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Gardening with Recycled Plastic Bottles

Updated on June 22, 2014

Recycling Gets Even Greener

One of the most interesting things I've read in recent years is that in the future - likely in our lifetimes, in fact - many recyclable products will be in such high demand that we'll be forced to mine our own landfills to get them back.

I've always really admired people who can look at items that many of us think of as trash and see the potential in them. This admiration inspired me to dig into plastic bottle projects for the garden. On this page, I'll share what I found in my research - loads of fun, practical, and beautiful ways you can reuse plastic bottles in the outdoors. I also invite you to share your ideas and projects with me. Thanks for visiting and I hope you find some projects you can use.

Photo credit: haemengine.

Make Your Greenspace "Eco-Chic"

Salvage Style for Outdoor Living
Salvage Style for Outdoor Living

Recycling, repurposing, rescuing treasures from the trash, and transforming them to help make your garden a more beautiful, comfortable, and sustainable place. That's what this book is about!!

 
Garden Junk
Garden Junk

Whether you get it from flea markets, garage sales, or your own attic, Mary Randolph Carter will help you see that junk with new eyes and show you how to revive it for your favorite outdoor space. This is the perfect book for anyone who loves "junk!"

 
Junk Beautiful, Outdoor Edition
Junk Beautiful, Outdoor Edition

The key word about this book is "tasteful." It's filled with inspirations for how to refresh and re-create "junk" for your garden that is tasteful, classic, and appealing to the eye. It also includes several seasonal ideas that I'm absolutely in love with!

 

Planters

Plastic Bottle Terrarium
Plastic Bottle Terrarium

Terrarium

Terrariums are like miniature greenhouses. When the sun shines on them, it warms the air inside, so the water inside evaporates. With nowhere to go, the water condenses on the top and sides of the terrarium, then drain back down into the soil. This process happens over and over again, creating a miniature ecosystem inside the dome. It's a great way to conserve water

To make a terrarium for indoor plants, cut apart a soda bottle and reassemble it according to the instructions here.

Here's a similar but different design for a Coke Bottle Terrarium, which has a little more shape and styling to it.

Tip: Terrariums are the perfect tool to keep plants alive for as long as several months. My mom uses this method when my parents head south for the winter. For large plants, she uses a large clear garbage bag.

Tip: If you need to treat your plant for pests, spray the plant and keep it in a terrarium to protect other plants in your home from the pests and to keep beloved pets away from the pesticide.

Plastic Bottle Herb Garden
Plastic Bottle Herb Garden

Herb Pots

Herbs are delicious and can be grown well indoors and out. These herb pots help you protect the environment, protect your indoor surface by using a material that won't leak over time, and choose from a variety of shapes and sizes to create the effect you want.

Click here for a tutorial to make an attractive Herb Garden.

Tip: Create enough small planters to design a centerpiece or focal point in a room. Picture a row of herbs on a bench in the breakfast nook or a full, lush cluster of them in the middle of the dinner table.

Tip: For many years, I had a Puerto Rican oregano plant that was not only beautiful, but it was my favorite part of cleaning the house. I would sprinkle a few leaves on the floor while vacuuming and the fresh fragrance would spread throughout the house (instead of the stale smell of vacuum cleaner).

Plastic Bottle Topsy Turvy Planter
Plastic Bottle Topsy Turvy Planter

Topsy Turvy Planter

Tomatoes that grow "topsy turvy" are easier than most. No more tomato cages or tying them to other support structures. Since you use fresh soil every year, diseases and pests don't have time to take hold and contaminate growing from one year to the next. And since they're hanging up, instead of being packed together in a small plot, the plants get more air circulation. All of these things can mean more, better and bigger tomatoes for you and your family!

But you don't have to pay a lot of money (sometimes as much as $20) for an upside down planter. Here's a tutorial for a Recycled Topsy Turvy Planter you can make yourself. It's easy to follow and uses very basic materials.

Note: The photo here is my own attempt at these topsy turvy's. Mine aren't pretty, and I'm okay with that, because my tomato plants are growing like gangbusters! One thing to note is that I found it was important to stabilize the planter by taping the string hangers to the sides of the bottles so they held it solidly upright. It worked great!!

Another Note: Topsy Turvy Planters take daily watering, sometimes more frequent if it's hot. These are not "set it and forget it" planters.

Video Tutorials: Upcycled Planters

Plastic Bottle Garden Cloches
Plastic Bottle Garden Cloches

Cloches

It's officially spring and you are ready to put your plants in the ground, but what happens when the icy fingers of winter creep in and freeze young sprouts? Cloches protect your seedlings from frost and some pests. However, they can be expensive, especially if you have a lot of seedlings to protect... unless you make your own 2-Liter Cloches.

