How to make a vertical garden out of recycled plastic bottles | PumpjackPIddlewick

Every time I talk about about turning our recycled milk bottles into a vertical garden I get lots of interest. And it kind of makes sense. After all, the cost is minimal, the space is minimal. It could be done almost anywhere you have a vertical space, inside or outside. And it looks rather cool (at least I think so).

Using Vertical Space

I first tried vertical gardening when I was a caretaker at a little Château. The garden there had 2 terraces. Both were south facing, even better. I 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, and happen to have a whole heck of a lot of collected plastic water and milk bottles, you may want to consider making a planter wall.

The 3 Types

I came across 3 suggested styles for using plastic bottles as planters, the horizontal, vertical and tower methods. Not knowing which would work best, I tried all three.

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. Mine always ended up more like a ‘slush’ of water and the plants died from being water logged.

Plan C, the Vertical method. I hung the bottles vertically, cap end down. This gave the most root area and I was able to grow quite a variety of plants in them. To note though, I 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

How to make a vertical garden out of recycled plastic milk bottles | PumpjackPIddlewick
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Take your plastic bottle and cut off the bottom end. I 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.

I then poked holes in the top end (the open end now, since you cut that end off) for tying string or wire to.  I was lucky in that I 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.

I ran wire from one stay to another horizontally. Then using string 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.

The lengths of string were varied so that I staggered the bottles in height along the wall, thus allowing me more room to hang more bottles. (I had collected a lot of old milk bottles.) It also gave them more exposure and sun.

Of Note

I learned as I 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.

The great thing about trying something new, is that you can take what you’ve learned, review, revisit and adapt for next year.

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    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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