social art – advantage to survive in times of reconstruction

When i was a child i was collecting plants from outside and brought them into my greenhouse, constructed by some well-known plastic bricks. Inspired by movies like Silent running i invented my own story of enjoying the nature and its beauty.

Many years later – now (2020-03-21) – in times of limited access to nature and locked to private spaces – i was asked by some friends about a useful advise to set up a urban / terrace garden in small size.

I promised to share all my limited knowledge to help them to develop a garden in their city flat in Belgium.

fabric stripes for water management
fabric stripes for water management

One solution is to use old plastic water bottles. They are maid out of PET. First you should cut some fabric in stripes of 40 x 5 cm.

PET bottles - preparation to store and move water
PET bottles – preparation to store and move water

Than you should cut a star into the screw cap. It is useful to make this step before you cut the bottle into two pieces.

PET bottle - best practice to reach a stable structure
PET bottle – best practice to reach a stable structure

The fabric is – turned to a double strip of 20cm – placed into the cut of the screw cab – 15 cm outside. The bootle is cutted with a scissor – 60% for the bottom and 40% for the top part.

PET bottle - water overflow solution
PET bottle – water overflow solution

In the bottom part you should burn or drill 8 wholes – each ca. 1 cm wide – 3 cm below the open side. In the top part you might burn or drill 4 wholes – each ca. 1cm wide – 4 cm below the screw cap.

I used a old soldering iron to burn the wholes. It reaches temperatures higher than 265° – which is the melting point for PET. Even if you are planning to prepare a lot of bottles the burning Methode is quick and easy. But work only outside or in a well ventilated working environment.

PET bottle - reassambling and adjusting
PET bottle – reassambling and adjusting

Before you place the top reverse into the bottom part prepare 4 to 6 short cuts into the edge of the lower part – each 1 cm length.

boxing for better handling
boxing for better handling

I used old plastic fruit boxed for handling. It make sense if you find a solution to place the bottles in a safe way – wind – and to allow the free flow of excess water. You should fill up each bottle with rainwater till you see the water inside the cap before you insert soil.

preparation and planting
preparation and planting

Your plant soil you can mix out of forest soil, sand, mother soil, humus, compost soil. In these times – March 2020 in Europe – you might not be able to create the best soil, but these circumstances should teach you to focus the best possible solution. Maybe your salad will be not so big or your onion not so tasty, it doesn’t mapper.

first boxes full of salads and herbs
stable ground and first boxesfirst boxes full of salads and herbs

If you set up your garden on your terrace, be aware of the final payload. A normal floor inside a flat supports between 1,5 kN/m² (150 kg/m²) and 2,5 kN/m² (250 kg/m²). In Europe 3 kN/m² (300 kg/m²) is mostly supported for a terrace or balcony. You should check this before you set up a large garden on your place. In my case – like you see in the Foto above – i have to calculate 1,8 kN/m² (180 kg/m²) in case of a heavy rain event!

And where is the social art here? In times like this – i name it times of reconstruction – i feel very happy and i am full of humility that i can work as an artist. I was looking for logistical and technical solutions when i was a young child to protect my plants in my little green house. I used this PET bottle solution in some workshops with youth in Europe in the last years and i am happy to deliver some ideas to my friends in Belgium now. The design is based on a solution from Cecile Thevenot (Permacultura Penyflor) and modified a bit.

These times will be seen as times in which the society will need creative and realistic solutions. I am happy to contribute to this. I use this little web blog as a tool to paint. My art work is a message. And the message is: we will survive. And we will learn a lot about ourselves, our needs and re-adjust our priority lists. I will continue this posts in the next days…

Thanks to Eline and Ruben, for giving me a reason to publish this. They where helping a lot in our color garden some years ago and its a pleasure to give back something. I will return in this garden tomorrow and i will work with an new generation for the food for tomorrow, to deliver the most important message now: There is a – tasty – tomorrow.