entertainingFood & Drinkoutdoorstudio choowe like it wild

we like it wild: bottle gardens

by Grace Bonney

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.

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  • Super idea, I’d really like to try this. Could you please clarify what you mean by ‘screen’ though? Is it just loose weave fabric, or is it some special item? Thanks

  • This is a great idea – is that small amount of soil enough to sustain herbs, though? Or is it more for decoration?


  • valerie- the screen is actually a small weave screen (you can buy just a small section at most hardware stores). amber- the small amount of soil for the beer bottle planter would be best for small herbs or for starter seeds and if you want something longer lasting the larger wine bottle would be better.

  • that is tooo cute!
    Grace you post the best stuff!
    My old man and I figured out how to cut glass with string, oil, a lighter and a bucket full of water.
    Its quite exciting!

  • i’ve done this with plastic water bottles and coffee filters … great for seed starting.
    Without the filter … start cuttings and watch the roots develop. OR keep the filter and then add a little dirt every few days and transplant.

  • Great DIY! I made self watering containers out of painter’s buckets and this year my garden is so much easier and bigger. I love fresh herbs but have been having a hard time keeping them, especially since I’m out of town so often.

    Anyways. Glass is always better but essentially you can make this with plastic bottles. I find the large, sort of rectangular juice bottles give you a lot of volume and fit quite nicely on the window sill. Definitely on my list of to-dos for the summer!

  • I have already followed your link and bought my own glass cutting supplies! Thank you, I am excited to create this project!

  • Just showed my boyfriend this nifty tutorial and he made a great point, is it possible to use the bottom half of the wine/beer bottle as the water reservoir instead of using another glass? He felt it sorta defeated the whole purpose of the re-purposing aspect of this project. Which I somewhat agree with him, but I do like the 2-tone effect of the dark & clear glass. Anywho, this is a great project nonetheless!

  • grace – I appreciate every clever recycled childhood project you post!! I missed many of those and get chique crafty ideas to do with my son that look awesome in my house. thanks :)

  • Hi Tina –
    If you look a little bit closer, you’ll see that indeed we did use the bottom half of another bottle as the reservoir, just a different color. ;)

  • Hi Grace, great recycling idea and I’ve always wanted to get my hands on self-watering planters. This looks wonderful in the kitchen too. Besides glass, any other materials that we can possibly experiment?

    • hi sandymoi

      so glad you liked the post- this was actually written by studio choo, the lovely team who writes all of our floral posts and who run a fantastic shop in california. i’m sure they’ll check back in here to answer your question :)


  • What a great idea! The kids would love this for growing little flowers for Mom too! Would like some other ideas for the bottle base…drinking cups or vases? If it was green glass I would say rooting cups as green glass works amazingly better than anything else. So what shall we do with the bottoms. Also what about the sharp edges on the cut glass? What can we use to sand the glass edges with?
    Thanks for the great ideas!

  • This is fantastic! Thank you.
    If there are no glass bottles laying around we can use plastic pop bottles, the 2L ones make good size pots.

  • Ooooh Grace, and studio choo, what a brilliant concept for recycling bottles. These herbs are so pretty and simple in their new homes. I am definitely making these as hostess gifts this summer. Thanks for the lovely idea.
    @Novi, there are special sanding blocks with diamond dust made specially for glass. OR use fine sandpaper or even better, a sharpening stone, to remove the edge. I recommend wearing a mask when doing this process, you don’t want to inhale glass dust. ;)

  • Awesome idea! I’ve got some herbs on the verge of death that would do well if they could water themselves…

    Any idea if this would work with bulbs for spring flowers?

  • This is a great idea…and pretty too (that’s important)! I’ve gone to succulents because the watering issue when we’re gone and because I seem to have serious fungus gnat issues ever since I moved to Oregon. However, I’ve heard that a layer of sand on the top of the soil prevents them…so…no more excuses! :)

  • Luci–

    Bulbs have to have a ‘winter’ period in order to bloom, so it would involve chilling them for a number of weeks first… Or, you could buy paperwhites, which many places sell ready to go. They’re lovely (if you can stand the smell– I can’t), and require only gravel to bloom!

