My plastic bottle greenhouse

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Plastic Bottle Greenhouse and other ways to recycle pop bottles...

How I've built my greenhouse from plastic bottles, recycled wood and old fence posts. How it is doing, both structurally and horticulturally, what's growing in it, changing on it or falling off it.
Plus links to other ways of using Plastic bottles.
I've reorganised so that the updates are listed as most recent first, so its easy to catch up.

How I built my Greenhouse.

or how to ignore instructions and get away with it!

First off I bought the “plastic fantastic” booklet from Earthship Fyfe (see link below).
I then set about collecting the parts together, namely :
Fenceposts, reasonably thick wire, and of course empty 2 litre plastic bottles.
For this I turned to Freegle, and after 6 months I had a garage full of bin liners of plastic bottles, some fence posts, and I bought some garden wire from ebay and Wilkos.
Whilst I was still collecting bottles I started to process what I had, which involved taking the labels off the bottles, cutting off the bottoms and stacking them together.
I stacked most them in 3′s initially as they then fitted back into the bin liners nicely, but some went on bamboo canes in my garden to see how they would fare over the winter.
The actual construction started once the really cold weather stopped and I was happy to be working outside.
Firstly I sorted out what fence posts I had and from that drew up a rough plan of the shape of the greenhouse. Deciding on a sloping roof as then I’d only need one gutter.
Next was putting the frame together using the odd lengths of fence posts that I had salvaged,,,
Then I started stretching the supporting wires around the wooden frame. This was done in layers wrapping the wires around each post to give pairs of wires between which the bottles can be slotted (see photo’s)
After that it was just a case of slotting in the stacks of bottles (tops downwards so that any water would drain out the bottom of the bottles) digging the bottom of each stack slightly into the soil, and using this to give a bit of leeway in the height of the stacks, and having an uncut bottle at the top of each stack.
Finally adding wire ties to tighten the supporting wires around the stacks at random intervals.
The last section to go on was the roof, then finally I made a frame for the door and hung and stacked that.
I can’t have done too bad a job, as its still standing nearly 4 years later!

Building the Greenhouse

The wooden frame

Adding the wires. 3 layers about 18 inches apart, with one wire looping around each post to give a slot to feed the bottles through.

the first stacks of bottles slotted in.

Stacking the bottles in place.

looks cool!

Links to other greenhouse instructions,

and other plastic bottle recycling ideas.

the bamboo cane method..
an alternate design using a lot of bamboo canes...
the plastic bottle greenhouse at Mayfield Primary School
A primary schools page about them building a plastic bottle greenhouse
Sustainable Communities Initiative Scotland
Where I bought my instructions from... I didnt follow them but its good to support them.
cleantechnica
Annother Variant of the plastic bottle greenhouse...
Shedworking.co.uk
One other timber framed greenhouse, and one using no timber at all, just bottles!
instructables
There are lots of great recycling ideas and how-to instructions on instructables. I have picked this one as its something to do with all the bottle ends that are left after you've made a greenhouse.
the sietch
The members of The Sietch are committed to educating and enlightening people all over the world to the growing need for ordinary people to start doing something about the problems that face the world today. We do this by being an important source of information for people who are ready to make a change and need a little help.

May 2014

grow grow grow

may tomatoes May was a wet and warm month so the greenhouse tomatoes have been doing well. Unfortunately outside has been a utopia for slugs and snails and most of the seedlings I’ve planted – all of the courgettes and squashes – have been eaten. The sweetcorn is doing well though. Meanwhile the roof plastic has started to rip slightly on the edges so I’m patching it up with weatherproof tape – It hasn’t done badly though as its got through 2 winters intact.

April 2014

Tomatoes away!

April 2014 The tomatoes I have been growing at home are now into growbags in the greenhouse – last year I planted directly in the soil, so this year its back to peat free growbags. I’ve also got melons planted in the front (failed hotbox) section, and cucumbers and tomatoes is the unroofed side extension. The weathers been great the last few weeks, as my solar generation at home has shown – up on last year every month so far this year. Now I just need everything to grow!

February 2014

wet,wet,wet...

