10 Clever Hacks for Reusing Plastic Bottles in the Garden

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Homemade drip irrigation using an old plastic bottle

Do you hate the waste that comes with throwing away perfectly good plastic bottles? So do I! I’m really excited to share 10 ingenious methods for transforming plastic bottles from unwanted waste to a treasured resource in your garden.

1. Drip Irrigation

We’re getting into the warmer, drier days of summer here, so what better place to begin than with keeping our plants sufficiently watered.

Start by cutting off the bottom of a plastic bottle then poke or drill holes into either the cap or neck of the bottle. Bury the bottle upside down close to a plant so that the holes lie about four inches (10cm) below the surface.

This makes watering so much easier because now all you have to do is fill the bottle up then move on to the next plant. And if it’s all drained through by the time you’ve finished, it’s easy to fill them up again to give the soil a good drenching. I particularly love using this method on thirsty warm-season crops like tomatoes and squashes, which like to have consistent moisture down at their roots.

You can also slow down the rate at which the water drains through by not drilling holes in the bottle, but instead removing the cap and stuffing a tight-fitting piece of sponge into the neck of the bottle.

Poke some holes in the cap and hey presto, you have a watering can for seedlings!

2. Watering Can

Even with a rose fitted, the spray from a watering can is sometimes a little too heavy for just-sown seeds or delicate seedlings. Water bottles can be used to make a gentler alternative.

Pierce holes at regular intervals all over the surface of a lid of an empty drinks bottle using a drawing pin pushed in at ninety degrees to the lid to get a good, straight flow.

Keep seedlings safe from cold and wind with a plastic bottle cloche

3. Seedling Protection

Bottles make fantastic miniature greenhouses to keep recently transplanted seedlings safe from plunging temperatures and harsh winds – ideal for acclimatising them to the outdoors or getting a jumpstart on the new growing season. They’ll also keep birds off. Simply remove the label from a clear plastic bottle, cut the bottom off, and pop it over your seedlings or young plants.

Narrower bottles are great for individual plants, and you can prevent them from blowing away by pushing them down into the soil and then – for a belts and braces approach – push a cane down through the middle to hold it in place. Larger bottles like five-litre sizes are great for clusters of seedlings, while an even bigger water dispenser bottle would offer even more options. Leave the lid off for ventilation unless it’s very cold.

An old milk bottle can be cut down into a handy potting scoop

4. Garden Scoop

You can make very effective tools from sturdy plastic bottles. Use a bottle with a handle, such as a milk bottle, to make an all-purpose scoop. Mark out a diagonal line on both sides so that the top of the line comes to about an inch (3cm) of the handle. Join the diagonal lines up, then cut along them to create your scoop – the perfect addition to the potting bench!

Fruit picking just got easier with the help of an old plastic bottle!

5. Fruit Picker

You could also cut a circle out of a bottle near the bottom, then mount it securely onto a cane or pole inserted through the neck of the bottle. The result is a very basic but no-less-effective fruit picker, ideal for extending your reach to nab those high up fruits.

Use plastic bottles to make unusual plant containers

6. Recycled Planter

Plastic bottles also make handy little containers. Cut them in half then drill drainage holes into the bottom half before filling with potting mix. You could use the top half too of course, piercing holes into the cap for drainage then perhaps securing your bottle planter to a post, fence, wall or trellis to make a quirky feature.

Take an old sock and a used plastic bottle and you've got a self-watering container!

7. Self-Watering Container

How about a self-watering container? Cut a bottle about two thirds of the way up and poke a hole into the lid. Take a strip of cotton fabric (for example cut from an old t-shirt or sock), tie a knot in one end, then thread the other end through the hole. Turn the top of the bottle upside down, fill with potting mix and plant or sow into it, then insert it into the bottom half of the bottle so that the fabric strip dangles down to the bottom. Fill with water to just below the cap. The fabric strip serves as a wick, drawing moisture up from the water reservoir to keep the potting mix above consistently damp and your plants happy.

