8 Clever Ways To Use Plastic Containers in Your Garden - Backyard Boss
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8 Clever Ways To Use Plastic Containers in Your Garden

Plastic containers are notorious for their invasive and non-destructive nature. Yet, every year, the plastic industry churns out 380 million metric tons of plastic that people use for different purposes.

Of the 380 million metric tons of plastic, about 91 percent is not recyclable. That’s a massive amount of plastic piling up on our planet, on land, or in the sea. Due to their invasiveness, plastics become microplastics over time which easily contaminate soil and mulch.

From generic plastic pots to packaging for garden tools and utensils, gardening contributes to plastic waste, unfortunately. While plastic-free gardening is wishful thinking, here are some clever ways to upcycle plastic containers to serve a new purpose in your garden.

8 Creative Ways to Use Plastic Containers in Your Garden

1. Reuse a Plastic Drum as Rain Barrel

A rain barrel is often a plastic container that collects rainwater from downspouts and rooftops. Collecting water helps reduce stormwater runoff and subsequent soil erosion. It conserves water you can use in your garden, saving you money. It also acts as emergency storage for drought periods.

Rainwater is less hard and doesn’t have any minerals and chemicals that your local water supply contains, making it ideal for your plants. Rain barrels can range between 55 and 95 gallons, costing anywhere from $25 to $45.

When you recycle a plastic container, you save purchasing costs and enjoy the benefits of rain barrels. Before you convert your plastic container, ensure that the plastic is food-grade. Thoroughly clean it before using it to avoid chemicals from leaching and contaminating the rainwater.

2. Watering Cans From Plastic Bottles

When it comes to gardening, the main watering tools are the watering hose and the watering can. The average watering can carry between 0.3 and 2.3 gallons of water. While some watering cans are made from galvanized steel, others are made from heavy-duty plastic.

You can transform large milk jugs, 2-liter soda bottles, or laundry detergent bottles into watering cans for your garden. Interestingly, milk jugs and laundry detergent bottles are made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE).

HDPE is an opaque plastic known for its tensile strength and ability to withstand high temperatures. With these characteristics, the watering cans you make from milk jugs and laundry detergent bottles are guaranteed to last. Ensure you thoroughly clean the bottles before using them as a watering can for your plants.

3. Vertical Garden

If you lack enough ground space or want to spruce up your walls, a vertical garden is a great way to add life to your indoors and outdoors. Rather than spending money on plant pots, you can use soda bottles to hold your plants! 

To make your vertical garden, you’ll need soda bottles, scissors, rope, twine, wire, washers to hold up the rope or wire, the potting medium, and seedlings.


  1. Cut out the rectangles on the midsection of the soda bottles.
  2. Make four holes in the bottle; two on the width sides of the rectangular cut-out and two on the opposite side of the cut-out.
  3. Thread the rope or wire through these holes, and ensure they are aligned.
  4. After threading each bottle, tie a knot with or without a washer, so the bottle doesn’t slide down the rope.
  5. Attach the string of bottle platers to your wall with hooks or an adhesive, then fill each bottle with potting medium and add your seedlings.  

4. Self-Watering Planter

Are you thinking about investing in self-watering planters for your houseplants? If you have plastic containers or bottles, convert them into self-watering planters for your plants and seedlings.

Self-watering planters are great for busy people and those who want to prevent under or overwatering, even by accident. When you repurpose a plastic container, you prolong its trip to the landfill, thereby doing your bit for the planet.

5. Plastic Bottle Fence and Partitions

Want to section your garden or add a support frame to your raised garden bed? Instead of using tiles, concrete blocks, or wood, line plastic bottles to make borders around plant beds, lawns, and walkways. Ensure you have the same-sized bottles and a pattern to keep things consistent.

If you don’t have bottles of the same size, think of a pattern where different bottle sizes can create a masterpiece! The fun thing about plastic bottles is that they are easy to customize with color; you could hydro-dip your bottles in a design or paint them manually.

To make your design, dig a bit of a trough and bury the bottles side-by-side with their lids in the ground. If your plastic bottles are opaque, fill them with sand or stones to keep them from being knocked over. Run a string through the bottles or tie them together for a more rigid fence.

6. Bird Feeder

Whether they hang out in the trees or wander on the ground, birds are, for the most part, integral to gardens, and what better way to make them feel welcome than to install a DIY bird feeder? Make a bird feeder out of a plastic container by cutting it with scissors and hanging it up with twine or wire.

You can make your bird feeder as simple or as advanced as you’d like, possibly using more than a plastic container to make a ledge for the birds to perch on while they eat, and you could also add a water hole made from a plastic container.

By hanging up a bird feeder, you get to enjoy birdwatching as they interact with each other. But remember, this may attract small rodents like squirrels, so consider where you hang the feeder. Also, don’t forget to clean your bird feeder properly to prevent mold and fungus from contamination bird food and water.

7. Eco-Bricks

Durable and innovative, eco bricks are made of recycled materials and are used in construction. Always wanted to build something in your garden but didn’t have the time to look for construction supplies? Eco-bricks have proven to be quality materials if you make them correctly.

To make eco-bricks, you will need clean and dry plastic containers. Dry containers will prevent microbial growth at a later stage. When building, eco-bricks need to be uniform for stability, so decide on the size of plastic bottles you will use and stick with them.

Now fill your bottles with small pieces of plastic, rubber, and any other item that won’t decompose inside the eco-brick. This is to secure them so they don’t harm the environment. Finally, weigh your eco-bricks to ensure their quality. To find out the minimum weight of an eco brick, multiply the bottle’s volume by 0.33, which is the standard density for an eco-brick.

8. Hand Basket

Hand baskets are multipurpose accessories. You can use them to harvest crops, collect debris or flowers, or carry garden tools. Hand baskets are often made of straw, wire, or plastic, with the first two being vulnerable to rotting or rusting due to moisture.

The HDPE plastic used in detergent bottles and milk jugs is durable, making them ideal for upcycling into hand baskets. The shape and size of your basket will depend on what bottle or jug you use.

If you use a soda bottle, you’d want to cut it somewhere along the middle. For the handle, you can use a strip of fabric or vinyl and tie it through holes that you’ll drill on the sides of the cut bottle.

If you’re using a square or rectangular plastic container, outline the cut-off section, then draw in two semi-circles under the cut-off for the basket handles.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

There are many ways to recycle, upcycle and repurpose plastic containers. Whether you use them for DIY decorations or construction purposes, you can prolong plastic’s trip to the landfill and give it a second chance at life in your garden. The idea is to reduce, reuse, and recycle!

Leave your experiences, thoughts, and questions in the comment section! And share with friends and family who might find this helpful.

Happy gardening!

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