On the first urban permaculture farming course I attended, the teacher brilliantly told all the students, ‘plants don’t know what shape they are in or what shape they should grow into, and nor do they care.’ As long as plants have a medium to grow in, water, sun and nutrients, we can use whatever we have at available to us to cultivate our plants.
An essential permaculture philosophy is that the problem is the solution. Managing excessive plastic waste all throughout Asia is a major issue – especially on Koh Phangan where recycling facilities are minimal and dependence on plastic is maximum. On the island getting plastic from local bins is easy and free, so we gathered many plastic bottles with the idea of raising our seedlings in these plastic bottles – which would’ve been burnt otherwise – thus upcycling a bottle, saving it from being turned into pollution. All of these plants we started on our balcony, a relatively small space – and there are plenty of plants growing.
The above photo shows the first leaves of our Okra, Watermelon, Tomatoes, Wax Peppers, Thai Basil and another lone seedling growing quickly in our bottles.
It’s very straightforward to make, and took us in total 1 hour:
- Cut a large (1.5L) bottle in half lengthwise.
- Punch some holes in the bottom of the plastic so that excess moisture can drain. Per bottle, we punctured at least 10 holes.
- Fill up the container with good, rich soil (worm castings and well rotted compost is ideal).
- Plant seeds appropriate depth according to seed size. If the seed is small, scatter the seeds over the surface (being careful not too scatter too many to avoid overcrowding) or if it is large, the planting depth of the seed should be twice its size. Don’t worry too much about this – the seeds will most likely sprout regardless of how perfect you plant.
- And lastly, water with the mist setting on your hose and place in the sunlight.
In an upcoming post I’ll talk about taking cuttings and plant propagation – a simple way to duplicate existing plants for our own garden. A great way to gather cuttings to propagate is to go for a walk around your neighbourhood and see what plants are in your neighbours gardens! We found this beautiful Butterfly Pea Bush (a medicinal, edible wild flower) on a side street near our house that we ended up propagating in the seedling tray with our Kale.
And here are some of our chillies and tomatoes growing with Pineapple heads (that will re-sprout for later planting), next to some home-made pineapple banana compote.
If you have any questions/comment/success stories or failures, feel free to comment below and let us know how your permaculture endeavours are going. The next post will address how to propagate seedlings in urban environments in a step by step breakdown. Happy Planting!