunger, famine and poverty.  Successes booked in the near future with demonstration projects, combining traditional knowledge of the local people with modern technologies, should be the platform on which a global action programme for family gardens, school gardens and hospital gardens in rural and urban areas has to be launched.

You may know already my device : “Don’t bring food to that man, teach him how to grow it”.


The desertification and malnutrition bells are ringing (Willem VAN COTTHEM)

It was one of my happiest days when I was reading one of the messages on UNNews of yesterday (One of the best ways to make sure poor people have access to food).

Indeed, for many years I have been preaching that small-scale farming and/or construction of family gardens, school gardens and hospital gardens is the best way to combat food insecurity, malnutrition (in particular of children), hunger, famine and poverty.  Helping people in developing countries, both in rural and in urban areas, to produce their own fresh food in order to avoid food crisis is so logic that one can’t imagine a better solution for that problem.  It is far more better than sending a fleet of airplanes full of food without curing the cause of the local food problems.

I always said : the day will come that …  And the day has come !

UNICEF ALGERIA's family garden project in the refugee camps near Tindouf
UNICEF ALGERIA's family garden project in the refugee camps near Tindouf : fresh food in the Sahara desert, an example to be multiplied at the largest scale. See how proud and happy the female small-scale gardener and her family are.

Today, the bells are ringing to announce a swift change towards better living conditions of the poor and towards sustainable development.  Let us read again some of the key sentences in yesterday’s message (see my former posting) :

“Poor farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America are set to receive a productivity boost through new United Nations-led agricultural projects funded by a €34 million donation from the European Union (EU), the UN World Food Programme (<”http://www.wfp.org/news/news-release/eu-food-facility-grant-increase-farmers-productivity“>WFP) announced today.

WFP schemes helping mostly female small-scale farmers grow food more efficiently in Bolivia, Guatemala, Senegal, Nepal and the Philippines will receive the additional spending from the EU’s €1 billion Food Facility fund.

The European Union has recognized that one of the best ways to make sure people have access to food is to help small farmers increase production,” said Gemmo Lodesani, Director of the WFP liaison office in Brussels.

That way, they can feed their families and increase availability of food on their local markets,” said Mr. Lodesani, adding that more than “2 million people, many of them children and vulnerable adults, will benefit from the  food generated by five WFP programmes.”

These WFP projects, such as collective farming, crop diversification, and food-for-work programmes aimed at improving irrigation and flood resistance, will be coordinated with the Food and Agriculture Organization (<”http://www.fao.org/”>FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (<”http://www.ifad.org/”>IFAD).”

Hear the bells ringing :

1. WFP schemes helping mostly female small-scale farmers grow food more efficiently !

2. One of the best ways to make sure people have access to food is to help small farmers increase production !

3. That way, they can feed their families and increase availability of food on their local markets.

4. Collective farming, crop diversification, and food-for-work programmes aimed at improving irrigation and flood resistance.

What a nice feeling to hear that my message was getting through.  My sincere thanks to the European Union for the €34 million donation to create this breakthrough.

May Bolivia, Guatemala, Senegal, Nepal and the Philippines be the successful demonstration projects to be followed by a universal application at the broadest scale : small-scale farming, family gardens, school gardens and hospital gardens are the gate to alleviation of hunger and poverty.

It is fine to know that UNNews called it : One of the best ways to make sure poor people have access to food.  If not THE best !  Dingdong.

Little children and little gardens (in French – S. MENDIA / W. VAN COTTHEM)

Message received from Simonne MENDIA :

“Quand je vois les enfants sur les décharges de l’Argentine, essayant de se nourrir avec les déchets jetés, cela fait mal, surtout dans un pays si riche!!!  Il faudrait leur apprendre à recolter des millions de graines pour les planter  et avoir au moins des légumes frais.  Aujourd’hui, j’espère que des dizaines de Ministres de l’Agriculture donnent des ordres pour éduquer les enfants, pour leur donner des légumes et des fruits.

