Vertical Gardens – new heights!

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Reconsidering what we throw “away,” 1:1 saw 2 liter soda bottles as an opportunity for utility. We’re talking about REUSE! Ok, we also saw some really cool photos of clever, creative people who had already constructed similar structures. 

Vertical gardens are a solution for apartments, condos, large walls, outside areas, inside spots, you name it. Instead of spreading out wide, these bottles allow you to plant tall. 

Here’s a detailed account on how we constructed our vertical garden:

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Materials suggested:

  • 2L bottles 
    For bottles, we collected 2L soda bottles from neighbors and local recycling company. Please avoid buying a bunch of soda you don’t normally consume to complete this project. Smaller or other plastic/sturdy containers could work- a little experimentation could lead you to new heights!
  • Twine
    We like to use sturdy string that won’t fray easily as we loop the string through the bottles and take it up and down from our tabling tent. If your structure will be more permanent, explore your house or local hardware store to see what options are available to you.
  • Extra bottle caps or washers
    To hold the bottles in place, you’ll need either big sturdy, exact knots, or a material to hold them there. We chose washers and bottle caps. The washers already had a hole in the middle, and we simply used a nail and hammer to pierce through the middle of the bottle caps.
  • Scissors, exacto knife, nail, car/house keys
    A diverse group of sharp items helps as you cut out the hole for the plants to grow as well as the holes for strings to go through. We used scissors for the large hole, exacto knife for the smaller holes and car keys to define the smaller holes to make it easier for the string to loop through. A nail was needed for putting holes in bottle caps. 
  • Sharpies
    We used Sharpies to outline the string holes, the larger cut out portion for the plants, and to mark the string to ensure we placed nuts and caps at even spots. 

Not big on words? Here’s a picture: 

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  1. Collect materials
  2. Make four small holes for string to pass through the bottle- holes needed on both top and bottom in straight line on both sides of the bottle.
  3. For the cut out, we guesstimated and traced a hole that is about the length of a hand and as wide as the middle of the bottle. This can vary depending on plants you’d like to use- the taller the sides, the more space roots will have. 
  4. Cut out the large holes and recycle middle cut outs.
  5. String marking time! This depends on the desired height and spacing you’d like for the bottles. (We did 6 ½ feet of bottles with a little over 1ft in between each bottle and an extra 2 ft of string) Ensure the string is as long as you’d like the wall to be, allow a few feet for tying/hanging (or using a board or coat hanger as hanging mechanism- think outside the box for this one!). Cut two lengths of string. Tie a washer/cap on each of the ends of the string. String the twine through both holes of the bottles until the washer/cap is at the end of each bottle. Measure your desired space between bottles and mark with a Sharpie. Include the height of the bottle as you continue marking up the string. To ease process, we used one string as the “lead” string to mark the rest of pieces of string. 
  6. To string the next bottle, tie a washer/cap where you marked in Sharpie. We simply double knotted- if you’re fancy with knots, the world is your oyster. Get masterful. Hold them up to make sure the bottle looks even (enough), and keep going! 
  7. Repeat until you’ve run out of bottles or space!

Notes:

These are not perfect drip irrigation systems so as you water your thirsty plants, be sure to water each of them. Generally, plants do not enjoy drowning either so be conscious of your water patterns! If you are hanging this inside, place a container or tray beneath each of the bottom bottles as some dirt and water will drain. 

For what you choose to plant, go for it! We had starter plants of cabbage, but as these get larger, we’ll transplant them. Herbs and succulents will be quite happy in these containers. Lettuce and other shallow rooted edibles would be, too. 

Keep us posted on what you find- challenges, short cuts, what you plant! Share pictures and stories with us!!  If you’d like to see one of these constructed at a local school, contact us about our after-school sustainability program. 

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