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Another idea borne of my desire to have something that I couldn't afford to buy.. so I made my own.....AND made it better!

I came up with the idea of using gallon milk jugs to make hanging planters for my greenhouse and yard for growing vegetables and flowers. You're gonna have to picture this one in your mind... Until I get around to making more Milk Jug Planters and taking pics of them!

See the milk jug? Put the handle of the jug to the right.. just for reference. I'm talking the bottles where the handle is molded into the jug.. like bleach bottles and such... You have the top curve of handle... hook your finger in the bend and pick up the jug... see the angle in which the jug hangs? Keep that in mind as you work with this...

Leave the neck of the bottle just the way it is... it gives strength to the handle and the handle is what you hang the bottle by (use rope or chain or whatever - use something strong, by the end of the season a tomato plant gets pretty heavy hanging with fruit). With your handle to the right you are gonna cut part of the top of the bottle away to the left of the neck... You usually get a rectangular shaped hole.. try to make the corners rounded.. and minimize nicks.. square corners and cut nicks could make the bottle tear toward the end of the season when the bottle is getting really heavy with growth. I actually like using a soldering iron to melt the 'cut' to make everything rounded and smooth. Don't forget to punch a couple of small drainage holes in the bottom.. the lowest point of the jug when it's in the hanging position.

If you are growing tomatoes or cucumbers, larger plants.. choose those with smaller fruit sizes.

If you are growing a 'ball' of plants (flowers, strawberries, herbs, lettuces whatever). Picture a strawberry planter.. holes all around the sides? Cut or burn holes all around the jug.. sides and bottom. I stagger them usually three or four holes on each side and one or two on the bottom. The size of the holes are up to you. Big enough to fit the root balls of what you will be planting, large enough to leave room for the fully grown stem to have some space around it...

For the 'ball' planter you place the plants in as you put in the soil. Use small plants whose root balls will fit through the holes. You will have to plant the jug while it is hanging, the first plants to go in are on the bottom. Smaller plants are easier to plant and require smaller holes. Position the plant in the hole, fill and firm soil around it fill in soil to the next level hole.. place the plant, centering the stem in the hole as best you can, fill and firm soil around in and continue to the very top hole, by the handle. If soil keeps trying to fall through the holes you can use pieces of newspaper, sphagnum moss, whatever, to keep it from coming out.. once the plants start growing and roots develop they will hold the soil.

Now for the top hole.. Here you will have your main plant if a single plant planter or one or two pants if a ball planter... AND a small bottle waterer! Yep.. I use a 12 or 20 oz pop bottle waterer... you want the bottle to be buried about 1/3 to 1/2 way into the soil. so that it is easier to hide.. I use green bottles (Mountain Dew or 7-up) but clear also work well. 

Be patient, this gets a bit tricky but to do this well is the success of the jug planter. You want the bottle waterer to be level with the jug hanging... NOT level if the jug is sitting on the table... Picture that okay? Get the bottle waterer in position as close to the jug neck as you can, that way if the bottle gets a bit 'tippy' you can run a string or wire around the jug neck to help hold it where you want it... and then position and plant your plant(s)...

Now go hang your jug planter and carefully water until it just starts to drip out of the bottom and then fill the bottle waterer. You need to saturate the soil with a good top watering not only to make sure to settle the soil around the roots but to make sure that the soil will be able to draw water from the bottle waterer. You know how really dry soil seems to repel water and it runs off? Dry soil will not draw water from the bottle....

For soil in the container use finished compost or whatever you use in any container... no magic formula... Light weight soilless mixes are nice, too. Water with straight water at first.. later, as the plant(s) get bigger and start producing add whatever fertilizer you prefer, compost tea, fish emulsion, whatever...

Keep your bottle waterer topped off and make sure that you watch the first few days to make sure that it is drawing water properly. If the bottle runs dry and your soil over dries, you may need to top water the jug to saturate the soil again so that it will draw from the bottle waterer again.

The more plant growth, the drier the air, the more water your jug planter will use.. so keep an eye on it.

What do you end up with? hehehehe how about a 'column' of cherry tomatoes coming down from ceiling to floor? Cucumbers, Morning Glories, Moon Flowers, Trailing Nasturtiums, Green Beans, Peas? Or in a Ball Planter: assorted Leaf lettuces, herbs. Moss Rose, Lobelia, Wax (Fibrous) Begonias, Impatiens, Geraniums, Petunias, Strawberries!!!
Use your imagination.. go crazy.. have fun!!!

Cost for the planter? The time to cut the jug and the pop bottle... otherwise FREE! And you're saving the environment from two more plastic bottles! hehehehehe
I LOVE recycling. I LOVE FREE!!! hehehehe

Think of all the places that you could hang jug planters from, using bottle waterers to make them less labor intensive... and if you are an inventive type.. if you set up a row of them under the eaves or something.. and rig a drip system to be able to top off the bottle waterers from a central location....

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Last modified: May 03, 2006 08:34 AM