Clear Plastic Bottles Make Great Greenhouses

Here’s a good project for any gardener looking out their window in the dead of winter and wishing they could get an early start on their spring planting.  All you need are wood, wire and lots of plastic soda bottles.

Greenhouses made out of clear plastic bottles have been catching on in a variety of communities for years, both in the U.S. and overseas.  They can be made out of readily available, recyclable materials. The only real investment needed is an investment of time and labor – which makes them a great project for schools.

“With lots of children to help gather the bottles and wash them, it's a great re-use educational structure that really works,” said Richard Bennett, who designs and builds bottle greenhouses in Britain, during an interview with the Guardian.

Road Trip Leads to Inspiration

Barb Radmore, with the Western Foothills Kids Association in Maine, says she and her husband Jim happened upon a bottle greenhouse during a recent road trip to Vermont, and were inspired to create one with their home school district.

When it’s completed, the greenhouse will be used in after-school programs by students and teachers in elementary and middle schools in western Maine.

“We’re working with our K-to-5 students and our 6th-to-8th grade students,” says Radmore, “and we really want them to learn the sustainability, recycling and up-cycling of materials. You don’t just have to throw them away and get rid of them, that there’s positive ways to reuse materials.”

The plan is to grow seedlings in the greenhouse, which the students will then give away to the local community.

Jim Radmore, a technology teacher at the middle school, has been working with his students in a classroom, to build a wood frame for the 6 foot by 8 foot greenhouse. The completed project will eventually end up in the middle school’s garden.

A Clear Choice for the Bottles Needed

The big challenge now, Barb says, is having her youngsters collect the 1,500 or so clear, two-liter plastic bottles needed for the greenhouse walls.  “Coke is one of the few clear bottles left,” she notes.

The larger, two-liter bottles are needed to create walls with the proper insulation; that are also strong enough to withstand both the elements and groups of enthusiastic kids.

After they’ve been cleaned, the plastic bottles are cut in half and placed vertically. A hole is then drilled through each of the half-bottles – and wire is run through the holes to secure the bottles to the wooden frame.

Bennett says that, on a sunny day, the inside of a solidly-made plastic bottle greenhouse can be 10 degrees warmer than outside.

And for Barb Radmore, that means some indoor planting even while winter still has its grip firmly on Maine.  She’s looking for funding to purchase seeds, soil and other garden-related items for the greenhouse – which they expect to have done in a few weeks’ time.

“April is our dream,” she says of a hoped-for completion date, “that it would all be up and done by the end of April, to get things started.”