Introduction: Soda Bottle Vertical Garden (for Indoors or Out!)

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Here in Canada, even though it’s Spring, it will be quite a while before our winter blahs turn to green pastures again. It’s a great time of year to introduce a cheap and cheerful hanging system to brighten up your indoor space with plants!

Using empty soda bottles for this project ties in perfectly to my philosophy of sustainable crafting – using what you have – to create a vertical garden. And the best part is that they are free! We’re not soda drinkers, but we found an entire box of empties in our neighbour’s blue bin on pick up day (nicely organized in a Pringles box!) and wisked them away to make our hanging garden.

Step 1: Watch the Video!

Watch the video - and subscribe to my YouTube channel while you're at it! Then follow along with the tutorial and get planting!

Step 2: Gather Materials

Along with the soda bottles, you’ll also need:

  • 1/8″ galvanized aircraft cable wire,
  • cable ferrules to crimp the wire,
  • a wire cutter and cable swage tool,
  • metal washers (#6),
  • S-hooks (3/4″),
  • a cork back metal ruler,
  • piece of metal strapping,
  • marker,
  • loop turner (or other long, thin object)
  • masking tape,
  • wood burner with a pointy tip,
  • aquarium gravel,
  • waterproof clear caulking or epoxy putty,
  • soil, and;
  • plants of course!

Step 3: Select Plants

I used a combination of succulents and Himalaya mix potted plants from Ikea. At $3.99 each, they’re a real bargain and I was grateful to be able to find them at this time of year!

Step 4: Remove Lable and Measure

I used 5 bottles for my hanging garden, but you could make as many as you like. When the weather gets better outdoors, they would make a great hanging screen on a massive scale too!

To start, remove the lable from the soda bottle. I used the lable to cut out a rectangular piece measuring 5 1/4″ x 3″. I folded the lable in half lengthwise and marked the centre of each side.

Step 5: Mark Corners and Holes

I applied the lable back onto the bottle through the middle of where it was glued. I found that with the combination of the glue residue and static cling, my particular lable stuck really well.

Mark the four corners with the black marker and measure out no less than 5/16″ from the centre on each side and place two more dots on the bottle.

Step 6: Apply Metal Edge

Remove the lable. Apply two pieces of masking tape to a metal ruler and place on the bottle lining up two of the dots you marked with the black marker. The metal ruler should be placed on the outside of the line you’re going to cut – it will give you a cleaner line when using the wood burner.

Step 7: Use Wood Burner to Cut

I use a wood burner to cut through the plastic (you could also cut the plastic with an X-acto knife instead). Make sure you’re using the tool in a well ventilated area; doing this step outdoors is ideal. Also ensure sure you have a heat-proof surface to leave it on while you work – and to be safe in case you forget to unplug it! I leave mine on stand with a metal tray beneath it.

Heat up the wood burner with a pointy tip installed. Insert the tip starting at the spot you marked earlier and use the edge of the ruler to guide the wood burner along until you’ve reached the second dot at the opposite end. Do this as steadily and quickly as possible or you will distort the line if you leave it in a spot for too long and over-melt the plastic. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be cutting through the plastic with ease. Remove the ruler then move it to the other side and cut through the bottle in the same manner.

Step 8: Cut Sides

I used a scrap piece of metal strapping and bent it into a curve around the bottle. I used it in the same manner as the metal ruler to guide the wood burner and cut the plastic on the shorter end of the bottle. Once all 4 sides of the rectangle are cut, you can remove the inner piece of plastic, but don’t toss it (we’ll use it later).

Step 9: Make Holes

Take the tip of the wood burner a make a hole through the two dots you marked 5/16” out from the centre of the lable. Only hold the tip for a second or you’ll make the hole too large; it only needs to be big enough to pass the aircraft cable through.

Step 10: Mark Bottom Holes on Both Sides

With the bottle facing right side up, insert the long loop turner through the hole straight down until it reaches the bottom of the bottle (you can even substitute a piece of spaghetti!). Mark the spot with the marker and do the same for the other side. Turn the bottle upside down and burn a small hole through the two spots you marked.

