How to – Vertical Garden Planting ~ using recycled milk bottles

Every time I tweet about our recycled milk bottle, wall garden I get lots of interest. And it kind of makes sense. After all, the cost is minimal, the space is minimal – could be done almost anywhere you have a vertical space, inside, outside – and looks rather cool (at least I think so).
We are lucky in that we have 2 terraces, south facing, even better. We built raised beds on those terraces, but it seemed a waste to then not use the vertical space as well.

The good ol’ internet provided inspiration in developing this space into a vertical garden.  There are a number of ways you can do this… there are planting pockets you can buy to hang – and honestly I think these are great – but if you don’t wish to spend the money or you prefer to recycle, or like me a little of all, plus a whole heck of lot of collected plastic milk and water bottles, you may want to consider making a planter wall.

We came across 3 suggested styles for using plastic bottles as planters, so we tried all 3 to see which one worked best. The result: vertical.

But to recap, we tried the horizontal, vertical and tower methods.

Recycled water bottles Herb Wall
Recycled water bottles Herb Wall

Personally, I leant towards the horizontal – as it looks the nicest. However it quite quickly showed us that a horizontal planting does not allow for a lot of root growth area or for good drainage.

towerThe Tower method is about stacking your bottles one inside the other (after you have cut off the bottoms and put in various other holes) and make a ‘water tank’ out of the top bottle. The concept is that the water in the top bottle drips down through the bottles below. Ours always ended up more like a ‘slush’ of water and our plants died from being water logged.

Plan C. We hung the bottles vertically, cap end down. This gave us the most root area and we were able to grow quite a variety of plants in them, though we can’t recommend anything that needs to sort of blossom outward, e.g. lettuce. Herbs worked extremely well, as did the odd tomato and radish.

Vertical wallplanting using plastic milk bottles
Vertical wallplanting using plastic milk bottles

So on to the How To

take your plastic bottle and cut off the flat end. We simply used a knife, sometimes scissors, with of course care and attention to not cutting oneself. Leaving the cap on, poke two holes, one either side near the cap end. These are for drainage if you over water or get a particularly rainy day.

We then poked holes in the top end (the open end now, since you cut that end off) for tying string or wire to.  We were luck in that we had some old fashioned metal stays attached to the garden wall. You can of course hang from just about anything. It all depends on what you have available in your vertical space. We ran wire from one stay to another horizontally. Then using string we tied one end to the horizontal wire then down through the hole in the bottle and back up to the wire. Ditto the other side. So essentially you are hanging your bottle, cap side down from above.  We varied the lengths of string so that we staggered our bottles in height along the wall, thus allowing us more room to hang more bottles (we had collected a lot of old milk bottles) and also giving them more exposure and sun.

Something to make note of, which we learned as we went along, is that by planting this way, especially if in a sunny spot, you need to water often. As my Mum said to me ‘you need to water container planters twice as much as those plants in the ground.’ Boy, was she right, so be prepared. This year we are setting up a drip system.

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10 Comments

    1. Author

      Thank you! Watch this space our next rendition. I am changing over many of the bottles, particularly the horizontal ones to vertical. Been saving plastic bottles since the summer!

    1. Author

      It’s so wonderfully easy, and such a good use of plastic water bottles. I changed to all blue (Rozanna) bottles the following season. Also discovered that vertical works better (more root room). The only thing you have to so is make sure you water often as they dry out faster than larger pots. Can’t wait to see a picture! (And would happily share your thoughts here on my blog if you write about it!)

      1. Thanks!
        I just need to be in France full time so I can actually start cultivating, but will certainly credit you with this great idea and link to you when I write the post

        1. Author

          I had a gardener friend reccomend that sometimes I should ‘cheat’ and purchase already growing plants – particularly when time is short. This is especially great for strawberries. And watch this space… this year I am trying bigger bottles as we have swapped over to large bottled water (5 litres) as more economical (and less bottles to recycle 😉 )

    1. Author

      It works really well. Best to go vertical (more root area), though radishes will grow well either direction. And lots of watering.



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