Tip: These cloches are extra special because they stack nicely for storage in between seasons.

Vertical Gardening with Plastic Bottles
Vertical Gardening with Plastic Bottles

Vertical Gardening

Many people who love growing plants don't have space for a traditional garden. Still others have soil that's challenging whether it's clay, sand, acidic, or some other issue. For either problem, there's Vertical Gardening. The vertical system pictured here - which can be used indoors or outdoors - uses stacked 2-liter bottles and drip irrigation for a creative solution to these space and soil problems.

Here's another example of a vertical system with a Wooden Frame built to support a number of potted plants in a creative space saving method.

Tip: Check out the video below to see a vertical system being used indoors.

Indoor Vertical Gardening Video

Cool things happen to plastic that gets recycled... - ... instead of landfilled!

Green Toys Indoor Gardening Kit
Green Toys Indoor Gardening Kit

This kit - for children 5 and older - comes with pots, seeds, soil discs, a trowel and a cute tray shaped like a pea pod. It's a great way to get your young gardener started out green.

 
TerraCycle Recycled Plastic Pot & Saucer - 10" Green
TerraCycle Recycled Plastic Pot & Saucer - 10" Green

Container gardening in green pots that are also green for the environment... does it get better than that?

 
TerraCycle Recycled Pot & Saucer,  10 Terracotta
TerraCycle Recycled Pot & Saucer, 10 Terracotta

Made from recycled plastics, this pot and saucer from TerraCycle looks authentic in the traditional terra cotta tones. I love the look of terra cotta in a garden and feel even better about the materials these are made from!

 
Plastic Bottle Hanging Garden
Plastic Bottle Hanging Garden

Hanging Wall Garden

People who don't have much space - especially urban growers - become masters of maximizing their use of space. This Hanging Wall Garden is nothing less than practical art, which in turn improved the livelihood of the Brazilian family that created it.

Note: I saw quite a few Internet references to this idea, but shared this link because it includes a diagram from and a link to the original web-based tutorial (written in Spanish).

Plastic Bottle Hanging Garden Planter
Plastic Bottle Hanging Garden Planter

Hanging Planter

I love this tutorial because it shows that soda bottles can be useful and practical without looking like plastic bottles. I can imagine a whole row of these beautiful Hanging Planters with their rust-like look hanging from the bottom of the deck in front of my house.

Tip: You can stick with the rust color or choose one that coordinates at your home. This is a great (and best of all, inexpensive) upcycling project to beautify any home or greenspace!

Which was your favorite planting project?

Which was your favorite planting project?

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Watering

Plastic Bottle Sprinkler
Plastic Bottle Sprinkler

Sprinkler

If you're like me, the sprinkler you use has lots of little holes that get clogged up, and it seems like they stop working well from one year to the next. So I have to buy a new one almost every year. This Sprinkler is a very affordable alternative, and if I start saving pens as they run out now, it's nearly free. I also like the way this one allows you to direct where your sprinkles will sprinkle.

If the direction of the spray doesn't matter to you, here's an even simpler alternative Bottle Sprinkler. This one doesn't include a tutorial, so you may need to refer to the pen design for connection instructions.

Or check out the video below to see how it's done.

Plastic Bottle Drip Irrigation System
Plastic Bottle Drip Irrigation System

Drip Irrigation System

This summer is supposed to be brutally hot again, which can be hard on plants, even if your really diligent about watering regularly. This Drip Irrigation System hides easily in and among your plants and helps reduce stress on them by maintaining a steady trickle throughout the day.

Just remember, the system is not perfect. It's still up to you to fill it.

For the visual learners, click here for a photo tutorial of the same project.

Video Tutorials for Recycled Watering Methods

Which was your favorite watering project?

Which was your favorite watering project?

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Critter Controls and Feeders

Plastic Bottle Bird Feeders
Plastic Bottle Bird Feeders

Soda Bottle Bird Feeders

Our fine feathered friends can reap the benefits of recycling too with this Soda Bottle Bird Feeder. There are plenty of products and add-ons out there that make your homemade feeder look like a commercial feeder, but the birds don't care if you don't.

Click here for another similar design that uses wooden spoons as perches that act as a catch for some of the seed before it falls to the ground.

Tip: Or if you do want your recycling project to look more like a "real" bird feeder, you can check out some of the products below that make this project even quicker and easier.

Plastic Bottle Mole Control
Plastic Bottle Mole Control

Mole Control Pinwheel

Can you imagine a more beautiful way to keep moles at bay?

In theory, the way these colorful Pinwheels move makes the stick it's mounted on wiggle, causing the ground to vibrate and driving moles from the yard.

