garden in a bottle

When the absence of a garden stopped being an excuse for not gardening..

We live in a tiny apartment. We point to the soil underneath a palm tree outside our unit and call it a garden. We have oreganos, peppers, mints, basils and a small cement fish pond where our pet goldfishes swim around. Recently, we extended our so-called garden to include our roof gutters. Turo had planted lettuce, Italian parsley and some other herbs inside used plastic bottles and hanged them up against the roof where they are partly sheltered from the rain but receive an ample dose of sunshine everyday.

This is a photo of our flatleaf parsley in a bottle. It conveniently hangs right outside the door of our front porch so I can easily snip off a few leaves or branches to garnish pasta dishes and stews. Apart from herbs, almost any plant can grow inside a container, except for those with an extensive taproot like coriander. I’ve seen tomatoes, cucumbers and beans sprout from soil-filled soda bottles, mineral water containers, etc.

We use 1.5 liter plastic Coca-Cola bottles for this purpose. Container gardening is really a swell excuse for drinking Coke, but as I’ve said, any other used plastic container can serve the purpose. We cut the bottle in half, make some slits at the bottom to give room for the roots as the plant grows, fill the bottom half with vermicast, plug a seed or seedling, and shoot this part inside the inverted upper half of the bottle. Make sure that the cap is screwed on tightly so that when you water your plant, any excess water will drip down through the slits that you made and stay there until such time that your plant’s roots have extended enough to absorb them.

If weather is not too hot, you wouldn’t even have to water your plant. It’s easy to spot when it needs further watering because the excess water that dripped down near the cap will be your guide. Your plant can last up to a month without needing additional fertilizer. For fruit bearing plants, you should spray foliar fertilizer to help in fruit-setting. No watering, limited fertilizer addition, this is no-nonsense gardening at its finest.

If you find this hard to believe, let me share a little science behind this. This is a simplified hydroponics setup. Google hydroponics and you will probably see some high-tech farm set up and equipment. In essence though, hydroponics is growing plant in a soil-less medium with a liquid nutrient solution. For our bottle garden experiment, our soil-less medium=vermicast, our liquid nutrient solution=standing water+foliar fertilizer spray, our high-tech set-up=Coca-cola bottle.

The use of a small amount of nutrient-rich inputs at the beginning makes it convenient even for a gardening wannabe. Because it is watering-efficient, you can almost forget about it, which you won’t because each plant can be continuously harvested for several months. And because it takes up practically no space at all, even people in high-rise buildings can grow them. Best of all, imagine how many plastic bottles you can keep from the dumpster with every seed you plant. Think green!

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