By Calvin Finch, PhD, SAWS Conservation Director, and Horticulturist
San Antonio is replacing about 25,000 high-flow toilets with
low-flow toilets every year. Most of the toilets end up at SAWS
drop off sites at the NW Conservation Site (6798 Culebra Rd.),
the Eastside Service Center (3930 E. Houston St.) or at Hughes
Supply (4510 Rittiman Rd.). In the near future, the toilets will
be crushed to the consistency of sand and used as fill in public
There is, however, another way to recycle used toilets. Milton
Glueck of KLUP radio has named it “Potty-O-Gardening.”
“Potty-O-Gardening” is the art of planting annual
flowers and vegetables in discarded old toilets.
In its simplest form, “Potty-O-Gardening” involves
just filling up the recycled toilet with potting soil, one 40
lb bag fills both the tank and the bowl, and planting both parts
with seeds or transplants. As a higher art form, the bowl and
tank can be decorated with enamel painted designs.
Some of us doubt whether “Potty-O-Gardening” will
catch on, but Milton has already made a few converts. Anne Schiller,
who organizes the Festival of Flowers (May 28, Alzafar Shrine),
has announced that “Potty-O-Gardening” will be featured
at the Festival. Felder Rushing, known as the king of novelty
(junk) gardening and author of the books Passalong Plants, Tough
Plants for Southern Gardens and Gardening Southern Style, will
speak on the topic at the Festival. He will also be chief judge
of the “Potty-O-Gardening” Contest. There will be
a celebrity category and a home gardener category. Home gardeners
should decorate and plant their “pot” and submit a
picture of the finished product to www.plantanswers.com (electronically)
or to Milberger’s Nursery (3920 North Loop 1604 E., SA,
TX 78247) by mail. A panel of judges including Anne Schiller,
Milton Glueck, Charles Martelli (Milberger’s), Jerry Parsons
(Horticulture Specialist—Cooperative Extension) and Eddie
Wilcut (SAWS) will select the 12 best “Potty-O-Gardens”
to be put on display at the Festival of Flowers. Eddie is the
San Antonio Water System Toilet Retrofit expert. All of the 12
finalists will receive a $25 Milberger’s gift certificate
with the first, second and third place winners (as judged by Felder
Rushing) receiving a $100, $75 and $50 gift certificate respectively
It is crazy but could be fun. The easiest way to participate is
to replace your old water-wasting toilet with a new low-flow toilet.
SAWS customers are eligible to receive free toilets if their home
was built before 1992. Call 704-7853 to have an application mailed
Rinse out the old toilet, remove the bolts that connect the tank
to the bowl and remove all the seals, gaskets and innards. You
should have two separate pieces—a clean tank and a clean
bowl. Paint decorations on the toilet porcelain with enamel paint.
Obvious decorations might include school mascots, political slogans,
pastoral scenes, movie settings or abstract art.
When the painted porcelain dries it can be filled with potting
soil and planted. Cover the bottom of the tank with agricultural
fabric or a peat mat. The material allows drainage but holds the
soil in the tank. The bowl will only drain when it fills to half
full with water. That will work if you use shallow rooted annual
plants and are careful not to over water. Other options include
using a wick to pull up excess water from the bottom of the bowl
to evaporate into the air. Drilling a hole is slow work with an
abrasive bit. Porcelain is extremely sharp when it breaks, so
be very careful.
For more information on the contest and in making a “Potty-O-Garden”,
visit www.plantanswers.com. The photos are not due until May 13,
2005, so you have some time to plan and craft your idea of a beautiful
“Potty-O-Garden.” So far, none of the Museums in San
Antonio have committed space for a permanent “Potty-O-Garden”
display but you never know, Milton is dedicated to his cause.
My dream “Potty-O-Garden” would be one with a rutabaga
growing in the bowl!
Charles Martelli (Manager of Milberger's Nursery) created
this "beauty" using some of the best that Milberger's
has to offer and honored Parsons by naming it "Parsons
Sweet Cheeks". This fine specimen was the only display
toilet to be featured in the San Antonio Express write-up
on Feb. 13, 2005.
Calvin Finch, San Antonio Water Systems Conservation Director
and brains behind the world's largest toilet give-away which
occurred on Feb. 12, 2005, at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio
created this "vision" for the toilet gardening
Milton Glueck, Host of the Milberger Garden Show, used an
edible theme for his toilet gardening effort. Being from
Louisiana, the thought of eating toilet-grown produce was
not disgusting or repulsive to Milton.
Jerry Parsons (Horticulture Specialist-Cooperative Extension)
used his speciality (potty language) vocabulary to identify
the plant material in his award-winning display. He said
he used a "Booty-villa" (bougainvillea) for the
main focus, some cold-ass-us (coleus) as a reminder to those
who have sat on a cold toilet, some impatience (impatiens)
for those suffering from constipation and not willing to
take the time to "work it out", and a mother-in-law
tongue which would be wagging if she every saw what her
favorite son-in-law had created.