Here we are in 2014, the winter is raging outside as I type with slushy rain battering the windows, but the plastic bottle greenhouse goes on!
It is showing its age now, but only in the woodwork. I built it out of reclaimed bits and bobs and a lot of plastic bottles nearly 5 years ago now. certainly in Feb 2009 I was spending my evenings cutting bottles up ready to be slotted into place once I’d built the frame. The door is nearly off its hinges, at least one of the fence posts used for the door frame has sunk by about 6 inches, so the frame isn’t quite together anymore, and the door itself is coming apart and doesn’t fit properly. The wiring on the roof is very corroded and probably need replacing before it snaps, but its nothing I can’t sort out in a morning if only the wind and rain would ease off for a day or two.

So to anyone reading this for the first time, and those of you that have been following me here are a few things that people said to me when I was building it that certainly haven’t been true….
“The bottles will only last 18 months at most” – we’ll, and I’m not sure that this is really a good thing, all the original bottles are still there 5 years on, and I haven’t noticed any brittling or anything else to stop them being there a few years more. Certainly there are a few more bottles now, the stacks have ‘relaxed’ a bit over time, but I’ve just added more to the top to fill any gaps.
“what a waste of time, It wont last you know” See above! and that’s with my dodgy woodwork / DIY skills holding it all together.
“The bottles will give off toxins and poison you” Well maybe they are, but me and my family are still here and as far as we know fit and healthy.

And a few things that definitely are true…..
The greenhouse was cheap. I collected bottles from friends and relatives, from freecycle and bins. It certainly took time, cleaning and cutting the bottles, driving around to collect them from peoples sheds and garages, hunting for fence posts and planking to re-use. Money however was not vastly spent – I bought the wire, some screws and nails, and I’ve since bought 2 lots of plastic sheeting for the roof.
It works! Sure it doesn’t get Really hot in there, but it also doesn’t get as cold as outside. Yes wind does go between the bottles, but so what, ventilation is important!
It Works! I have grown tomatoes in it every summer, carrots and lettuce have been overwintered to give early crops the next year, early strawberries have been grown in the racking. It has done its job, and will continue to do so! (if it ever stops raining….)

September 2013

the summers on the way out...

Well…. I havent spent much time at the allotment this year – too much disc golf! But nevertheless everything is doing fine. The greenhouse has the largest tomatoes I’ve grown in there, despite not using growbags, and hardly watering them, except in the height of the summer and then only every couple of days, although they are only just starting to ripen up. Once they’ve ripened up I will try sticking some lettuce in there again.
The greenhouse itself is starting to show some wear – not the bottles themselves, but my handiwork!…. the door is coming off its hinges, and generally falling apart – I will have to patch it up in the next couple of weeks.

July 2013

its been a while but....

strawberry shelves I’ve still been using the greenhouse, I just haven’t got around to writing about it.
The early lettuce was a bit late in coming this year – It was unusually cold at the start of the year although it has now become unusually hot!
I got a good lot of lettuce and broad beans out of the greenhouse, plus a fair few strawberries off the shelving – although its got so hot in there the last few weeks that the top shelf have all died.
I’ve made the mistake of not putting the tomatoes into grow bags again, and this has resulted in a much slower growth in the greenhouse than usual. The roof plastic is holding up well, although the door is falling off – my bodging finally giving up, so I need to rebuild the door at some point. but overall, its still there – its just I’m there less often.mail

January 2013

jan 2013 Broad Beans Were into another year and the greenhouse is nearly 4!
Since stripping out the tomatoes in September I really haven’t done much at the greenhouse. This years lettuce hasn’t worked – probably because the plastic roof has survived this year, and I haven’t been down to water the inside much. The first signs of growth are happening though, with the broad beans I planted in November on one side starting to come up.
Once the snow retreats I will start some early lettuce off. Plus I need to start off my tomatoes at home for later in the year.

September 2012

side extension The poor weather has continued, but the tomatoes are continuing to do well. No blight this year, so the greenhouse is still packed full of ripening tomatoes, as I’m waiting for as long as possible before clearing them out and planting the winter lettuce.
I’ve finally added the side extension walls, so both sides are now walled with bottles – except for where the water butts in the way, its roofed with netting, and open fronted. I planted some cabbage and cauliflowers and Kale in there today, so they should come on quicker come the spring.

