Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reusing plastic milk jugs

I've been wondering for a while what to do with our plastic milk jugs. It's not economical to buy milk in half-gallon containers (which, by the way, instead of being coated with wax the way they used to be, are now coated in plastic or a petroleum wax-like substance) and there's nowhere around here which does reusable containers. I think that they can go into the recycling on campus, but I'm not sure and in any case I was hoping to find inspiration about what to do with them instead, before they get trashed. I know they can be used as mini-greenhouses for plants, so I saved a few for that purpose. But, to be honest, summer is just so far away still. It seems like a lackluster and unnecessary project right now. Even today, when it's sunny and above zero and spring seems to be calling, I know that summer is still so far away. (We'll probably dip down into the -30s or -40s again at least once between now and the end of March.) I wanted to do something with them now. Have I mentioned before that I'm impatient?
I got inspiration from my one hanging plant. I've had this poor vine for three years now, and not only have I never transplanted it, I've let the soil in the pot slowly leak out the bottom when I water it. It was root-bound, and fading fast. It was the perfect project. Last Friday when I came home, I grabbed two of the milk jugs and cut the tops off at two different points. One was cut open near the top (leaving some of the plastic handle on) and the other one near the bottom. The top of that one will be saved for use as a greenhouse this summer.
For the bigger section, I poked several large holes in the bottom using a screwdriver. Then I poked two holes (up and down) with a large nail, and one in each of the corresponding sides of the smaller portion of milk jug. I used zip ties to attach the two pieces together and voila! One planter and an attached water container, making it suitable for hanging indoors.
The bottoms of the local milk jugs have a bump in the middle of them. To ensure enough room for water to gather, I made sure that the bump was going opposite ways on the two sections. It leaves a little less than an inch of space under the planter for excess water. I still need to be careful not to over-water, but that's always true.
That's all I really needed to do to get it ready to plant in. I put a layer of soil in it, then gently put my vine in and filled in around it with more soil. For the first watering I poured some over the top like usual, but for future waterings the opened portion of the handle on the side will make a wonderful spout so that the water goes directly to the roots.
To hang it up, I found a...well, a cord thing which I bought a while ago intending to use for hanging plants but could never find the proper pot to put in it. Nothing worked with it and it's just been sitting there for over a year. But the hooks on it made it perfect for hanging this container. I poked a few more holes in the top of the container for the hooks to go through (not too high, so the weight of it all pulls the hooks through the plastic, but not so low that I'd have a hard time actually getting the hooks through it) and that was really it. Very simple, and now I can train the vines to go up the cord rather than just hanging down in front of my other plants. If I hadn't already had the cord on hand, I would probably have used an old wire hanger. The other thing I've thought of doing (and will probably try next) is to crochet a little basket-type thing out of old plastic bags to hang the planter in. I'm a little worried about how sturdy that would be, though. When I try it, I'll let you know.
I must say, even Shane was impressed with me. I think he thought that me saving the milk jugs was another silly project that I'd never get around to actually using. Ha! I showed him.
I also want to get more hooks. There are some holes in the ceiling where it's obvious that a previous tenant used to have hooks for hanging plants so I don't need to worry about damaging the apartment. This will seriously help me fit more plants into our tiny space and I'm wondering what to plant next in our little indoor garden. I'm thinking two planters of assorted herbs, and maybe one of lettuce. Two of lettuce? It would be so nice to have fresh, homegrown lettuce before midsummer.
I asked my boss about the potential of hanging some at work (we have so much space which would be perfect for them!--lots of light, no other uses for that space, etc.) but because of the liability issues (what if they fell on someone?) I can't do it. I might try to sneak one or two in at the windows, though.
For summer, I'm going to substantially increase the amount of gardening space I have by making more of these planters and hanging them up under the eaves around the garage. I'm thinking strawberries would be wonderful and easy. :)
Now I'm itching to get my hands on more milk jugs! We go through about a gallon of milk per week, a little bit less if I don't need to make yogurt. So it's not like I have a bunch waiting to be "butchered" into planters. I've asked a friend who works at a local coffee shop to save a few milk jugs for me, since they go through about 30 per day. If I get too many for using as hanging baskets, I can always save some to start plants in, or just to use as regular pots around the house.
*It's actually been over a week since I did this project, but I wanted to add the pictures and because of our technical difficulties I had to wait. This plant already looks super healthy and happy with its new home.

No comments:

Post a Comment