When cut in half, a plastic drinks bottle makes two great seed trays

8. Seed Trays

You can make seed or growing trays from plastic bottles. Either cut them right down to make a shallow tray – not forgetting to pierce those all-important drainage holes into the bottom – or slice open a two-litre drinks bottle vertically, and pierce holes along the bottom of each half. Fill with soil, sow, and grow!

Leftover bits of plastic from other projects can be used to make reusable plant labels

9. Plant Labels

And all those bits you’ve cut out? Don’t waste those! Cut them down into strips to use as plant labels. Use a marker pen to write on them and then, when you no longer need them, wipe the ink off or leave the labels in the sun to bleach clean.

The ultimate in plastic bottle recycling?

10. Bottle Greenhouse

And finally, if you’ve got loads of plastic bottles you could even try making something like this – a plastic bottle greenhouse!

You’ll need hundreds (perhaps thousands!) of bottles for this – so start collecting now, and press friends and neighbours into saving theirs for you too. To make your greenhouse, thread bottomless bottles onto garden stakes or canes, then secure each run of bottles to a wooden frame to make each of your wall and roof panels. The panels can then be secured to each other with corner brackets. It’ll take time, but what an original, eco-friendly way to build a greenhouse!

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Show Comments


"I use bottles as mini greenhouses for plants and have used them as drip feeders, but never thought of the other ideas. I want to build a little potting area beside my shed. Must start collecting bottles."
Laura on Saturday 26 June 2021
"Great stuff Laura. Start collecting right now. It will take a while but is an incredibly fun project I imagine."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 28 June 2021
"great ideas.. people should know, if you've not dealt with plastic like this, the bottles degrade fairly fast, especially in warm-hot, dry climates like here in Southern California. Especially the greenhouse, looks fantastic-love the idea. And/but.. at lease where I live, those bottles would dry out, crack and fall apart within 6 months to a year, max. Using the bottles to water (which I desperately need- about to travel; there will be NO rain...) will work great but again, don't expect to last and remove them before they start cracking up or you'll have plastic bits all in your soil. Cheer! Eileen"
Eileen on Sunday 11 July 2021
"Hi Eileen. Thanks for mentioning this - an important consideration for sure. "
Ben Vanheems on Monday 12 July 2021
" Thank you for sharing... refreshing ideas and good recycling ideas. "
TAN Mae Ling on Saturday 7 August 2021
"Convenient but afraid to use plastic bottles now with what is known about plastics and its effects upon our foods, water and soil environment. Trying to avoid even having to buy items stored in plastic containers. "
K on Friday 3 February 2023
"Wine or other glass bottles would be a good choice as well. Canvas your local restaurants and ask them to save their bottles for you. They would probably be happy to do so as long as you picked them up promptly. That would be quite a lot of wine drinking otherwise and the structure might never get finished! LOL!!!"
Chet on Friday 21 April 2023
"Very true Chet! And great idea to ask local restaurants - I'm sure they'd be happy to offload their bottles."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 25 April 2023
"For the past few days, I have been thinking of how to use plastic bottles in watering and conserving water in my farm especially as the harmattan season draws nearer here in Southern part of Ghana. Reading this is just an answer to my many questions I asked myself. Thank you."
Patrick Tsatsu on Wednesday 29 November 2023
"I'm pleased this has helped Patrick. Very best of luck with your farm as the Harmattan Season approaches."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 30 November 2023
"Thank you! We're brushing up on all the articles for spring! My kids looove to water the garden. My young children especially like using the plastic-bottle-water-sprayers. It's a great way to have them help with small plants and seedlings. If I let very young children go in the spring garden with a regular watering can (even a small capacity "child's can"), the plants/soil tend to get blasted! This year we found some 1/2- 1 gallon size clear plastic water/juice bottles from local restaurants/coffee shops; the seedlings in the garden are cozy! They've also been protected from a few unforeseen windy/rain/hail storms we had recently."
Teri on Saturday 6 April 2024
"This is lovely to read Teri. I can relate to what you're saying about young children blasting the soil away when watering - those spray bottles are great for avoiding that. :-)"
Ben Vanheems on Sunday 7 April 2024
"Thank you for sharing. These are very creative and valuable ideas."
Nadini Samya on Friday 19 April 2024

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