  • Ohhhh studio choo you are so right! Thanks for pointing that out :) I’ll be sure to let my boyfriend know that you guys DID re-use everything!

  • I tried cutting the glass with a glass cutter and was not able to get a straight edge. It was kind of jagged and did not look very pretty. I tried practicing on 5-6 bottles with no luck. Does anyone have any suggestions for getting a straighter cut or somewhere you can take it to get it cut professionally?

  • it is good for providing drainage for essacing water. :)

    :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

  • This is absolutely awesome. I have a little herb garden — about five different herbs in pots, but they are quickly dieing because I forget/can’t always water them. I’m going to figure out how to cut glass… and transplant my herbs asap!!! I love this!!!

  • Awesome idea, I think I might try this…and maybe hubby will help for the healthy benefits!

  • I found this link last night after searching and searching for a more affordable option to the Grow Bottle. Thank you so much for posting this, I am looking forward to trying this!!!

  • 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?

    • 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

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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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)

  • 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.

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

  • 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…

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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??

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

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

  • 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?

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

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

    • 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.

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

  • Just marvellous! My kitchen herb garden will be in existence this very weekend! Thanks so much!

  • Love this idea! It’s a great way to reuse the old bottles at home. I’m surely showing this post to my sister, because she likes such recycling and reusing projects and she’s making such stuff all the time. Thanks for the great idea!

  • Thank you for the direction. 1 of the plants looks limp, could this be that this structure is not for all herbs or was it a lack of sun? (This is a sincere question) thank you again

    • Think of a bonzai. If it grew the same size of a tree is would need bigger roots and more space to actualy stand straigth and strong.

  • This is a great idea! I love the way it looks. Thanks for saying the bottle cutting may take practice :). Now when I hit a snag I won’t think I’m not capable and quit. haha

  • If your are going to cut your own bottles get a kit that scores the glass. The burning twine videos on YouTube are just bottle breakers. I also recommend the water dams to contain the hot and cold water you’ll use and some HEAVY DUTY diamond sanding pads (ALWAYS WET SAND – glass dust will seriously mess up your lungs). These are all available at http://www.bottlecutting.com and work very well.

      • Christy, my first thought about not using plastic bottles would be that glass bottles provide the anchor or are heavy enough to keep the plant/glass bottle half from falling over?

  • You could put pebbles or stones in the bottom half to weigh it so the bottles don’t fall if you are using plastic bottles ????

  • Thank u for this great idea.I like it. I want for my kitchen but due to lack of time I couldn’t do this. Thank u again.

  • Plastic bottles can be a lightweight alternative, but remember, UV light in natural sunlight destroys plastic after a while, rendering it brittle.

  • Any advice on what string is better and ones to avoid.? Obviously it should wick and endure. I have a broken screen waiting for a bottle/plant re purposing.

    • I’ve used embroidery thread in the past, but it rots out and falls apart (so avoid that). It looks like she uses a nylon string, but I’m not sure how well that will work as a wick.

  • I need to to thank you for your time due to this fantastic read!! I definitely enjoyed every bit of it and I have you bookmarked to see new information on your blog.

  • I love to see recycled materials used in the garden. I may have to make this after my last successful garden drainage product.

  • Hi Grace,

    Really like the idea of making bottle gardens.
    Gonna try to fix them myself this weekend.

    Thanks for this great idea!

  • Looks awesome! Would love to try this with the end of a rum bottle I have – it’s got a strange decorative neck that I think would add a unique flair to this project. Thanks for the idea!

  • A very good use of plastic bottles simply lying around. But will the plants absorb any chemicals leaching from the bottle?

  • Great DIY! I made self watering containers out of painter’s buckets and this year my garden is so much easier and bigger. I love fresh herbs but have been having a hard time keeping them, especially since I’m out of town so often.