we like it wild: bottle gardens

As much as we love to garden, sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all. If there’s a way we can shorten our to-do list, we’ll take it. This week’s project, a no-fuss recycled windowsill herb garden, has knocked watering the plants off our list. Self-watering planters like these aren’t a new idea; we remember our own childhood craft books that taught us how to poke holes through Dixie cups or invert two liter plastic bottles to grow our own little bean garden. This grown-up version is much better looking and works great for small herbs and plants. We used beer bottles for ours, but you could make a larger garden with wine bottles too.

Although this project may take a little more effort than your average windowsill garden initially, the pay off is worth it for us: we get to usefully recycle bottles, we get fresh herbs we don’t have to dote on, and we get a sparkling window display. The thing we love about self-watering gardens, besides the general ease of it all, is that we don’t have to worry about over-watering our plants or under-watering them. For our planters, we snatched up some “practice cut” glass pieces that Jill’s husband made while working on his guitar bottle slides. If you aren’t lucky enough to have extra bottle halves around…there are glass cutting kits available at craft stores, there are tons of tutorials online, or if you know people with mad tools and skills, they can help you cut down your bottles. Our favorite combination used a dark neck inside a clear base, but you can vary with whatever bottles you’d like.

CLICK HERE for the full (photo illustrated) project steps after the jump!

You’ll just want to make sure the neck piece is shorter than the bottom piece so it will rest inside without touching the bottom. Once your bottles are cut (it could take some practice), sand down the edges enough so they’re not dangerous to the touch. Take a square of screen, about 2″ by 2″, and cut a small hole in the center to pass a thick string through. The string will act as a wick for the water and draw it up to the plant, keeping the soil just wet enough to keep the herbs growing.

Pass the string through and tie a tall knot large enough to keep it from slipping through the screen.

Run the string down the neck of the bottle top with the screen resting at the top. The bottom half of your bottle will be the water reservoir, while the top half is the planter.

Transplant your herbs (or add dirt and plant seeds) to the bottle top. Make sure your length of string reaches the bottom of the glass below, and your garden is good to go. Just keep your water at a good level and the string does the rest of the work for you.

  1. Cheda says:

    What a great idea! Love it! I want to have the same in my kitchen!
    Thank you for sharing!

  2. Prem Daniel says:

    Excellent Idea!!

  3. A_Boleyn says:

    Just saw this. What a great idea.

  4. suzie says:

    Hi! this is an awesome idea. I was wondering, pepsi makes a throw bake plastic bottle and there are root beer bottles that are similar in shape. This would be easier to cut. Would this work?

    1. mjbell says:

      Give it a try, materials are cheap. The neck is short and the higher center of gravity (wet heavy soil on top) so the planter might be a bit tippy. Try it first in a plastic pan or outside.
      good luck

  5. Rosilda says:

    Lindo e muito eficiente para combater o mosquito da dengue que assola o Brasil!

  6. HHI Ladybug says:

    I do glass painting & some etching as well. I don’t drink, but I’m going to ask my friends to save their bottles. Look out everyone’s getting these as gifts

  7. Nicole says:

    Does anyone know what the rope looks like after a while? Is it something that will get moldy? My son is allergic to mold, so I’d like to know if this is something I need to be proactive & change after a certain amount of time.

  8. deborah says:

    If you put a bit of charcoal in the bottom glass you will be able to keep the water crystal clear.

    1. Christie says:

      Great tip thank you!

  9. Hillary says:

    This works well with lots of plants, but when you plant them it’s good to water from the top for a few times to get things going correctly. Just be gentle so all your dirt doesn’t wash out. Once in a while you’ll have to do that again to give it a pick-me-up. :) But usually herbs like dryer feet, so this works well! (Always always water in plants when newly transplanted to get a good bond of the soils, and to help the roots settle in. :) ) Nicole, I’ve never seen mold on them, but they will get some algae on them. You can totally do this with plastic bottles as well. :) African violets love this water method!

  10. bme says:

    this is a great idea, it would transfer to larger sizes too. (am i the only one that thinks tampon strings when i see it? lol)

  11. T.L. says:

    Great idea going to buy herb seeds this week. This will be a great way to add flavor without having to go to the store.

  12. Jessica says:

    You can use wool felt as the wick to avoid the rot that would eventually come with any cotton string or fabric used!

