For The Answer
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 works projects.
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 from SAWS.
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 to you.
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!