Do you hate the waste that comes with throwing away perfectly good plastic bottles? So do I! I’m really excited to share 10 ingenious methods for transforming plastic bottles from unwanted waste to a treasured resource in your garden.
1. Drip Irrigation
We’re getting into the warmer, drier days of summer here, so what better place to begin than with keeping our plants sufficiently watered.
Start by cutting off the bottom of a plastic bottle then poke or drill holes into either the cap or neck of the bottle. Bury the bottle upside down close to a plant so that the holes lie about four inches (10cm) below the surface.
This makes watering so much easier because now all you have to do is fill the bottle up then move on to the next plant. And if it’s all drained through by the time you’ve finished, it’s easy to fill them up again to give the soil a good drenching. I particularly love using this method on thirsty warm-season crops like tomatoes and squashes, which like to have consistent moisture down at their roots.
You can also slow down the rate at which the water drains through by not drilling holes in the bottle, but instead removing the cap and stuffing a tight-fitting piece of sponge into the neck of the bottle.
2. Watering Can
Even with a rose fitted, the spray from a watering can is sometimes a little too heavy for just-sown seeds or delicate seedlings. Water bottles can be used to make a gentler alternative.
Pierce holes at regular intervals all over the surface of a lid of an empty drinks bottle using a drawing pin pushed in at ninety degrees to the lid to get a good, straight flow.
3. Seedling Protection
Bottles make fantastic miniature greenhouses to keep recently transplanted seedlings safe from plunging temperatures and harsh winds – ideal for acclimatising them to the outdoors or getting a jumpstart on the new growing season. They’ll also keep birds off. Simply remove the label from a clear plastic bottle, cut the bottom off, and pop it over your seedlings or young plants.
Narrower bottles are great for individual plants, and you can prevent them from blowing away by pushing them down into the soil and then – for a belts and braces approach – push a cane down through the middle to hold it in place. Larger bottles like five-litre sizes are great for clusters of seedlings, while an even bigger water dispenser bottle would offer even more options. Leave the lid off for ventilation unless it’s very cold.
4. Garden Scoop
You can make very effective tools from sturdy plastic bottles. Use a bottle with a handle, such as a milk bottle, to make an all-purpose scoop. Mark out a diagonal line on both sides so that the top of the line comes to about an inch (3cm) of the handle. Join the diagonal lines up, then cut along them to create your scoop – the perfect addition to the potting bench!
5. Fruit Picker
You could also cut a circle out of a bottle near the bottom, then mount it securely onto a cane or pole inserted through the neck of the bottle. The result is a very basic but no-less-effective fruit picker, ideal for extending your reach to nab those high up fruits.
6. Recycled Planter
Plastic bottles also make handy little containers. Cut them in half then drill drainage holes into the bottom half before filling with potting mix. You could use the top half too of course, piercing holes into the cap for drainage then perhaps securing your bottle planter to a post, fence, wall or trellis to make a quirky feature.
7. Self-Watering Container
How about a self-watering container? Cut a bottle about two thirds of the way up and poke a hole into the lid. Take a strip of cotton fabric (for example cut from an old t-shirt or sock), tie a knot in one end, then thread the other end through the hole. Turn the top of the bottle upside down, fill with potting mix and plant or sow into it, then insert it into the bottom half of the bottle so that the fabric strip dangles down to the bottom. Fill with water to just below the cap. The fabric strip serves as a wick, drawing moisture up from the water reservoir to keep the potting mix above consistently damp and your plants happy.
8. Seed Trays
You can make seed or growing trays from plastic bottles. Either cut them right down to make a shallow tray – not forgetting to pierce those all-important drainage holes into the bottom – or slice open a two-litre drinks bottle vertically, and pierce holes along the bottom of each half. Fill with soil, sow, and grow!
9. Plant Labels
And all those bits you’ve cut out? Don’t waste those! Cut them down into strips to use as plant labels. Use a marker pen to write on them and then, when you no longer need them, wipe the ink off or leave the labels in the sun to bleach clean.
10. Bottle Greenhouse
And finally, if you’ve got loads of plastic bottles you could even try making something like this – a plastic bottle greenhouse!
You’ll need hundreds (perhaps thousands!) of bottles for this – so start collecting now, and press friends and neighbours into saving theirs for you too. To make your greenhouse, thread bottomless bottles onto garden stakes or canes, then secure each run of bottles to a wooden frame to make each of your wall and roof panels. The panels can then be secured to each other with corner brackets. It’ll take time, but what an original, eco-friendly way to build a greenhouse!