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Saturday, August 15, 2009

planting parsley in a plastic bottle

I may not be able to provide a recipe, but what I can offer is a food related how-to that I learned from a container gardening workshop at my local farm, the Red Hook Community Farm.




A few blocks away from where I live is an urban farm. It was once a playground that fell into disuse but the folks at Added Value, a non-profit organization, saw potential in the dilapidated space and converted it into a farm. In addition to providing fresh produce to the surrounding community at their weekly farmer’s market, the farm also runs programs for local youth, training them in the business of running a farm and building a just food system.



It’s become a fad to “go green” but anyone who’s seriously considered what damage our every day habits do to the earth and the people that inhabit it, and tried to make lasting changes in their lifestyles knows how difficult it is. Eating locally and with the season, for example, can be fun. Not only do I get to acquaint myself with unfamiliar vegetables (purple beans!?), try out new recipes, eat freshly harvested food, but also revel in the fact that what I’m doing is good for the environment. And, yes I do feel a bit smug in that when I say I eat local food, I literally mean locally grown food.

Eating locally on the go. Wicked Delicate's truck farm spotted in the neighborhood.

But if I’m serious about this habit sticking, it would mean having to carve out time to plan ahead and cook meals when my schedule gets more hectic. Do I really want to come home after a stressful day at work to chop vegetables and cook when I can do takeout or microwave food from a box? It might mean making some sacrifices because buying locally—ironically—is more expensive. Do I want a new pair of shoes or do I want to eat more ethically and healthfully?

For it to be meaningful, going green is not “the new black,” as they say in fashion speak. It should never go out of season. It’s about unlearning old habits and letting new ways of doing take root and grow.

And with that gardening metaphor serving as a transition, onto the how-to!




One of the things that the farm has inspired me to do is to learn how to grow things. Growing your own vegetables is part of what it means to eat locally, but unless you’ve got experience doing it, it can be an incredibly daunting task. But it doesn’t always have to be, not if you start small. Small like you don't even have to buy a pot small. Using materials you can find around your house and seeds that can be easily obtained from a nursery, the following is how to plant parsley in a plastic bottle.

What you’ll need:

1 empty plastic bottle. Anything above 1 liter is fine

Potting mix to fill the bottle with.

Seeds to plant. I used parsley, but other herbs work great, as do flowers.

A wad of cotton.


  1. Cut the bottle cross-wise approximately 2/3 from the mouth. The idea is for the mouth to touch the base of the bottle and for it to fit snugly.
  2. Drill several holes around just below the neck of the bottle for water to drain.
  3. Insert a wad of cotton in the mouth of the bottle. The cotton serves as a wick that will allow water to soak up.
  4. Turn the bottle mouth side down. Fill with soil, leaving approximately half an inch from the opening.
  5. Using your pinky finger, dig a hole that’s as deep as your first knuckle. Plant seed and cover with soil. 3-4 seeds in a bottle should suffice.
  6. Fill the base with ¼ inch of water.
  7. Fit the soil-filled bottle into the base. The cotton wick should touch the water.

The great thing about using a plastic bottle is not only reducing waste but that the transparent container lets you see the roots system develop and literally watch your entire plant grow.
This is what’s called a sub-irrigated system, in which the plants are watered from below rather than above. Though not entirely fail proof, I am told that plants are less likely to die from overwatering in this system. Of course, make sure that the bottom container is always filled with water.



One week later.

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