J’ai parlé hier à mes petites filles, ayant fait une démonstration, récuperer des graines d’une citrouille, leur expliquant que ces graines semées allaient donner des dizaines de plantes.  Il faut rendre sensible les enfants favorisés, demandant à leur mère de garder les graines, les préparer, donner celles-ci à des écoles pauvres.  Demandez aux institutrices et professeurs de s’engager à faire connaitre votre idée simple, mais mise en pratique formidablement efficace.  Dans les Villas Miseria il y a de la terre riche.  Il serait plus facile de donner des graines et outils pour cultiver un petit jardin que de l’argent qui ne sert a rien.  Quand on voit ces enfants et adultes squeletiques, c’est difficile de croire que nous sommes en Argentine, pays très riche , et non en Afrique, l’ Inde, ect.

Je me lance à fond dans votre idée.  Simonne


Chère Simonne,

Vous avez pleinement raison : il est si facile de donner à manger des légumes frais et des fruits à tous les enfants du monde.  Il suffit de créer des petits jardins sur des terrains vagues et de les apprendre à cultiver.  Nous pourrions toujours leur fournir des graines (voir notre action “Graines pour Vivres – <http://zadenvoorleven.wordpress.com>” ou “Seeds for Food” (<www.seedsforfood.org>)

Les dernières années, un mouvement appelé “guerilla gardening” (voyez Google) s’est créé dans toutes les grandes villes du monde.  Des gens pauvres y occupent des petits terrains vagues, même en plein centre-ville, pour y installer des terrains de culture de légumes.  N’est ce pas la preuve que ces gens qui vivent dans l’insécurité alimentaire et la pauvreté trouvent que la solution la plus simple, c’est d’installer des petits jardins de culture ?

Alors pourquoi ne pas offrir des petits terrains à ces enfants.  Tout compte fait, pendant et après les deux guerres mondiales un même mouvement s’est créé dans beaucoup de nos pays.  Cela s’appele “jardins du peuple”, “volkstuintjes”, “allotment gardens”.  Beaucoup de ces jardins se sont installés le long des chemins de fer.  Ils fonctionnent toujours avec beaucoup de succès.  C’est un exemple à suivre pour lutter contre la malnutrition, la faim, la famine, en particulier dans les pays désertifiés.

Les gouvernements et les organisations internationales ont toutes les possibilités de prendre des initiatives pour installer ces jardins pour les pauvres, en particulier pour les enfants.  Je pense notamment au PAM et à UNICEF (voir une initiative de UNICEF ALGERIE en 2005-2007).

Au lieu de dépenser des milliards de dollars au transport de vivres vers des populations affamées, il vaut mieux utiliser ces sommes énormes à la construction de jardins de famille, des jardins scolaires et des jardins des hôpitaux.  Cela est réalisable en une toute petite période de quelques mois.  Le résultat serait un développement durable, qui reste toujours un des objectifs primordiaux du Millenium.

En Algérie, nous avons déjà livré la preuve que ces jardins ont une valeur fantastique, car ils apportent aussi un nouvel espoir pour un meilleur avenir.  Mais il faut s’y mettre avec une volonté ferme de continuer les efforts, enregistrant ainsi succès après succès.

Je continuerai à croire que le jour viendra, que …

Willem Van Cotthem

Urban gardening project to provide food for families (Google / LA Times)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening


Urban gardening project to provide food for families

It is, of course, time to plan a summer garden. But if it just seems like one more chore, all is not lost. An urban community-supported agriculture (CSA) project is getting started, using front- or backyard gardens at five homes west of downtown. Here’s the idea: Subscribers to the CSA and volunteers will plant the first yard at the end of March. The others will follow, for a total of about 1,000 square feet. The folks at the firm Heart Beet Gardening will plan and tend the gardens, harvest and box the food. Then, if all goes as planned, subscribers will pick up a box once a week at a central location, starting in July. It’s a twist on the usual CSA in which subscribers get shares in the harvest of a farm. Continue reading “Urban gardening project to provide food for families (Google / LA Times)”

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”?