August 2012

toms august 2012 Despite my neglect of the allotment and greenhouse this month, the tomatoes are starting to ripen by the end of August. Everything else on the allotment is just weeds, but the greenhouse continues to impress me, as I have only watered the tomatoes once or twice a week, and they are doing fine. My normal winter crops of lettuce are being sown in pots at home, but I don’t hold out much hope of them making it to the greenhouse as my last few batches of lettuce seedlings haven’t amounted to anything other than slug food.

July 2012

wet, wet, wet.

Peters Carrot Its been a pretty miserable year since the end of May, the wettest June and July in the UK for donkeys years. Things just aren’t growing well, the light levels are down, the rainfall is way up. The greenhouse is still standing however, and has Tomato plants in it. No tomatoes yet, but the ones I have indoors at home are only just getting there. The picture was taken yesterday when me and Peter(4) went down to the allotment in the sun to see what we could pick, only to find ourselves sheltering in the greenhouse from the downpour that suddenly appeared. Peter found a carrot in a growbag though, so he was happy…

June 2012

tomatoes! Were not at the end of June yet, but I think I can safely say its been a wet and dull one. Lots of slugs and snails mean that the allotment is not being very productive this year. Apart from the copious Rhubarb, not much is surviving the gastropod onslaught. The Greenhouse however is still up and running, with the tomatoes finally looking like they might start flowering, inside at least, the tomatoes on the outside extension are decidedly sorry looking. The front ‘cloche’ has melon seedlings in, which have survived so far, but I’m not holding much hope for them producing any Melons!

Photos from June 2012

The added 'cloche' at one end. Last year it was an unsucessful hot bed, now its got melons in (if the slugs havent eaten them yet!)

Inside temperature

he greening roof.

May 2011

A funny month weather wise, sun and wind with a bit of rain that completely failed to get the soil wet.
The greenhouse isn’t doing so well, the tomatoes are looking weedy and I’m wondering why I didn’t use growbags as i have before. But never mind I have lots of tomatoes in my garden. I will try putting something else in at the extra space infront of the weedy tomatoes, and hope that the cucumbers take better….

April into May 2012

the toms are in! Not a lot doing at the greenhouse through April – the wettest in the UK on record. May isn’t looking much better, as whilst it isn’t as wet as April, the temperatures about 4 degree C lower than average, and the light levels are lower than usual.
The greenhouse has now been emptied of lettuce, so I’ve transplanted the remaining uneaten ones to outside – there were a good dozen lettuces in there hiding under the miners lettuce, which had gone a bit crazy. The growbags have gone in (it was direct in the soil last year, so back to growbags this year) with the tomatoes. The outside extensions at the front and side have been tidied ready for melons and cucumbers – a new experiment for this year, assuming the cucumber seedlings start growing.
The good thing about the weather is there haven’t been any frosts for weeks, so no rushing around covering up potatoes etc.We just need a bit more sun now.
Now that the Tom’s are in I need to add a plastic sheet to the roof to stop them getting too wet, but I’ll leave that till I’m back from half term holidays.
Maintenance wise the roof is looking in need of a clean, its getting a bit greeny brown up there, but I’ll wait till a nice sunny day before tackling that.

March 2012

an unseasonally warm month

March was a gorgeous month weather wise, so I’ve got lots done at the Allotment and the greenhouse is in fine form. The lettuce that has been skulking in there since October has really set to growing in the unseasonally warm temperatures and is providing lots of supermarket free salads. The temperatures in the greenhouse have been, on sunny days, 10 degrees C warmer than outside, and at worst 3 degrees warmer. So all is well. Structurally everything is fine, I’ve rejiggled a few of the bottle stacks where the bottles have sunk into each other a bit over the winter, but nothing major. The ‘coldframe’ at the front of the greenhouse that I started last spring now has a netting lid on it, I still havent got round to making a bottle lid. The side extension has half walls, and once the purple sprouting brocolli has finished I will add netting walls and roof.
Aprils not looking so good so far, but I’m getting ready to add the tomatoes to the greenhouse.

