I have an "island" consisting of recycled plastic bottles and old wooden pallets.

------------- <- Wooden pallets
ooooooooooooo <- Bags of bottles

The "island" is on a fresh water lake located in a sunny humid climate(Most of the year).

When I put the sand, or dirt(I'd rather use sand) on the "island" the pallets will rot and eventually provide no support.

I would like to know what you think would be the best plants, trees(Would need to be small and light), and grass to grow on this "island". The plants would need to have fast, strong and large root systems, that can hold the ground together and maybe reach down into the bags beneath and hold those as well.

I was thinking about mangroves because of their great roots however they seem to take a long time to grow.

Any thoughts would be great. Thank you.

  • Are you trying to emulate the mesoamerican island gardens en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinampa ? Commented Dec 26, 2017 at 18:37
  • Without soil, you can't grow anything much - a layer of 18 inches of soil means a tree can grow - but not if its unsupported and floating on water,and that much soil will sink your 'island'. The chinampa method in the link in the other comment might be a way forward for you.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Dec 26, 2017 at 18:48
  • You should consider also a net, to keep plants together and doing a more natural "aquaponics". Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 10:25

1 Answer 1


Is this a science experiment? I hope you are documenting this so you don't have to do it often. Plastic islands on fresh water will contaminate that body of water with BPA's.

I would get plastic pots with drain holes, use sterile potting soil. That will give your plants at least a chance. I would use Golden Hops. This vine is awesome fast growing...mind boggling fast. It would definitely hold those plastic bottles together well. Within months! Pallets would rot eventually (5 years+) and you should make sure that wood is not pressure treated...not usually but pallets are made of scrap wood that most certainly could be pressure treated with chemicals not good for a pond. Mesh, 1/4 mesh would hold it all together but you have to make it so that it doesn't disintegrate, pieces could get baby ducks and bass and other wildlife tangled. Not cool.

Plant hops starts from 1 gallon (usually what is found to purchase hops is 1 gallon) into 3 gallon black pots. Use mesh to support them on your island. Allow the bottom of the pot to be in the water about a half inch. When you up pot your hops from the store into these 3 gallon pots, add Osmocote extended release 14-14-14 to the 3 gallon pot soil per directions (this will last the entire season) (if you have a season), soak the soil and plant before installing in your island. The mesh will help protect the roots growing out of the bottom from fish, ducks and if you have wildlife in your...pond, mesh over the top might be necessary as well.

I am making an awful lot of assumptions here; this plant, hops, you can actually watch grow. Mass of leaves and stems, vigorous doesn't do it justice. I am worried that you are expecting some ecosystem to develop within a few years, within your lifetime. Not happening.

As a short term 'science project' this could be fun to do. Don't know where it is you live, hops, is a perennial that dies all the way to the ground for winter. The gardener is able to clean up and remove all dead vines and leaves easily, the next spring that hops is back with a vengeance! I have witnessed this plant covering an arbor 100 sq. ft. at least 1 foot deep by May. To continue going up and over trees over fences 50 feet away, covering another 100 sq. ft. getting 2 feet deep by June.

Your project would not require you to 'clean up' the vines/leaves, they would be caught up in the mesh. If they were allowed to decompose at the bottom of your pond...this plant would be considered an exotic invader. I'd need to research the chemistry of hops to make sure it wasn't THAT exotic.

I'd like you to begin to see that whatever we humans try to control will always be artificial. All of our gardens are artificial. Ecosystems take thousands of years to become established. I am serious. There is no way we humans will ever be able to recreate an ecosystem, we just live too short of a time.

I hope this provides some good thoughts that will help you. It would be nice to get more information such as your climate, zone, soil types, fish/wildlife involved, average pH of your soils, the pH of your pond (?), is this a natural pond fed by subterranean water or is this fed by tap water?

You have heard about an island in the Pacific, formed in an eddy by natural currents of the ocean where our oh so lovely trash that floats has accumulated and dunno if this is true, but I heard people are able to walk on this floating island! If I find a link I'll send it to you...this is nature actually doing what you are wanting to do. Century after century, millenia after millenia, plants will find this 'niche' die, decompose, make sort of a soil, particulates from the atmosphere will be added...the plastic will be invisible, held to the center layer of this island, while plants will have taken over the job of buoyancy, roots with air pockets? We are talking a million years...no big deal in nature, big deal for humans with a science project to recreate! Grins! How big is your project? Is this a manmade lake with an unestablished ecosystem? Do you have a winter? What are your visions? Camping out on your island? What prompted you to envision and prepare to make this island? What is your back ground in the sciences? If we got caught doing this in the States we'd be fined. Big time. Depending on the hydrology. Ponds are part of a system. They are not separated from the underground waters, rivers, creeks or our drinking wells. If there were salmon spawning streams nearby, there are huge 'buffer' zones that define what can and can't be done within those zones. Gets very convoluted and expensive.

I guess the plastic comes from India and China primarily. Again, dunno how they know that fact? Sounds, fishy, to me. We will someday be known as Homo plasticus...

  • If you mean the plastic that forms the Great Pacific Garbage Patch when you say 'India and China primarily', that's not true; 80% of it comes from North America and Asia - but there are other, smaller oceanic garbage patches in the Atlantic and Indian ocean nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch. But the whole world contributes to the problem - these patches are just where it all ends up.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Dec 26, 2017 at 23:37
  • We are on the same page, Bamboo. I was being facetious! This is the process of evolution, gag. Similar to honey dew perhaps. A by product of our species that is being integrated into this thin blue line...somehow. Maybe it will turn into a precious type of Amber in the near future of a million or so years? We humans are just filthy. CO2 ain't at all a problem however...later in chat? Later later in chat?
    – stormy
    Commented Dec 26, 2017 at 23:46
  • I'm surprised you didn't mention Europe as a contributor to Pacific patch... And, it must be Russia poluting Hudson river... Sigh.
    – VividD
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 0:13
  • 2
    It is ridiculous what our legislators push through(what an amazing system), there are so many reasons against chlorine and fluoride(and a lot of other things), its sad however that the laws get pushed through so fast that our reps can't read them and in turn make decisions good or bad that effect us immensely. I hope to be able to learn more through this project and find out whether or not this would even be slightly legal. Thank you for your help. :) Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 15:08
  • 1
    The guy in mexico registered his as an ecological boat. Maybe the U.S has some sort of science project designation. Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 15:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.