"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Recycling milk bottles in the garden

I long for the days when one could get milk in glass bottles.  But, I long in vain.  All we have available is plastic sachets or plastic bottles.   Grrr!

All the plastic that enters this house is taken to the recycling place in Swellendam.

Being spring here, it is time to get my seedlings going.  But, I needed some way of getting my seedlings going as all my old seedling pots are perishing after 5 years use, so they have been tossed in the recycling bin.

But, I do not want to be buying any unnecessary plastic.

So, I have found a use for the plastic milk bottles I am forced to buy.

There are two different types of milk bottles in SA - this one:
Milk bottle with handle
And this one:
Milk bottle without handle
I prefer buying my milk in this bottle without the handle because I can turn it into a self-watering seedling tray.

Without rinsing the bottles (the slight milk residue adds calcium to the potting soil) I start by cutting the bottle in half.

 With a sharp pair of scissors, cutting the bottle in half takes no time at all :)
 With the two halves separated I then remove the lid...
 ...and invert the top (neck) half into the lower square base.
 If you cut it at the right point in the bottle (the third line from the bottom)...
 ... then the top half slots inside the lower half with approximately 8 - 10 mm of space between the inverted bottle top opening, and the base, thus creating a perfect little dam :)
Self-watering milk bottle seedling pot
After placing the inverted top half into the bottompiece and filling it with a potting soil / alpaca poo mix, you're ready to plant. (In the tomato "seedling pots" I first placed a banana skin at the bottom - underneath all the potting soil mix.  It also adds beneficial calcium to the soil.)

These tomato seeds were planted in the milk seedling pots at the end of August.  As you can see some of them are almost ready to be transplanted.

In those places where I have severe cut worm infestation I'm going to try an experiment and plant some mature seedlings (lettuce / rocket / beans / etc) in situ together with the top half of the bottle - sort of like growing seeds in a soil filled empty loo roll and allowing part of the loo roll to protrude above the soil when the seedlings are transplanted into beds.  The bottle neck hole in the soil will be more than wide enough to allow for the roots of the plants to go through into the proper veggie bed.  Adding a good layer of crushed egg shells to the top soil surface within the "seedling pot" will, hopefully, ensure that at least this year I should have some lettuce growing success :)

When these recycled "pots" perish, it's off to the recycling depot with them :D


Mum said...

Love the handleless bottles. Ours have handles over here. I hate having the plastic rather than the glass recyclable bottles too.

Dani said...

Mum - most of our milk suppliers use the handled bottle - only one uses the one without the handles.

Oh, how I wish milk still came in glass bottles... 😉

Kirsty Udall said...

What a good idea, still I agree why does everything have to come coated in plastic?

possumqueensa said...

Great idea, I'm going to stop buying those stupid little milk packets and try this. How the cutworm gets all the way up the side of a large planter and into the soil is one of those mysteries of nature I'll never solve.

Quinn said...

I can still buy milk in bottles at "local" dairies, but there are none very "local" to me anymore so I buy in cartons mostly. I still say everything tasted better in glass!
The gallon plastic jugs with handles make good cloches, with the bottoms cut out and a stick driven down through the handle so the cloche can be swung off the plant during warm hours and swung back over when it's cool. Don't know if you even need cloches in your neck of the woods, but maybe some of your readers can try this.

Dani said...

Kirsty - I dunno either... :(

Dani said...

pqsa - I think it involves cutworm eggs in the soil, which mature and then proceed to wreak havoc...!

Dani said...

Quinn - Also a good idea. Here though I don't need cloches - Seedlings can be started in my shadecloth covered veggie patch where there is no chance of frost. Our growing season start basically in mid-September and goes all the way through to the end of March - mid-April.

Harry Flashman said...

I'm bad about keeping things in the hopes I can use them, like glass jars and bottles. But I've never been able to come up with a good use for plastic milk cartons, except to hang them from tree limbs and use them for targets. Maybe this next summer when we plant a bigger garden I can get some different use out of them.

MsBelinda said...

What a great idea. I also liked the tip of placing a banana skin in the bottom.

Dani said...

Harry - They would be perfect for starting your veggie seeds in next spring ;)

Dani said...

MsB - The banana skin worked a treat - can highly recommend it :)

possumqueensa said...

Every few months I empty the containers, wash them out and put in brand new potting soil from the local agri, so the eggs must be in the potting soil. Grrrr.

Dani said...