Cutline: John Kalla talks April 18 about how he discovered a new way of potting plants.
by TaLeiza Calloway
On an early April morning you can catch John Kalla working in his yard. The St. Joseph resident waters his grass and the vibrant yellow, red and orange tulips bordering his driveway.
In his backyard his deck is lined with about four small wooden planter boxes. On a table at the right of the stairs leading to the deck sits some other potted plants. They are not in a traditional flower pot or planter. Squash, tomatoes, beans and cabbage are sprouting from plastic water bottles.
To the average person a plastic water bottle is a recycable when he or she is done with it. Some might even toss it in the trash. For Kalla, the water bottle has become a tool for a new way of potting plants.
The 75-year-old made the discovery in mid March and has been pleased with the results so far. The idea came to fruition after Kalla thought to himself, “What can you do with a water bottle?” He admits to being somewhat of an inventor, and his curiosity led to his latest creation. He soon found a double-ring water bottle provides an effective setup to do something he’s loved his whole life: gardening. A double-ring water bottle is one in which there is a ring a few inches from the top of the bottle and it has a gap of non-ringed space before another ring marks the bottom portion of the bottle.
Here’s how Kalla says it works.
1. Take a double-ring water bottle and cut it in half.
2. Drill a quarter-inch hole in the bottle’s cap.
3. Put the top half of the bottle upside down in the bottom half of the water bottle.
4. Put your soil and seed in the top portion of the bottle.
5. Fill the bottom with water until it covers the bottle’s cap.
6. If growing multiple plants, drill a quarter-inch hole in the bottom of the bottles and place them in a larger plastic container. Fill the larger container with water.
Traditional potting of plants includes watering them every other day. Kalla’s way of gardening requires checking water levels about once a week, he said.
“With this, you can put your fertilizer in and you don’t have to worry about checking (on) the water,” Kalla said. “It gets the right amount of water.”
For those wondering if the water bottle is too small to contain certain plants or if there is enough room to manage the roots, the roots grow down into the bottle. He takes the small plants from the water bottles and adds them to the larger garden once they get too big, he said.
What the Collegeville-native likes most about gardening is the end result: fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition to the 15 water-bottle plants budding on his deck, he also grows vegetables that include cabbage, tomatoes, onions and peppers in a traditional garden in his backyard.
“It’s worked excellent for me,” Kalla said of his new potting method. “I just thought people might want to know about it.”