Update: I've done some additional research and the vibrations really are irritating to moles - at first. However, if the vibration is consistent, they usually grow used to it and it doesn't work to repel them. Unfortunately, the only effective ways of getting rid of moles are baiting and trapping.

I would happily still make the case that this pinwheel will make me smile every time I see it in the yard!

Plastic Bottle Pest Control
Plastic Bottle Pest Control

Sustainable Pest Control

Maize - another name for corn - can be grown in many growing zones. But both large and small pests can be a real problem for those those who like to grow it.

In my local community garden, it's the raccoons that scale the fences and head for the nearest stalks of corn. A friend of mine has an organic farm where they grow sweet corn and there are frequently worms inside the husks so we have to eat the ears soon after they've been picked and pick the worms off while we're cleaning the corn.

This creative, natural Sustainable Pest Control solution keeps all kinds of pests away from the delectable ears of maize while still allowing the sun to shine through.

Tip: These corn covers bundle easily together and store well from one year to the next. That means, the first year is an investment of time and effort, and every year after that is easy.

Plastic Bottle Yellow Jacket Trap
Plastic Bottle Yellow Jacket Trap

Yellow Jacket or Mosquito Trap

Yellow jackets can ruin any outdoor party, especially for our friends who have allergies. They can be hard to control though, especially when our sweet drinks attract them. We don't want to be driven indoors by their persistent buzzing.

This Yellow Jacket Trap is one solution. Follow the instructions in this tutorial, then fill the bottom of the trap with a sweet liquid (recommendations in the tutorial). Yellow jackets - as well as other flying frustrations - find their way in, but not back out.

If mosquitoes are your problem, visit this site. Same basic instructions for the project, but with a special mixture in the bottom that attracts mosquitoes.

Video Tutorials: Attracting and Repelling Critters

What happens to plastics that live really good lives? - They get reincarnated as bird feeders!

Poly-Recycled Oriole Feeder SNOF
Poly-Recycled Oriole Feeder SNOF

The oriole feeder is my favorite - partly because I love orioles and partly because the design and color of the feeder itself is so beautiful!

 

Which was your favorite project for animals?

Which was your favorite project for animals?

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Outdoor Construction

Plastic Bottle Greenhouse #2
Plastic Bottle Greenhouse #2

Greenhouses

Greenhouse #1 has a complete tutorial including measurements, materials list, and clear instructions. Unfortunately, there are no pictures to help with visualizing the plans. The plans call for more than a thousand 2-liter bottles. So start drinking (or collecting from your friends) now.

Greenhouse #2 has at least one picture (to the right) of quite a beautiful greenhouse. Its lines are clean, it looks like a pretty straightforward design and comes with extremely detailed instructions.

Greenhouse #3 is my favorite tutorial. It includes text instructions, step-by-step photos, and plenty of links with resources. But it's more than that! It's truly the story of how one family built and used their greenhouse, with season by season reports on how their project went. It's personal, detailed, and well-done.

Plastic Bottle Roof
Plastic Bottle Roof

Upcycled Roof

The Upcycled Roof "tiles" are patterned after the classic curved terracotta roof tiles found most commonly in Central and South American architecture. The same ideas apply with curved waterproof arcs hooked together creating troughs that drain rainwater down the slope of the roof.

Note: The text on this page is in Spanish. Fortunately, it's a photo tutorial.

Video Tutorials: Another Greenhouse

Which building project was your favorite?

Which building project was your favorite?

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Patio Projects

Plastic Bottle Hanging Vase
Plastic Bottle Hanging Vase

Simple Hanging Vase

For all those flowers that you grow, use this Simple Hanging Vase to hold them. It's lovely, simple, and will keep those fresh flowers looking fresh.

Tip: Use a variety of sizes and shapes of bottles to create living decorations for parties and gatherings. Then send the vases of flowers home with guests for a thoughtful and affordable gift.

If you prefer a tabletop vase, here's a "Crystal" Vase with a woven top that's really quite striking.

Plastic Bottle Sun Catcher
Plastic Bottle Sun Catcher

Sun Catcher

Capture the sun with this simple sun catcher... I'm always amazed by how bright and shiny plastic can look when it's out of its normal shape. Notice how the sun catchers pictured here use all different parts of the bottle and combine with beads for a cheerful effect.

Use this Sun Catcher tutorial to create a sun and eyecatching patio decoration.

Tip: Hang a single strand from your downspout to use it as a rain chain

Tip: Create a row of eye catchers that double as a "bead" curtain for your sun room, breakfast nook, or other room that allows a lot of daylight.

Relax! - Your patio furniture is made of guilt-free recycled materials.

Click on this Amazon link to get more information about this chair or to see more great examples of recycled plastic lawn furniture.

