D.I.Y Self-Watering Planter Using Recycled Beer Bottles

D.I.Y Self-Watering Planter Using Recycled Beer Bottles

We have monthly glass collection now for our recycling and after a month it’s quite interesting to see how many glass bottles are collected, especially beer bottles! I really wanted to find a way to be able to reuse them. In NZ we can recycle glass but it’s still nice to reduce the amount and if I can reuse it why wouldn’t I? The planters I’m talking about today can totally be made with plastic bottles and infact it would be a lot easier to make too. We don’t use a lot of plastic bottles and I find the glass is nicer looking when displayed.

Today I’m going to show you how I make an ordinary beer bottle into a self-watering planter perfect for herbs or microgreens.

All you need is something to score the glass, a tile cutting drill bit works well if you have no diamond glass cutter, candle and some ice water.

Here are written instructions on what I did, or scroll to the bottom for a quick video. I didn’t worry too much about straight lines and edges in this video as I wasn’t making glasses to drink from. This is not a tutorial, as that would imply I’m an expert at this 😉. More of an inspirational video on cutting down on your recycling!

First, start with a beer bottle and remove the labels.

I used some sweet orange essential oil to remove the sticky residue from the labels (though any essentail oil works), then I scored lines where I wanted to cut the glass, with a glass or tile cutting drill bit. I wanted to cut about a 2 thirds of the bottom off, and a third off the top.

Once the lines were scored, I filled a sink with ice water, then lit a tealight candle. Then I put on some gloves, and rotated the bottle, alongside one of the scored lines, over the flame about 5 times.

Then I dunked it in the ice water and the bottle broke along the line I had scored. Then I let the top come to room temperature before doing the same thing over the second scored line.

Once my bottle was cut, I sanded back the rough sides with medium grit sandpaper.

Then I painted them. Whatever paint you use (if any!) is up to you but try go for a non toxic one, or if you can’t, don’t have the water or soil touch the paint so it doesn’t leach chemicals . For a wicking material (what will carry the moisture up and do the ‘self-watering’ I used unbleached organic cotton. The same stuff I use when making beeswax food wraps.)

I tied a knot in one end and threaded it through the neck of the bottle so the loose end was hanging out the top of the bottle.

Then I filled part of the bottom of the bottle with water and placed the the top of the bottle upside down inside it, so the loose bit of fabric was hanging in the water.

Then I filled it with soil and herbs, though you could put in seeds or seedlings of whatever small plants you like.

Foraged Food: Onion weed, wild fennel and potato soup

Foraged Food: Onion weed, wild fennel and potato soup

I’ve been foraging far and wide. Well, actually just at my parent’s place but foraging none the less!

I was out gathering a persistent little bulb that is the bane of many people’s existence, but I love this stuff. ‘This stuff’ is in fact, onion weed or ‘Allium triquetrum’. It’s considered an invasive weed as the bulbs multiply very quickly underground and in spring they pop up everywhere.  Invasive it is, but it’s delicious. It’s super similar to spring onions when raw in both taste and looks, and similar to taste in leeks when cooked and the entire plant is edible. Take care not to confuse it with similar looking bulbs like snowdrops which also have white flowers, though they are much more bell shaped and won’t smell like onions when squished.

I wouldn’t go out and actively grow onion weed myself because once it’s established it will spread and be very difficult to get rid of, but I’ll definitely take advantage of the stuff that’s already out there.

While I was out I also grabbed a bunch of wild fennel. This stuff is like regular fennel on steroids. It’s huge and bushy, and it’s the fronds that I gathered for this recipe. They have an amazing aniseed kick.

In today’s post, I’m going to be using the onion weed in the same way, I would use a leek in a leek and potato soup. These edible onions impart a brilliant green colour to the soup since I’m using all the green leaves as well as the bulbs. The gorgeous wee flowers I save till the end as a garnish.

The fennel fronds, I put in the soup whole, so that they can cook in the water and flavour it, but at the end, I fish them out. This is because wild fennel is very fibery and it’s hard to blitz it into a smooth soup if left in.

Then I just foraged for potatoes in my own garden and I had all the recipes for a delicious, nutritious soup.[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:13]


Spring in the Garden- September to do List

Spring in the Garden- September to do List

Spring is finally here this month!

