Happy Earth Day, everyone!
Remember my green wall #1? The one made of plastic bottles? Well, it worked quite well, but I never really liked it – the way it looked, I mean. Maybe if I had something with massive foliage, like ferns, to mask the bottles… but I can’t come up with an edible plant that would behave that way. So I decided to make a new green wall.
I chose plastic bottles again, because they are such a ubiquitous container option. Dive into any recycle bin – and voila! You find plastic bottles of all shapes, sizes and colors. This makes them a perfect container of choice for a school garden or any other low- to no cost gardening project. This time around, however, the bottles are going to stand upright, not hang horizontally. The main difference between this green wall and the previous one is that here the bottles do make a wall, quite literally: they connect one to another, making the structure more solid, at least to my eyes.
First order of business is to make large round holes in the bottle bottoms, to enable the joining. Here I went “by the book” and got a hole saw (1 1/2 inch in diameter, so that the bottle cap fits in). I have to say, though, that drilling holes in that location is very hard, as the plastic there is much harder than in other parts of the bottle. In future, I will simply cut the bottoms off (I’ll show you an example later in this post), and the bottles will still connect just fine.
Next, drill (or burn, which is my preferred option for hole making) a hole in the bottle cap. This will enable drainage and water saving by allowing any excess moisture to drip down into the lower bottle.
You also need to cut out a window in the upper side of the bottle. Crafty people would use an X-acto knife, but I play it safe and use my kitchen scissors. I find rectangular shape works best. You may notice that I do not completely remove the resulting flap, but tuck it inside. I do that so that it can be eventually recycled along with the bottle (if I cut the piece out completely, it will not be recycled by most facilities because of its shape and size).
Now to position the bottom row of bottles. This wall works best when you have some sort of wire backdrop to attach bottles to. Simply stand them upright and secure with either wire or a simple garden twine. Unlike my previous bottle wall, these wires and twines do not bear any real weight, but merely help keep the bottles in place.
The twine and wire tends to slip off the bottles (unless you have the curvy ones), so I fixed them in place with a small piece of good old duct tape.
Then you can start stacking the bottles by inserting the lidded neck of the upper bottle into the hole in the bottom of the lower bottle. Don’t forget to secure all the bottles you stack, or the next gust of wind will blow your beautiful green wall apart!
As promised, here is the alternative method of connection that does not require a hole saw: simply cut off the bottom of the lower bottle and insert the top bottle through the opening.
Keep stacking on till you reach the desired hight. I stopped at the top rim of balcony wall.
Now comes the messy part! Well, at least in my case, as I have yet to find a way to fill the bottles or other small containers with potting mix without it pouring over the sides. For vertical gardening it is strongly recommended that you use a special potting mix, because these planters are more prone to drying out. I keep using the recipe I posted previously:
1 part top soil
1 part coir peat
1 part mushroom compost (any other compost should work, as well)
1 part worm castings
1 part perlite
I also secured the topmost bottles to the balcony rail, just in case…
This wall will be populated with lettuce greens and flowers. Here is some Miner’s Lettuce already growing in the bottles:
As I get more bottles, I will keep on building and filling up this side of the balcony barrier. I also hope that this construction may double as a sort of wind-breaker, which would be wonderful with all the crazy Philly winds!
Well, here is my revamped green wall #1. I think it looks much better than its predecessor, wouldn’t you agree?