Every time I tweet about turning our recycled milk bottles into a 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).
Using Vertical Space
We are lucky in that we have 2 terraces. Both are 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 (from Amazon*) 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 water and milk bottles, you may want to consider making a planter wall.
The 3 Types
We came across 3 suggested styles for using plastic bottles as planters, the horizontal, vertical and tower methods. Not knowing which would work best, we tried all 3.
Personally, I leant towards the Horizontal method – as it looked the nicest. However it quite quickly became apparent that a horizontal bottle does not allow for a lot of root growth area or for good drainage. Most plants were stunted or drowned.
The Tower method is about stacking your milk 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, the Vertical method. 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. To note 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. It’s really about growing plants in the singular.
So on to the How To…
Recycle Milk Bottles
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 your bottles 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.
We learned as we went along, 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.
For this next year, we will take what we learned, review, revisit and adapt. And, we are setting up a drip system.
We are affiliated with Amazon and in writing and researching this post I discovered you can buy various planter pockets from them, so I am taking the opportunity to link them here should you be interested, and we will get a few pennies if you do end up buying any. Santé.
(If you would like to read more about our Affiliates, visit our Nourishing Pumpjack & Piddlewick page.)