  13. Pauline says:

    Very creative.. I love it

  14. Amy says:

    What a great idea! Love it! Awesome! So trying this, Thanks

  15. michael says:

    cool gardening stuff for Kymmie

  16. Adam says:

    What a wonderfully unique idea, very classy, great for the kids to do as well as something we can happily display around the home. Love your site design too btw, very classy as well…

  17. guilhermina says:

    muito interesante amei…

  18. Silvana Figueiredo says:

    I loved this solution helped me a lot with my seedlings congratulations to the creator if you can send other ideas.


    una forma hermosa de tener plantas en poco espacio y no se necesita regar , la planta toma lo que necesita por medio del cordón no leo el Inglés y me costaría trabajo traducir todo pero con las gráficas se como hacerlo les agradezco sus orientaciones y a mi hija que vive en Leamington, Canadá, por compartir estas novedades

  20. Tatiana Campos says:


  21. Sueli says:

    muito lindo ,amei

  22. Carlyne says:

    That’s pretty cool

  23. Debbie Johnson says:

    I love this idea i have no way to cut glass

  24. Kim says:

    I have been trying to find a way to grow some cat grass without letting it dry out, can use a big rectangular milk jug, will be perfect!

  25. Betty says:

    My new Wives club project!!

  26. Gema p blanco says:

    Tu idea es genial,la voy a hacer el nuevo ciclo escolar ¡gracias!

  27. Viviane says:

    Wonderful way to start a herb garden and recycle bottles. Super clever!

  28. Walderez says:

    Perfeito, adorei.

  29. LadyInnominate says:

    I’m assuming you would only be able to plant something with a small root system to keep them from becoming root bound. Maybe herbs?

    1. spellwing777 says:

      Succulents have a very small root system; they would love this setup.

  30. These are gorgeous! I did this with 2L pop bottles, which weren’t as pretty, but they worked well. I lined the top with a coffee filter twisted a little at the bottom and pulled through the opening so it wicked up the water.

  31. Karla says:

    I wish I could find a way to cut glass bottles with string..someone said to use a sting and a finger polish remover and use it like a saw and it would cut the bottle??

    1. Joy moseley says:

      You burn it and put in water to cool. The bottle will break where the string was tied.

  32. Andree Mary says:

    Thank you Grace, Studio Choo and also to Lew brewer for Youtube link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFXngPx3w3M. I live in Queensland, Australia. I’ll do some searching here in Australia for the glass cutter mentioned in Youtube link. Cheers

  33. Geetha says:

    Lovely guide for using waste bottles for growing plants, Thanks.

  34. Marlain Bouwer says:

    This is a way to go green. Awesome ideas, especially in small confined apartmets. Thank you

  35. Melody says:

    I did this project a couple of months ago and I love them! They add some much needed green to my apartment. However, I’ve noticed the roots have grown in to the bottom reservoir that is full of water and I’m getting a thin layer of white, fluffy mold on the top of the soil. Is it time to move to bigger containers, or just replace the soil to prevent the mold problem?

    1. birdy says:

      I saw that your question was never answered. What wound up happening, & did you find a good solution for the problem?

  36. SJ says:

    Hey- where can you buy the screen stuff to make the netting?

  37. such a great idea for us apartment dwellers.

  38. noya says:

    I like this will have to try it

  39. Fatima says:

    This is just awesome ..definitely going to try..once I get my glass cutter…inshallah

  40. Ale says:

    Thanks for sharing. Great idea! I’m always looking for good tips.

  41. Jenny Gifford says:

    Can anyone tell me how to cut the bottle please

    1. Joy moseley says:

      Soak cotton string in lighter fluid, tie around bottle where you want it cut, set in fire, after it burns out dip in cold water. It will break where the string was.

  42. milagros montesinos says:

    excelente idea!!

  43. A very interesting idea. So can a whole garden for the winter to have on the windowsill. Thanks for the article and pictures

  44. rachael says:

    this actually sounds like an amazing idea. might have to try this when i move.

  45. Ians Pools says:

    It’s such an unique idea. Really amazing. Thanks for share.

  46. mike says:

    Any issue with algae. Ive been reading about this issue and maybe aquarium grade charcoal is the solution?


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