In 1960, David Latimer planted a garden inside of a giant glass bottle and sealed it shut.
Almost 60 years ago, David Latimer had opened a bottle and had planted a seed that would soon amaze the entire world. Whereas the ecosystem was closed, it was functional. Yes. David Latimer has successfully and surprisingly grown a plant that was sealed inside a glass bottle.
According to sources, the plant was sown on a Sunday of Easter in 1960. Inside a 10-gallon glass carboy, David added a small amount of compost and some water. In 1972, he opened the bottle again to add just a little amount of more water and then that was it. The glass bottle was destined to be sealed.
Where this might seem like an undoable and unachievable thing, it has been done and it has been achieved. A sustained ecosystem is now growing by the day in David Latimer’s sealed glass bottle and is an amazing version of our earth at a micro-level.
Here’s a how-to video for making your own terrarium:
HOW THE BOTTLE GARDEN GROWS
Bottle gardens work because their sealed space creates an entirely self-sufficient ecosystem in which plants can survive by using photosynthesis to recycle nutrients.
The only external input needed to keep the plant going is light since this provides it with the energy it needs to create its own food and continue to grow.
Light shining on the leaves of the plant is absorbed by proteins containing chlorophylls (a green pigment).
Some of that light energy is stored in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that stores energy. The rest is used to remove electrons from the water being absorbed from the soil through the plant’s roots.
These electrons then become ‘free’ – and are used in chemical reactions that convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrates, releasing oxygen.
This photosynthesis process is the opposite of the cellular respiration that occurs in other organisms, including humans, where carbohydrates containing energy react with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide, water and release chemical energy.
But the eco-system also uses cellular respiration to break down decaying material shed by the plant. In this part of the process, bacteria inside the soil of the bottle garden absorb the plant’s waste oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide which the growing plant can reuse.
And, of course, at night, when there is no sunlight to drive photosynthesis, the plant will also use cellular respiration to keep itself alive by breaking down the stored nutrients.
Because the bottle garden is a closed environment, that means its water cycle is also a self-contained process.
The water in the bottle gets taken up by plants’ roots, is released into the air during transpiration, condenses down into the potting mixture, where the cycle begins again.