Vertical gardening in containers against urban desertification (J. HOGAN-DONALDSON / LA Times / Willem)

Message from Jazmine Hogan-Donaldson :

Many thanks for your Desertification blog. Last year I volunteered in Burkina Faso for Helen Keller International. I’m always looking for news about Burkina and came across your blog from a Google search. I saw the following article in today’s Los Angeles Times and thought you might find it of some interest:


Best regards,


Food garden blooms on skid row wall

Fruits, vegetables and herbs tended by formerly homeless residents cover urban gray.

By Cara Mia DiMassa, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 14, 2008


Very interesting article in the LA Times, showing how important container gardening on city walls can be in these times of food crisis, particularly for people living in difficult circumstances.

Combating hunger, offering ways of improving public health, alleviating poverty, combating urban desertification with vertical gardening in containers, it is simple and efficient.

Some people find solutions in “guerilla gardening”, a descriptive term with rather negative connotations, although it carries a lot of positive elements in its objectives.

Growing vegetables in containers on a grid against a wall opens new doors : food production in our cities, embellishment of our neighborhood, creation of a team spirit, …

This Los Angeles example should be followed and multiplied in many other towns and cities. Why shouldn’t it be adopted by the “Green Movement”, the “Ecologists”, the supporters of “Biological Gardening”, etc.

I feel like a fan for this idea. Thanks, Jazmine, for informing me !


Unusual container gardening : Young walnut tree growing in a PET bottle of which the lower part is used as a water tank, the inversed upper part as a substrate (with potting soil). This is a water saving device (less evaporation and top of soil can be covered with a mulch layer, e.g. sand or little stones). The same “bottle gardening” is used for vegetable production (see bottles in the background standing against the black wall of my birds cage). More info on bottle gardening against a vertical wall can be found on my second blog :



European Tribune, food crisis and desertification (Willem)

Do you know the “European Tribune” : http://www.eurotrib.com/ ?

About the European Tribune

The European Tribune is founded by active contributors to the US progressive blogosphere, aiming to emulate its energy, wealth of information, and community spirit with a focus on European and international issues. The European Tribune is a forum for thoughtful political dialogue between European countries on their national and European affairs and also with Americans (and Canadians and others!) on world affairs.

In the context of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror”, official transatlantic dialogue has become bitter and rancorous and we must make sure that citizens on both sides of the ocean have a chance to better understand each other’s problems, internal debates and ideas. Information on the domestic politics of both sides of the ocean – and how it is perceived from elsewhere – are a core staple of the European Tribune. Global issues like peak oil, the emergence of China, the future of the European Union, immigration, pollution will be discussed from various perspectives.

Lighter stories, travel experience, personal testimonies and the like are explicitly encouraged. Continue reading “European Tribune, food crisis and desertification (Willem)”

Family gardens and urban gardening to reverse the world’s food crisis (Willem)

Family gardens and urban gardening to reverse the world’s food crisis

Drought is described as a very important environmental constraint, limiting plant growth and food production. The World Food Program (WFP) has recently indicated drought in Australia as one of the major factors for the difficulty to deliver food aid to millions of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Drought is seen as the force driving up wheat and rice prices, which contributes directly to food shortage, social unrest and disturbances at the global level. Therefore, mitigating drought and limiting water consumption seems to be essential factors for resolving the actual food crisis and to find long-term solutions to malnutrition, hunger and famine, particularly in the drylands.

