How To Reuse Plastic Bottles To Help Start Your Garden This Spring

Posted on: 11 January 2016


When you collect and deposit plastic bottles, newspapers, and other recyclable materials at a recycling drop-off location, they will be taken to a recycling plant and recycled into new products. As a consumer, you can recycle your own items at home to reuse them and extend their usefulness. As plastic bottles are made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource, it requires nearly four barrels of oil to produce one ton of plastic bottles. To help save the earth's resources and recycle at home, here is a simple way you can reuse your used plastic bottles and help start your garden this spring.

Make a Seedling Greenhouse

With spring on the way, now is a good time to start planning for your vegetable garden. This includes selecting the seeds of plants you want to grow and germinating them into seedlings in small greenhouses made from an empty plastic two-liter soda bottle. Be sure to remove any labels from the outside of the bottle. For each greenhouse, you will also need:

  • Four empty toilet paper rolls
  • Scissors
  • Potting soil
  • Bleach 
  • Water
  • Measuring tape

Clean the Bottle

First, you will need to clean and sterilize the empty plastic bottle with a mixture of one part bleach to nine parts water. This is to remove any bacteria or other harmful organisms from the inside of the bottle that may harm your seedlings as they grow. Submerge the open plastic bottle and lid into the cleaning mixture and swish it around until all surfaces are covered. Drain the cleaning mixture from the bottle and set it on a counter to air dry. 

Build and Fill the Greenhouse

When the bottle is dry, measure up four inches from the bottom of the bottle. Cut around the perimeter of the bottle to separate the top and bottom portions. 

Next, make the seeding cups:

  1. Measure and cut each toilet paper roll so they are each three inches long. 
  2. On one end of each toilet paper roll make four equally-spaced 3/4-inch vertical cuts into the roll. 
  3. This will make four tabs on the end of each paper roll, which you will fold under to create bottoms for your seedling cups. 
  4. Fill the cups with potting soil and plant your seeds in the soil. 
  5. Place four of the seedling cups in the bottom of your plastic bottle and water the seed cups. 

The small openings around the tabs of each seedling cup will allow any necessary drainage for your seedlings when you water them. Slip the top of the bottle over the bottle's bottom to fit the bottom inside the top. Set the greenhouse in a sunny window of your home. Remove the top of the greenhouse bottle when you need to water your seedlings or if there is excess moisture inside dripping down the sides of the greenhouse that needs to escape.

Preparing Your Seedlings For Outside Weather

When the temperature outside begins to warm up during the day, place your greenhouse outside in sunny weather and move it back inside at night. Then, as soon as any outside freeze threat has passed, you can remove the greenhouse cover to harden-off your seedlings and prepare them for transplanting outside.

Hardening-off your seedlings will help them become adjusted to wind and temperature fluctuations outside. For the first day, place your seedlings outside in a shady area for one hour, then bring them back inside. Add another hour each day to your seedling's time outside and by the end of that week, they will be ready to be transplanted into your garden. 

Planting Your Seedlings

The seedlings are growing inside toilet paper rolls. Using scissors, make cuts down either side of each roll and carefully pull the paper away from the seedlings soil and root ball. This will help the seedling's roots to grow outward and make an established root system into the surrounding soil. Plant the seedlings into your garden soil. 

Use these instructions to recycle your used two-liter bottles and grow your garden this spring. You can click for more information on recycling.