Though it’s a very exciting thought to start planting everything in the garden RIGHT NOW! Try hold off a little longer with planting any summer crops as New Zealand spring can be very unpredictable and a rogue frost could ruin all your hard work. Now is a good time to really ensure your soil is in top-notch condition, pack it full with lovely organic materials so your garden is ready for when it is planting time.

Sow from seed this month: Beetroot, broccoli, radishes, coriander, celery, carrots, silver beet, spring onions, radish, peas, broad beans, spinach, turnips

Sow from seedlings this month: broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, cabbage, potatoes, silverbeet, spinach, kohl rabi, kale

Prepare your soil

Winter is tough on the old soil, so add in lost nutrients by piling on more organic matter and mulch. This can be aged manure, dead leaves, chopped seaweed, spent plants (chopped up). Adding on a thick layer of mulch will help keep those nutrients in your soil, and as spring warms into summer, it will help conserve water.

Spring Clean around the garden

Pick up any dead leaves or plant debris and chuck them in the compost. Take this time to do some weeding too as the soft spring soil should make it a bit easier to pull them out. If your compost isn’t a hot compost, invasive weeds might grow back if put in there. Fix that problem by making a weedy tea with them instead. Chuck them in a bucket, fill with water and let them steep for a couple of weeks. Then, you’ll have a lovely liquid fertiliser to use on your spring plants.

Quick Sow Spring Seeds 

September/October can be a little bit of a lull period in the garden, food wise. There’s not an awful lot to harvest from winter as you’ll be emptying your garden beds for summer crops. I like to use this time to direct sow quick growers like radishes, baby turnips, and beetroot (where I use the leaves in salads as I wait for the actual root to grow). Some of these can be harvested in as little as 30 days so you can at least have something fresh to harvest while you wait.

Feed existing plants

Feed your garlic and your rhubarb now, both are heavy feeders! For rhubarb, apply some compost and well-rotted manure around the crown of the plant to feed it and retain moisture. Feed your garlic with a fertilizer high in nitrogen, such as aged manure. Add some to a watering can and water around the roots of your garlic so your garlic can take up the nutrients quickly.

Strawberries and all other berries can be fed now too in preparation for a summer full of berries. Aged, well-rotted manure is such a helpful friend in the garden to do this job. Then mulch!

Check the soil around your deciduous trees and see if it needs attention. The rough winter weather can play havoc with the earth. Add compost if you need to around the base of the tree (make sure it doesn’t touch the trunk). Mulch your fruit trees.

Let your plants bloom

Some of your winter crops may be flowering now. If you want to give the bees a treat or you want to save seeds for next year, let them flower away. Let the flowers of whatever plant you’re seed saving from, dry out on the plant and then remove them and place in a brown paper bag. After drying them out further for another week or so, inside, give the bag a good shake to remove the seeds from the seed head. Label the bag and store in an airtight bag until you want to plant.

Some plants like parsley or coriander are excellent self-seeders so you can just the let the plant do its thing and new plants will pop up next season.

Attract Bees

Have your broad beans been flowering but there are no beans in sight? Each little flower needs to be pollinated and because of the cooler weather, the honeybees aren’t as active and it’s a big job for the bumble bees! We can try and attract more bees to our garden by planting beneficial flowers that bees love. Read more here –> Beneficial flowers in the garden.

Start Seedlings Inside

Tomatoes, eggplants, chilis… these can all be started inside now so you can get ahead when it’s time to plant them out. Traditionally labour weekend is a safe bet to plant them out as the risk of frost is gone. For help starting seedlings inside, read more here—> Starting seedlings indoor.


Plant potatoes now so you have fresh spuds for Christmas! Generally, you can harvest potatoes after they have flowered and died back but not all potatoes flower so this is not a sure-fire method. Keep dates of when you planted your potatoes and what variety and then go from there.

I have listed a few common types and their harvesting times.

  • Rocket- 60-70 days, this a quick growing variety
  • Cliff Kidney- 60-90 days (depending on baby potatoes or if you want bigger ones)
  • Agria- 150 days for fully matured potatoes
  • Jersey Benne- 60-70 days, another quick growing variety
  • Highlander- 80-90 days
  • Red rascal- 90 days
  • Swift- 70 days
  • Liseta- 90 days
  • Purple Passion- 70-80 days

Happy Gardening!

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