Application of water stocking soil conditioners, keeping the soil moistened with a minimum of irrigation water, and seeding or planting more drought tolerant species and varieties will definitely contribute to solve the food crisis. Scientists in China and the USA have recently discovered important genetic information about drought tolerance of plants. It was thereby shown that drought tolerant mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana have a more extensive root system than the wild types, with deeper roots and more lateral roots, and show a reduced leaf stomatal density. My own research work on the soil conditioning compound TerraCottem has led to similar conclusions : treatment with this soil conditioner induced enhancement of the root system with a higher number of lateral roots. More roots means more root tips and thus a higher number of water absorbing root hairs, sitting close to the root meristem. As a result, plants with more roots can better explore the soil and find the smallest water quantities in a relatively dry soil.

As the world’s population is growing by about 78 million people a year, it affects life on this earth in a very dramatic way. Droughts have caused a rise of food prices many times before, but the present situation is quite different, because it is based on specific trends and facts : the faster growing world population and a definite change in international food consumption trends and habits.

Some experts claim that “major investments to boost world food output will keep shortages down to the malnutrition level in some of the world’s poorer nations“, and that “improving farm infrastructure and technological boosts to farm yields can create a lot of small green revolutions, particularly in Africa”.

It seems quite difficult to believe that “major investments to boost the food output” will be able to “keep the food shortages down to the malnutrition level“, wherever in this world. Indeed, the world’s most famous research institutes have already developed very effective technologies to boost food production in the most adverse conditions of serious drought and salinity. Yet, not one single organization has ever decided, up to now, to use “major investments” to apply such technologies in large-scale programs, which would most certainly change the food situation in the world’s poorest nations.

It seems also difficult to believe that “improving farm infrastructure and technological boosts to farm yields” will be able to create “small green revolutions, particularly in Africa”. It is not by improving a farm’s infrastructure that one will manage drought. Although a number of technological solutions to boost farm yields have already been developed, only those tackling the drought problems are an option to create significant changes.

I do not believe that such changes can be realized at the level of large-scale farms. On the contrary, I am convinced that application of cost-effective, soil conditioning methods to enhance the water retention capacity of the soil and to boost biomass production in the drylands, is the best solution to help the poor rural people to avoid malnutrition and hunger, giving them a “fresh” start with a daily portion of “fresh vegetables”. These rural people, forming the group most affected by the food crisis, do not need to play a role in boosting the world’s food production. They simply need to produce enough food for their own family (“to fill their own hungry stomach“). Application of cost-effective technologies should therefore be programmed at the level of small-scale “family gardens” or “school gardens” and not at the scale of huge (industrial) farms, where return on investment is always the key factor for survival of the business.

Preferentially, major investments to boost the food output in the drylands should be employed to improve food production in family gardens and school gardens, in order to offer all rural people an opportunity to produce more and better food, vegetables and fruits, full of vitamins and mineral elements, mostly for their own family members or kids, partly for the local market.

Splendid examples of long-term combating food shortage with family gardens can be seen since 2006 in the refugee camps in S.W. Algeria (UNICEF project). One can only hope that such a success story will soon be duplicated in many similar situations, where hungry people wait for similar innovative and well-conceived practices, with a remarkable return on investment, laying solid foundations for further sustainable development.

Recently, a number of initiatives have been taken to enhance urban gardening space, not only with allotment gardens, but also with “guerilla gardening” and transformation of open, underused spaces into small-scale garden plots for downtown dwellers, apartment dwellers and even for university students like those at the McGill University in Montreal. Many poor urban people are very keen on harvesting their own crops in such small gardens or applying container gardening on balconies, terraces, rooftops or other unused open spaces. Support for urban agriculture or urban gardening can be seen as a priority for decision-makers to reverse the world’s food crisis.

Food aid, be it with billions of dollars, can only be very effective if priority is given to local food production for the poor rural or urban people, who can not afford to buy the expensive commercial food products in shops or supermarkets. Small-scale family gardens, school gardens, allotment gardens and urban gardens in unused open spaces should be our strategic counter-attack against the actual food crisis.