Funky Flowers

Funky Flowers are yard art at its best. Use them as a border around your patio, poking out of a potted plant, or as a flashy disguise for a fence.

These Flower Lights look like so much fun. I can definitely see them strung along my deck rail for those nights when my husband and I want to sit outside with a cool drink. And they're beautiful both night and day.

Note: Sorry, I can't share a picture of either of these projects.

Plastic Bottle Broom
Plastic Bottle Broom

Broom

Keep your patio clean with the Bottle Broom. Requiring 20 soda bottles and a few other simple tools and materials, this broom looks like you could have bought it in a store.

Tip: Brooms that are left outside can break down in the sun, rain, and wind. Animals can also chew the bristles, leaving your broom ineffective. But you want to keep it handy to sweep leaves and other debris off the patio. Because plastic breaks down so slowly, this broom will survive the elements significantly longer than most store bought varieties.

Which patio project is your favorite?

Which patio project is your favorite?

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Is plastic safe to reuse near food products?

There is a great debate going - plastic needs to be recycled and/or reused for the environment (currently PET plastics are only being recycled about 20% of the time) but there are concerns that they give off chemicals that can be harmful and even carcinogenic (cancer-causing).

Where do you stand on the reuse of plastic bottles in the garden?

Link Party Connections

Here are parties and blog hops this page is linked to. Click on any of them to find hundreds more ideas, recipes, crafts, and much more!

What upcycled project will you be putting in your garden this season?

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    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Neighbours threw out an old vegetable rack, which I took into garden and used as a plant rack with an old transparent shower curtain over it to protect the plants from frost.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Neighbours threw out an old vegetable rack, which I took into garden and used as a plant rack with an old transparent shower curtain over it to protect the plants from frost.

    • profile image

      erleneamat 3 years ago

      We've already done a birdhouse, but I'm thinking of using some bottles to make a fairy garden. Thanks for sharing this roundup on Merry Monday. Pinned.

    • JackieBlock profile image

      Jackie Block 3 years ago from SE Michigan

      I love these ideas. I definitely will be giving a few of these a try this year and next!

    • JimHofman profile image

      JimHofman 3 years ago

      I definitely want to try more vertical gardening since we are space challenged now. Wonderful ideas on your lens! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • ashleydpenn profile image

      ashleydpenn 3 years ago

      So many great ideas. Thank you!!

    • LouCannon profile image

      Amanda Louise Cannon 3 years ago from Wynndel BC Canada

      Love to see green themed lenses!

    • AcornOakForest profile image
      Author

      Monica Lobenstein 3 years ago from Western Wisconsin

      @paulahite: Thanks so much for sharing it! That's wonderful to hear.

    • paulahite profile image

      Paula Hite 3 years ago from Virginia

      Lots of fabulous ideas here! I shared your lens on our Facebook page today!www.facebook.com/GreenThumbOnSquidoo?

    • profile image

      ucpl-santej 4 years ago

      Great way to use the plastic bottles here.Plastic Packaging Materials

    • profile image

      tonyleather 4 years ago

      Any lens that promotes recycling gets a big thumbs-up from me, especially if it involves gardening!

    • profile image

      sandi13 4 years ago

      Lots of useful and unique ideas for gardening projects here. Greats post. Loving the herb pots idea. Very cool...

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 4 years ago

      I've gleaned lots of info from this cool-as-ever green gardening page...thanks!

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      Some excellent ideas for recycled garden products. Thanks for the great information I will bookmark this for future reference.

    • rob-hemphill profile image

      Rob Hemphill 5 years ago from Ireland

      You've included so many different and ingenious ways to recycle plastic bottles, well done on a great lens. ~blessed by a Squid Angel~

    • profile image

      les777 5 years ago

      Never thought that a used plastic bottle had so many uses.

    • jayavi profile image

      jayavi 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing valuable ideas. nice lens nicely arrange

    • maryseena profile image

      maryseena 5 years ago

      A great storehouse of information on recycling plastic bottles. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      lionmom100 5 years ago

      I have used plastic bottles (milk cartons) to do vacation watering of plants and for cloches. These are some really original projects using plastic bottles. I am inclined to try some of these.

    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 5 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      I might try a couple of these like the hanging garden. Great ideas and great lens. Blessed by TonyB.TonyB

    • GardenIdeasHub LM profile image

      GardenIdeasHub LM 5 years ago

      I really enjoyed your article about gardening with recycled plastic bottles. Great ideas!

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 5 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      My husband uses several of these techniques on our organic farm. We've managed to go for months without watering the fields thanks to plastic bottle irrigation systems. I wish more people knew about it as it saves so much water!

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