Earth Day Guest Blogger–Kathleen Reilly

two-liter-bottles2Two-liter bottles can be repurposed into handy hydroponics planters.

Excerpt from Planet Earth: 25 Environmental Projects You Can Build Yourself, by Kathleen M. Reilly, Polka Dot Suitcase.

You can grow plants without soil when you create a hydroponics planter. You’ll still need to find some kind of planting medium for this planter, but some scientists grow plants by spraying the nutrients the plants need directly onto the plants’ roots.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Two-liter bottle
Strips of cotton rags or T-shirts
Litmus paper (to measure pH; you can get these at garden, pool, hardware, or pet stores)
Plants: try runners (like from a spider plant) or stem cutting (try something like an ivy plant), or if you want to start from seed, try lettuce or an herb like basil
Planting medium like hay, pebbles, lava rocks, etc. (You can experiment with this—just don’t use soil!)
Hydroponics plant nutrients (available at garden stores)
Aquarium tubing and small air pump or hollow rubber ball (optional)

Cut the two-liter bottle in half, leaving the cap on. In the top half, make a hole or slit big enough for your cloth strip to fit through. Thread the strip through and make sure it’s long enough to have some cloth in the top of the bottle and some resting in the bottom of the bottle.

Fill the bottom half of the bottle with water. Use your litmus paper to test the pH of your water; follow the included instructions on how to test pH. Plants need a pH of between five and seven to grow well. If your water isn’t in this range, add a little squirt of lemon juice to increase the acidity or a sprinkle of baking soda to decrease it. You’ll need around ½ of a lemon for a gallon of water and one teaspoon of baking soda for a gallon of water. When it’s ready, add some plant nutrients to the water (use the instructions on the container to figure out how much you need). Set this aside.

Turn the bottle top upside down (be sure your cotton material—the “wick” is still in place) and fill it with your planting medium. Tuck your plant runner or seeds in the middle of this material. You want to be sure your wick is far enough in both the top and bottom halves to transport water up to the plant.

Set the top half of the bottle onto the bottom half, and check back in a little bit to be sure that the water is, indeed, moving up the wick to the plant. Change the water about once a week.

Once your plant’s roots start getting bigger, you can take the cap off and remove the wick, allowing the roots to reach down into the water themselves. When this happens, you’ll need to oxygenate the water to prevent the roots from getting slimy, so cut a piece of aquarium tubing long enough to run down through the slit into the water. Either use a small air pump (like for a table fountain) or a hollow rubber ball with the tubing poked into it for aeration (you’ll need to “pump” the ball once a day to add oxygen to the water).

Special thanks to Kathleen Reilly for this great way to recycle plastic bottles!


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This was a great article. I’m looking forward to more DIY projects from your site.
Thanks for being earth conscious.

Thanks, JoAnn. I appreciated hearing from you.

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