Farming or gardening with old tyres instead of containers (Comment Dev Raj Paudel)

A new comment on the post #251 “Great ideas for container gardening” :http://containergardening.wordpress.com/great-ideas-for-container-gardening/

Author : Dev Raj Paudel
E-mail : merodev@gmail.comComment:
Has anyone heard about farming on old tyres instead of containers on rooftops? If yes, please kindly send me details at

MY REPLY (Willem)

Farming or gardening with old tyres

I don’t have any information on the use of old tyres instead of containers on rooftops, but it seems to be an excellent idea, taking into account that ways should be developed to canalize the percolating drainage water on the rooftop floor. Maybe some clever “developers” will come up with interesting solutions to recycle the leaching water.

Neighbours of mine use old tyres in their garden to construct “special accents” or “attraction spots” with particular colourful flowering species. They even paint the tyres in corresponding colours.

The tyres are simply laid down on the garden soil and filled with potting soil, which is in direct contact with the local garden soil, offering earthworms a possibility to penetrate inside the “tyre bed“.  The inner side of the tyre (its cavity) is also filled with potting soil. Thereby, a certain part of the irrigation water is also running inside the tyre cavity, where less evaporation occurs. Thus, the overall mass of potting soil retains irrigation water much longer. Its water retention capacity is even higher when mixing a water absorbent soil conditioner with the potting soil. It has thereby been shown that less irrigation water is needed to keep the potting soil inside the tyres moistened over a longer period. This can be an interesting aspect for gardening in the drylands, on rooftops or in containers.

For sure, half tyres or quarter tyres could be used to produce hanging baskets. It suffices to fill the inner side of these parts of tyres with potting soil and to perforate the lower part of the tyre to enable drainage.

Moreover, I strongly believe that old tyres will be very cost-effective materials to create “raised beds” or “small-space gardens“. Instead of using wood for the outer limits of a raised bed, or instead of installing “earthboxes” (see former postings), an old tyre could certainly do the job.

My neighbours use tyres to create circular raised beds or circular “square foot gardens (a meaningful contradictio in terminis !). In fact, why not recycle the old tyres to make our environment greener. The tyres are getting almost invisible when planting pendent (hanging) species at the outer edge. Cutting the tyres diametrically, half tyres can be used as crescents on slopes to limit soil erosion.  They are positioned horizontally at the contour lines of the slope.

Why should people not use an old tyre to construct a small herb garden ?

Supposing that one gets a set of identical tyres (same dimensions), it would even be possible to create a table garden by superposing e.g. 4-5 tyres, of which the outer side can be painted in a green colour. The inside cylinder of the 4-5 towering tyres has to be filled with potting soil, so that the surface to be planted comes at table height. Probably, this “cylinder gardening” will be a nice idea for elderly or handicaped gardeners.

Believing that it could also be a constructive idea for school gardens, I like to recommend teachers setting up trials to show youngsters how to recycle the tyres, taking care of their environment, while growing vegetables, fruit trees and the like in otherwise landscape-polluting tyres. Let me also recommend to offer to every boy or girl working in the school garden one single tyre to cultivate. It would be “their” own little garden for which they are personally kept responsible. School gardens in developing countries could consist of a high number of such circular beds (the tyres), one per pupil, on which vegetables can be produced for the school cantina or for the pupil’s family. Once the pupils are trained at school to “garden with tyres“, they would also have the capacity to transfer these ideas to their own house and invite their family to apply the same method. Knowing that less irrigation water would be needed to produce more food, this “tyre system” could possibly contribute to ensure food security for the rural families in the drylands.

Wherever old tyres are used for farming or gardening, the system seems easier to sustain than practicing it in the field or an open garden space. Tyres seem to be an ideal material for sustainable gardening, in particular for urban gardening. From time to time a small part of the potting soil can be replaced with fresh compost to enhance the organic content of the rooting zone.These are but some simple ideas about possible uses of old tyres. I hope many visitors of my blog will react upon this posting and come up with good examples, preferably with pictures, to show what one can do with those tyres. Looking forward to your contributions.
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