We at TogetherFarm are always looking for ways to take post consumer waste out of the waste stream and repurpose it for gardening. Our recent post on using egg cartons, egg shells, and the cardboard from a toilet paper roll is a perfect example of this (see the article here: Using Recycled Materials to Start Your Plants). This post will add to that list by giving instructions on how to make a self-watering seed starter pot from a two liter pop bottle.
Here are the items you will need to gather for this project:
- Sturdy 2-liter plastic bottles with caps
- Utility knife
- Philip’s Screwdriver or large nail
- Yarn or any other water absorbent string
- Label remover or vegetable oil (not necessary if you don’t mind some glue residue from the label)
- Potting soil
Once you have all of the above items you are ready to start assembling your self-watering plant starter kit.
1. Start by removing the cap and the label. Be sure to set the cap aside to use in a later step. Once you have the label off, measure 5 inches up from the bottom of the pop bottle. Hold the marker at the 5 inch mark and spin the bottle around marking a circular line at 5 inches up on the bottle.
2. Now, use the utility knife to make a small cut into the pop bottle at the marker line. Then, use the scissors to cut the bottle in half at the marker line that you made in step 1.
3. Take the cap that you set aside in step 1 and place the cap on a scrap piece of wood or on a surface that you don’t mind getting damaged by the screwdriver or nail. Then, puncture a hole in the center of the lid by hammering the screwdriver or nail through the lid. Thread the yarn or string through the hole you just made in the cap and tie a knot in the string on the side of the cap that has the threads. Leave about 5 inches of string or yarn on both sides of the cap.
4. Screw the cap back on to the top half of the pop bottle with 5 inches of yarn inside the top half of the pop bottle and 5 inches hanging out. Then, turn the top half of the pop bottle upside down and set it in the bottom half of the pop bottle.
5. Fill the now open side of the top half of the bottle with potting soil. Gently pack the soil in with your hand. Then, water your new planter once from the top until the water drains into the bottom half of the bottle. Once you have watered the first time from the top, you will water from that point on by separating the two halves of the bottle and pouring water into the base until the water line reaches the bottom of the cap.
6. The final step is to plant the seeds. Be sure to check the seed packet to determine what planting depth. The general rule of thumb is to plant seeds at a depth of three times the size of the seed. So, if you have a seed that is 1/4 inch long, then you should plant it 3/4 of an inch deep. For many seeds the size of lettuce or smaller, you can typically just sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil and spread a light covering of soil over the seeds.
Set your self-watering seed starter in a sunny spot and watch the seeds germinate and begin to grow. Another trick to speed up the sprouting process is to cover the top of your planter with plastic wrap until the seeds have planted. Doing this will help create a much more humid environment for the seeds to sprout quicker.
When the plants begin to outgrow the pop bottle pot, simply transplant them into your garden. Or, for some types of produce, like lettuce, you can just let the plants grow in the planter and begin to eat the lettuce when the leaves get big enough. Be sure to periodically add some liquid fertilizer when you replenish the water in the bottom of the pop bottle planter to make sure the plant is getting enough nutrients. Click here for a great organic liquid fertilizer from Amazon.com – Dr. Earth 751 Liquid Solution Pro Biotic 3-3-3. Give the self-watering seed starter a try and let us know how it goes for you.