February 2012

I made a start on the extension, side windbreak thingy today. Not entirely sure what I’m going to do there, but its looking like I’ll probably have half height bottle walls, and net roof and the top of the sides. The cloche at the front end is also in danger of being finished soon. It will probably change as I go along. The lettuce is starting to spring to life again, and the inside temperature is about 5 degrees C higher than outside.

January 2012

The fourth year of the plastic bottle greenhouse!

greenhouse glinting in the January sun Its 3 years this April since I built the greenhouse, and despite huge scepticism from other allotment holders, and my none to skilled building of the framework, its very much still there. The gorgeous weather today meant that I pottered down to the allotment for the first time this year. The greenhouse looked fantastic, lit up by the January sunshine. Despite being in a fairly windy location it has stood up to the weather really well. I had to rejiggle the bottles in the door today, as a couple had blown out, but only because the door latch had broken and the door has been flapping in the wind, and will probably need to add a few bit and pieces of bottle all round, as the stacked bottles do slowly sink into each other and leave a slight gap at the top, but it hasn’t blown away, and the bottles haven’t degraded noticeably (someone told me they would only last 12 months outside).
Overall I am still really chuffed with it, and if the weather keeps up I will be adding the ‘cloche’ to the front and redoing the side extension windbreak over the next few weeks. I can’t wait to start planting for this year, and do need to get some tomato and pepper seeds started off at home.
The lettuces are doing ok in there again, and it shouldn’t be long before they spring back to life and we get to give the garden lettuces a rest. Temperstures continue to be about 4 degrees C higher inside than out (even though the door was open!)
:)

August 2011

late august tomatoes Well August is almost gone, and the weather is more like mid-September, but despite that the allotment generally, and the Greenhouse particularly are doing ok. The Tomatoes are curling over as they’ve hit the roof, and starting to ripen up – normally by this time they’d have blight and I’d be making green tomato chutney. Structurally its all still great. I still haven’t got round to the side extension – maybe in the Autumn proper.
UPDATE 3rd September
Well we’re just into September now, and I’ve realised I forgot to report on the temperatures.
The Greenhouse appears to be consistently about 3-5 degrees centigrade warmer than outside, depending on the wind (its a higher difference the more windy it is)
The Tomatoes are slowly ripening up, and its easily the best year for tomatoes in the greenhouse, despite the poor start. Helped enormously by the fact that I’ve had no blight. Where I would normally have had to pick a lot of green tomatoes when the blight struck, this year they can ripen up themselves, and are the largest tomatoes I have grown in there. The downside being I cant get my winter lettuce in until the tomatoes are out!

Reader Feedback

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  • gem-nitya Jun 06, 2014 @ 6:01 am
    Nice plastic bottle green house
    (Also shared on Facebook :)
    ~Blessings
    *GEM*
  • ClaytonThomas Jun 04, 2014 @ 12:21 pm
    I like your lens, it reads like a journal and very creative use of plastic bottles.
  • holisticwriter Apr 18, 2014 @ 7:50 pm
    Hey, how about make-shift shelters too. Solve the housing problem and help the environment at the same time.
  • TanjaWanderlust Apr 17, 2014 @ 6:25 pm
    Awesome man! I have once used a bottle as a mini-greenhouse. It works!
  • PaulaLeDuigou Mar 05, 2014 @ 10:25 am
    So cool! Your lens is featured to day on "The Green Thumb: A Place For Gardeners To Gather" Facebook page. Please like/share our page with your friends!
  • Janice Aug 03, 2013 @ 6:24 pm
    I hope you manage to keep the diary up. I have followed and enjoyed it very much for several years. I have had a Plastic Bottle Greenhouse for about 2 years and hope to extend it later this year. It has survived well in spite of being at the north of Scotland and in an exposed location.
  • Janice Aug 03, 2013 @ 6:24 pm
    I hope you manage to keep the diary up. I have followed and enjoyed it very much for several years. I have had a Plastic Bottle Greenhouse for about 2 years and hope to extend it later this year. It has survived well in spite of being at the north of Scotland and in an exposed location.
  • seodress Jul 26, 2013 @ 5:49 am
    Incredible idea !!!!
  • burntchestnut Jul 16, 2013 @ 9:09 am
    I love recycling and your greenhouse is great. It helped that you gave progress reports on how things were growing. I'm impressed the greenhouse has lasted 4 years - that tells you bad plastic is for the environment. I'll be reading through all the extra links you provided. Great lens!
  • rattie Jun 13, 2013 @ 3:03 am
    What a fine example of environmental hope! So detailed and informative. Thanks so much.

