Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Recycled Soda Bottle Self-Watering Containers

About a year ago I found this photo of a beautiful hanging garden using soda bottles, and I was inspired. As soon as I arrived in South Africa, I made a few containers and started to try them out. What I found was that they dried out very quickly in the Cape Town summer, and was virtually impossible for them to get enough sun and enough water. So for the South African context, I didn't find them practical (if you did, please chime in!). I could see them being really good in the context of a tropical climate with daily afternoon rain, as rain would likely be ideal for watering.

So I looked at other, somewhat less beautiful options for hanging soda bottles in such a way that I could water once an evening, or even less frequently. With a toddler, jobs, and a prospective new baby, container gardening has to allow for the occasional evening of meltdown.

This is what I've found successful so far. I cut the bottle in half, place a rag through the mouth of the bottle to help with water transfer, and cut some holes in the bottle. The top half sits in the bottom half, and I hang them using recycled electrical wire, which I've found works a lot better than rope or string or laundry line.

Most successful in the containers have been strawberries (who seem to be thriving), basil, rosemary, and a cherry tomato. Next season, I'll try many more cherry tomatoes. Right now I have about 20 containers. There's space on the burglar guards for many more- probably up to a hundred. Whoa.

Which is the great advantage to this method of gardening: it's virtually infinitely scalable. We can build up hundreds of plants, gradually. The major initial cost is potting soil, which adds up fast. Once that initial outlay is done, the costs are minimal, as the worm bin can take care of reinvigorating the soil.

Here's some other pictures of our lives at the moment:

Our pomegranate tree. Next year, it may bear fruit!

We learned that the super expensive Boulders beach near Simonstown doesn't need to be expensive (though paying at all to go onto a beach feels wrong, I know): Cape Town residents are permitted to buy a "Green Card", which costs R85 for 12 visits per year. You get to enjoy a really beautiful beach, and hang out (even swim!) with the penguins. We made sure Noah didn't get any closer that this.
Noah shows his sand sculpture.

Our neighbor introduced us to Oude Molen ecovillage, which is barely 5 minutes drive from our house (and is also on the Pinelands train stop). It's amazing that there is this huge swath of land, with many horses  and chickens, so close to the city. In the background is Devil's Peak and Table Mountain- we're just east of the center of town. You can visit for free- there's a cafe where you can buy food or get local honey, jam and fresh bread. We're hoping to interview some of the people that form part of the cooperative in the near future.

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