How to make 2 Liter Planter Bottles
Every year we wish our tomatoes would produce earlier. Risking many hours of seed starting and planting work to the whims of our local weather just doesn’t set well with my efficiency standards though. I hate wasting time doing things over that could have been avoided. This new idea I found got me to thinking about just doing a few plants early to see if we could improve those early production numbers without risking everything.
We were immediately post party anyway so it was the perfect time to use our empty 2 liter bottles for this trick. The idea is simple enough. First you cut off the top 5-6 inches of the bottle, and drill a hole through the cap big enough to slip a rope through. Leave about 5 inches on each side of the cap and make a loose knot on the inside piece. Fill the upside down top with dirt allowing the rope to coil around through the soil. Fill the bottle base two thirds full of water, and put the dirt filled top upside down in the water filled base. They said a nylon rope would work but I didn’t believe it and used a cotton rope. Three days after setting these up the dirt hasn’t gone dry yet.
The rope hanging down into the water is supposed to act as a wick and keep the soil wet. This is a great idea if you want to start some seeds while you are gone, and don’t want them to dry out. One completely overlooked advantage with this method was the idea of solar gain. With the bottle placed in a south facing window the water filled base will absorb the heat from the day and release it at night when it cools right under the soil where the seeds need it most. On a clear day of 50F outside, the inside temp between the bottles in the window was 88F. The nighttime low was 40-44F.
I have never been a big fan of window starting seedlings due to their tendency to get thin and leggy. Something about the fluorescent shop lights one inch away from the leaves makes them grow slower and stocky. My mirror trick from a couple of years ago worked well, and might be the answer for the leggy window seedling problem,
If this works the new seedlings could be transplanted to seed cells, or transplant pots and left in the mirrored windows until ready for planting. Protection from late frosts when placing them outside might be accomplished with water wall tomato covers. At over 3 dollars each this is an investment, and they don’t last forever. This technique might be a way to start a dozen early tomatoes before the big planting that will hog all of the light space.