See all comments

October/November 2011

its been a while since I updated...

Well… not a lot going on now.
What I have done since Septembers post is clear out the tomato plants and plant out a load of lettuce and chinese cabbage to overwinter in the greenhouse and supply me with early salads next year. Although if the weather stays as mild as it has been I may well be picking them during the winter.
I may get round to the extension sometime… but whilst the weather is good my new obsession of disc golf is eating into my allotment time.

september 2011

September has almost gone, but it’s finishing with a heatwave. It was 27C in the greenhouse today, and 23C outside it. The tomatoes are ripening up nicely, easily the best year in the greenhouse, despite my early misgivings. As I haven’t been nipping off sideshoots or any of those things you are meant to do with tomatoes its a bit crowded in there, and they are even growing out of the side and roof, between the bottles. The plastic sheeting has astarted to rip off, as it always does, but It has done its summer job of keeping the greenhouse from getting too damp inside.
Once the weather dies down to the seasonal norms I will take out the toms, and get the winter lettuce seedlings that are growing at home in. Its just such nice weather this week.

June 2011

new thermometer outside and in. The weather has continued to be very changeable, with not enough rain to get the ground wet, and not enough sun for the plants to really take off.
In the greenhouse the tomatoes have continued to do badly, I really must use growbags again next year! but they are picking up a bit.
I now have a thermometer inside the greenhouse, and another outside, so I can compare the temperature.
On the 7th July – when I put the thermometers out, it was 17C outside, and 21.5C in the greenhouse, mainly I think due to the wind protection, as it was very windy outside. I will take note everytime i go down, and hopefully work out what sort of difference the greenhouse makes.
UPDATE: I’ve been monitoring the temperature for a couple of weeks now and can say that the greenhouse temperature is generally 3-5 degrees C higher than outside in the sun.

April 2011

Well its been a gloriously sunny month, now we just need some rain…
Everything is busy growing on the allotment, and at home where i have a lot of seedlings waiting to go to the allotment.
The greenhouse is still standing up to the recent wind. I have now added plastic to the roof,as I did last year to prevent it getting too humid in there (if it ever rains…), and the tomatoes are in, although all of my cucumber seedlings have been eaten, and the overwintered lettuces are slowly being picked. There are also 2 wooden boxes of potatoes in there as well (in the aisle) which i will soon be eating.
All is well, and my allotment neighbour of the last year asked is she could see inside, so people are still curious…
I haven’t got round to the extension yet, but hope to over the summer.

End of March 2011

All is still ok. I tried making one end a hotbed on the outside, but it hasnt worked. Things are growing in the hotbed, its just not hot. Did a few bottle replacements due to sinkage, and will do a side extension when I get round to it. Ticking along nicely – with lots of lettuce…. cant wait to get my cucumbers and tomatoes in there, but I will resist for now.

February 2011 Update

Well its survived another winter. Although its very windy today the walls are just moving about a bit, not falling down. I do need to do a bit of bottle replacing, as the columns have sunk a bit, so no longer quite reach the frame at the top, so I will redo the top layer of bottles when I remember. The lettuce I put in in the autumn is doing ok, and will get me some early salads once the spring arrives.

September October update

set for winter Well, Its still still there. The plastic sheeting on the roof has shredded and gone, but that doesn’t matter for the winter as I want the rain to get in to water the lettuces. The tomatoes are all cleared out – and boy did those roots go a long way, straight through the bottom of the growbags and well into the soil beneath. Winter lettuce seedlings are planted, so the greenhouse is set for another winter.