Step 11: Cut Aircraft Cable

Now we’re ready to construct the hanging system. Measure out two 12″ pieces of aircraft cable for each bottle and cut with wire snips.

Step 12: Loop One End & Crimp

Insert the wire through one end of the metal ferrule, bend it into a loop and insert the same end into the other side of the ferrule. My loops were about 1/2″ in length. Place the ferrule into the swage tool and squeeze it tight to seal it on both ends of the metal.

Step 13: Finished Wires

You’ll end up with wires that look like this:

Step 14: Hand Swage How-To

This video demonstrates how to hand swage (it’s not necessary to use the thimble shown in this project):

Step 15: Thread Washer and Wire

Thread a washer through the wire so it rests on the loop you just made. Insert the wire through the hole in the bottom of the bottle and through the top hole. Make a loop in the top of the wire using another ferrule as you did before and fasten it with the swage tool.

Step 16: Plug Drainage Holes for Indoor Use

Continue with the rest of the bottles until each one has two wires threaded through the holes with washers on the bottom to support the weight.

If using outdoors, be sure to add a few more drainage holes in the bottom. For indoor settings, I would suggest adding a drop of waterproof clear caulking or epoxy putty to cover the bottom two holes (from the inside) so you don’t get water leaking through and dripping down the wires. The epoxy putty will be easier to work with because you can roll it into a tiny ball and squish it around the holes. If using caulk, to control it from oozing too much onto the wires, you can squeeze some out onto a plastic lid and use something like a coffee stirrer to apply it around the holes on the inside of the bottle. Make sure the wires are sitting tight against the bottom of the bottle (you could tape them as they dry if you have to) and let the caulk or epoxy dry according to the package directions before moving onto planting.

Step 17: ​Planting and Installation

Lay down some plastic on your table surface to catch the mess if doing this indoors! Gather up your plants and planting materials (soil, gravel, scoop). Be sure to purchase a soil suitable for your plants; here I’m using cactus soil for one of the succulents.

Step 18: Add Gravel for Drainage

Remember the plastic piece you saved from the middle of the bottle? I used it to confine the soil to the middle section of the bottle (so I could conserve on the amount of gravel I had to use), but you can choose not to use it if you prefer and fill the whole container out to the sides. Cut the plastic in half along the width and insert it into the bottle so the concave part surrounds the wire (facing inward).

Put a layer of aquarium gravel in the bottom. This is optional, but it helps with drainage. (Note that if you're doing this project for outdoors you can skip the gravel altogether and just add more holes in the bottom of each bottle for drainage).

Add a layer of soil to give the roots something to grow into.

Step 19: Add Plant Material

Lift the plant out of its container and work loose most of the soil around the roots. Plant in the bottle and surround with more soil to secure. Don't overfill the soil or it will wash over the edges when you water the plants.

Continue planting the rest of the bottles until they're all done. Now you're ready to hang!

Step 20: Transport Bottles to Installation Site to Assemble

I put all the finished bottles into a cardboard box and transferred them to the kitchen. I installed my hanging garden on the side of the sliding door that is non-working so we still have access to our backyard. To prepare, I hung two shower curtain rings over the curtain rod above my sliding glass doors. If you don't have a curtain rod, you can substitute eye hooks and screw them into the wood trim the same width apart as the wire holding the bottle (approx. 5 3/4"). I created two new hanging wires (about 24" long) and hung them from the curtain rings to start the garden at a suitable height. We used 3/4" S-hooks as connectors.

Step 21: Install Using S-Hooks

My husband hung each bottle, one at a time, connecting them as he went with the S-hooks in between until he reached the bottom.

Step 22: Reveal

It's hard to get a good picture with the backlight from the window, so I tried closing the binds, but I can attest that the hanging garden looks stunning in the kitchen! You could change the configuration and adapt this idea for any window; just add a few more columns and stagger the plants.

Step 23: Please Vote :)

I hope you enjoyed this sustainable gardening project; if you did, please vote! You can subscribe to more sustainable ideas at Birdz of a Feather.

Gardening Contest 2017

Third Prize in the
Gardening Contest 2017