Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Recycled Plastic Bottle Greenhouses

About 6 months ago, while scrolling through Pinterest, I saw an interesting picture of a small tomato plant growing inside a plastic bottle and thought, "Neat! We could do that. We should do that!" and filed the thought into the recesses of my mind. All winter long, we collected and rinsed out all the clear plastic 2 liter bottles our family used in preparation. I wanted to link to the original image yesterday. After searching (in vain) for the original inspiration of our recycling 2 liter bottles into mini greenhouses for our veggies this year, I decided that I would snap some pictures of ours and write a little about our experience.

We began with Sean carefully cutting each bottle nearly in half leaving a 2-2.5 inch tab using a sharp knife. (That is the hardest part of the entire project.)

Then, I added some damp sterile potting soil to the bottom of the bottle. After carefully removing the seedling from the 6 pack cells, I set the root ball onto the soil inside the bottle. If it is necessary, loosen the roots carefully to encourage them to grow. I did not need to. Once the plant was centered, I spooned more soil around the stem until it was properly covered. Since I was using tomatoes, I covered a good portion of the stem. If you look closely, the stem of tomato plants are loaded with fuzzy, spikey "hairs" and it changes color near the point where the true leaves begin. These "hairs" will become roots if they are buried and allowed to grow. We have had good success using this method of planting. Basically, you cover up to where the stem changes color. Once the seedling is planted, it is a simple matter to replace the top of the bottle to cover it. We leave the caps on to increase humidity and moisture levels or remove them to allow more ventilation.

These tomatoes were sown in plastic 6 packs at the end of March. They were transplanted into the plastic bottle mini-greenhouses about 2 weeks ago. They have grown so well, that it is very nearly time to transplant them again! We are hoping to plant them in their permanent homes in some raised beds outside within the next 2 weeks. But, we live in zone 5 and we still awaken to frost most mornings, so that may not be viable just now. If the seedlings continue growing this well, we'll simply transplant them into large pots until the weather is more cooperative.

We have very limited space to start seedlings. To use what we have to the best advantage, as each mini greenhouse seedling matures, we move it in it's bottle to a sunny window to harden off and get ready for moving into cold frames outside. Another seedling is begun in 6 or 12 pack cells to germinate. Once they sprout their true leaves, if it is appropriate, they are transplanted into a bottle mini-greenhouse. And the cycle continues. It is perhaps a little more time consuming, all this planting and transplanting and moving about, but there are benefits to growing seedlings in this manner. One of the most important benefits is that the plants will mature in a staggered way providing ripe fruit over a secession of weeks. Another benefit is that should an insect or unwelcome garden guest eat the ripe fruits of one planting, there should be other plants still to ripen.

Our portable greenhouse is at full capacity with broccoli, peppers, and tomatoes. We use a little more electricity keeping 2 lights on to further encourage their growth, but the results prove that it is a worth-while expense.

So far, I am very pleased with how our recycled plastic bottle mini-greenhouses are growing. Even though we recycle bottles, glass, and metals, it feels good to give new purpose to something.

What about you? Have you tried this before? Have you tried something similar? How did it work out for you?

Thanks for stopping by for a visit today. I am glad for your company.
Sonja ♥

Also shared with: Backyard Farming Connection

Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest


  1. How neat! I've never seen this before but it is such a genius idea. I really love it when I see ways to reuse and repurpose things that may otherwise be deemed to be waste.

  2. What a great idea! I like using the brooder light as a grow light. Brilliant!

  3. Do you think you could start seeds this way?