Update June to August 2010

June….
Lots of growing going on generally, and in the greenhouse there are tomatoes – I’m trying to keep on top of them a bit more this year, and have planted less so they don’t get too crowded – cucumbers, peppers and aubergines, plus carrots in growbags and boxes. The new roof cover is still on, and the water butt has filled up enough for me to discover the tap doesn’t work, but at least the roof and gutter are filling it up.
July and August….
Picking loads and not buying any fruit or veg at all as the allotment is providing crops of lettuce, raspberries, blackberries, courgettes, squashes, leaf beet, french beans, potatoes, onions, beetroot and chives.
Plus the greenhouse is now producing a healthy crop of tomatoes, and a few carrots.
Its still holding itself up, with the only glitch being the plastic sheet added to the roof which is starting to shred in the wind.

Progress March 2010

Stuff growing apace, with the couch grass springing up everywhere. All ok still. Carrots and potatoes coming along nicely in the greenhouse, as well as lots of seedlings and the lettuce that’s been sitting there all winter. Its a nice warm spot to work in out of the wind and was soooo worth building last year. Structurally its all ok, with the roof no longer collecting water in the bottles. Once I put this years permanent crops in there (tomatoes, aubergines and cucumbers, I am going to put a plastic sheet over the roof so that the water doesn’t pour in when it rains, as last year it was too humid in there, but for now its keeping the seedlings watered.

Progress Feb 2010

Well we’re pretty much a year on from building the greenhouse and its still standing, and being used. The bottles are standing up well to the winter wind , rain and the couple of inches of snow we had in January. So I’m looking forward to filling it up and making the most of it over the spring and summer.

progress 01 oct 09

Well the greenhouse and i are still on the allotment. The roof is completely redone, the winter veg are in and all appears to be ok….

Progress 13/09/09

its still there...

A couple of repairs have been made, the roof bottles reversed to stop the water collecting in them, and odd bits of frame and the door that were falling apart due to my bad carpentry repaired. Stuff is still growing in there though, several cucumbers on the go, a load of lettuce and cabbage seedlings that I will plant in there for the winter, and a couple of peppers and an aubergine. Meanwhile I’ve been on probation at the allotment due to it “not being a playground” and have had to remove the slide and do all the tidying up I’ve been meaning to do for months. Its looking good though despite the site secretary declaring the greenhouse to be an eyesore…. I’ve just got to wait another week to see if they throw me off!

Progress Report 10/07/09

whats happening to and in the greenhouse.

Well, its filling up with tomato plants basically, they have reached the ceiling and dont look to be stopping.
Structurally my DIY skills are being shown up, as the doors falling apart, and the roof is still filling up with water – I am going to pierce the bottles to let the water out, but need to use a hot nail or equivalent to do it as I cant puncture them with a knife, but I keep forgetting to take the stuff with me to do it.
Temperature wise its doing nicely, it was nice and warm in there at 5.30 this morning, and too warm by about 11am.
See the pics below.

Progress Report 22nd May 2009

whats up and whats coming down...

Well its still there, which is a good start.
My Tomatoes and Cucumbers are doing well, as you can see in the new pictures. The Aubergines have succumbed to slugs however. I’m busily trying to sort out the rest of the allotment and get a playhouse built so the greenhouse is being left to its own devices.The major niggle at the moment is the roof, as my idea of putting the bottles neck down is great in the walls, but is causing big puddles to form in the roof bottles. Therefore at some point I will have to take the roof out – probably one row at a time, and reverse the bottles. Hopefully this will sort out the problem as water will drip out between the bottles where at the moment its collecting in the necks.

Hows it doing?

whats going on in the greenhouse now its up...

Well its been up a few weeks now, and has tomatoes, aubergines and cucumber plants in growbags in it, plus a lot of seeds in pots, and they are looking good so far (it hasn’t been that cold yet though)
The instant impression is how much warmer it is in there than outside, its in quite a windy spot so just getting rid of the wind makes a big difference, plus the fact that its self watering… by which I mean that the guttering is pointless as all of the rain drips through the roof – and waters the plants, so its not a problem, but it is not a good place to shelter….
Wind wise its holding up well, the walls and roof shift about and squeak a bit in the wind but so far nothing has blown out.
Overall I’m impressed, and a coldframe might well be the next step as I still have a lot of bottles in my garage.