March 25, 2011

6 Ways to Re-Use Plastic Bottles in the Garden

Plastic bottles are everywhere these days and most of them are recyclable and that's a good thing. But it still requires a lot of energy to collect, sort and recycle those plastic bottles. Here are 6 easy ways to re-use plastic bottles in the garden that will benefit both the gardener and the environment.

1. Self Watering Plant Pots

Drill a hole in the bottle cap for a water-wick. This can be made from any absorbent material, such as a rolled-up absorbent kitchen towel. Cut the plastic bottle in half and invert the neck section. Insert the wick through the hole in the cap and fit this section into the bottom section of the bottle. Half fill the bottom section with water. You can also add diluted plant food to feed the plant. The top section can be filled with potting mix. As you fill the top section, ensure that the wick is centred and reaches at least 3/4 of the way up, to ensure good even watering. Plant a seed or seedling and sit the pot in a sunny, sheltered position. These pots are great for getting seedlings started indoors for later transplanting into the garden.

2. Plastic Bottle Cloche

A cloche is a traditional plant cover that is used to protect plants from frost damage and thus allow gardeners to get an early start to spring plantings. A clear plastic bottle can make an excellent cloche and the wide range of sizes available means that there will be a bottle to suit most needs, from 2 litre bottles up to the big 25 litre plastic water-cooler bottles. Simply cut off the base and remove the cap (for better ventilation) then place over the plant that needs protection when there is a risk of frost. It is best to remove these cloches on warm sunny days as continual poor ventilation can cause problems with fungal and mildew diseases.

3. Seedling Guards
If you have a problem with cut-worms, slugs, snails or other animals eating your new seedlings, a simple plant guard can be made by cutting the top and bottom off of a plastic bottle to make a protective sleeve or collar that can be sat over the emerging seedling. If you have some wood ash or even sawdust, this can be lightly scattered inside the guard and will help to deter pests as well. Once the seedling is well established the guard can be removed (even if it needs to be cut off) and the plastic can go in the recycle bin.

4. Water Well

Plants benefit from deep watering as it encourages healthy root growth. Cut the bottom out of a plastic bottle and drill a hole in the cap. Bury the bottle cap down, with around 50mm (2") of the bottle exposed, alongside crops such as cucumbers, melons, squash, pumkins, etc. Depending on the size of the bottle, one or two bottles next to each plant should deliver plenty of water into the soil where the plants can use it.

5. Fruit Fly Trap

Cut the top off a plastic bottle, just below where the sides begin to straighten and remove the cap. Put a bait in the bottom part of the bottle. This can be ripe or over-ripe fruit (banana works well), vinegar or even a little red wine. Turn the neck upside down and fit it inside the base. The two parts can be taped or glued together for a good seal and a wire or string handle can be attached to hang the trap from your fruit trees. The flies are drawn into the bottle by the bait and cannot easily find the way out again. The trap can be pulled apart and cleaned or disposed of. These traps and cleaning up all fallen fruit can reduce fruit fly infestations dramatically.

6. Plastic Scoop
You can make a simple scoop for handling a range of garden jobs from potting mix to chook food. Cut a plastic bottle on an angle to make a simple plastic scoop. Plastic bottles with handles work best for this. The stiffer the bottle, the stronger the scoop.

These are six simple ways to reduce our impact on the planet and enhance our lives by re-using a common item that is normally treated as waste or a recyclable item. There are plenty more ways to use these bottle around the home. I will leave that up to your imagination.


  1. This is a GREAT post!
    I have another idea of what to use plastic bottles for, please forgive me for posting this, I TRULY do not want to take anything away from this post. I wrote an article about two and half years ago, using them as a propagation chamber.
    Please see it here:
    Again, Ian, this is a GREAT post, I will actually be trying some of these myself!!

    1. Mate, no need to apologise at all! I'm happy for anyone to add their ideas. You haven't taken anything away from this article at all, you have done the opposite and added to it.
      Thank you for the contribution.

    2. this was pretty helpful but i need a little more info

    3. would have been nice if you gave us a condensed idea what your post is about rather than just posting the link

    4. I am wondering how do you keep these plastic on the ground on windy days especially in the fall and winter as well as spring. Here in Indiana, we do have windy days on and off. Any ideas how to keep them grounded?

    5. I am wondering how do you keep these plastic on the ground on windy days especially in the fall and winter as well as spring. Here in Indiana, we do have windy days on and off. Any ideas how to keep them grounded?

    6. You could probably add a few stones or rocks into the bottle to weigh it down. That's what I do with my lightweight pots.

  2. Perfect, all the info I need in one to the workshop I go.



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  4. Thanks for this very useful garden tips! Another good ways to recycle plastic bottles.. Well done!

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  6. Ian, what a wonderful article! So useful and thoughtful! I'm going to read all your blog posts and try these tips out in my garden. Thank you!

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  14. We used the handle of large squash bottles plus small surrounding amount nailed to posts with electric strand for insulating our electric fencing in the fields here. Milk cartons with handles would do as well.

  15. im glad I read this. ive been saving my 2 liter plastic bottles (I drink a couple jugs of seltzer water a week) for the purpose of protecting seedlings next spring in garden from frost but I hadn't thought about ventilation. I envision starting seeds inside on heated mat and as they sprout using a light then planting out "early" just because I have time to baby plants, weed and put on and remove protection if necessary and love to garden.

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