Extraordinary Uses for Empty Bottles

Solve problems at home and in the garden with this super item!

from Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things

Feed the birds Why spend money on a plastic bird feeder when you probably have one in your recycling bin? Take a clean 1/2-gallon (2-liter) juice or milk jug and carve a large hole on its side to remove the handle. (You might even drill a small hole under the large one to insert a sturdy twig or dowel for a perch.) Then poke a hole in the middle of the cap and suspend it from a tree with a piece of strong string or monofilament fishing line. Fill it up to the opening with birdseed, and enjoy the show.

Make a watering can No watering can? It’s easy to make one from a clean 1-gallon (3.7-liter) juice, milk, or bleach jug with a handle. Drill about a dozen tiny (1/16-inch or 1.5-millimeter is good) holes just below the spout of the jug on the side opposite the handle. Or carefully punch the holes with an ice pick. Fill it with water, screw the cap on, and start sprinkling.

Create a drip irrigator for plants During dry spells, a good way to get water to the roots of your plants is to place several drip irrigators around your garden. You can make them from clean 1-gallon (3.7-liter) juice or detergent jugs. Cut a large hole in the bottom of a jug, then drill 2-5 tiny (about 1/16-inch or 1.5-millimeter) holes in or around the cap. Bury the capped jugs upside down about three-quarters submerged beneath the soil near the plants you need to water, and fill with water through the hole on top. Refill as often as needed.

Mark your plants Want an easy way to make ID badges for all the vegetables, herbs, and flowers in your garden? Cut vertical strips from a couple of clear 1-gallon (3.7-liter) water jugs. Make the strips the same width as your seed packets but double their length. Fold each strip over an empty packet to protect it from the elements, and staple it to a strong stick or chopstick.

Secure garden netting If you find yourself having to constantly re-stake the loose net-ting or plastic lining over your garden bed, place water-filled large plastic jugs around the corners to keep the material in place.

Use as an attachable trash can or harvest basket Here’s a great tip for weekend gardeners and pros alike: Cut a large hole opposite the handle of a 1/2- or 1-gallon (2-or 3.7-liter) container, and loop the handle through a belt or rope on your waist. Use it to collect the debris — rocks, weeds, broken stems — you encounter as you mow the lawn or stroll through your garden. Use the same design to make an attachable basket for harvesting berries, cherries, and other small fruits or vegetables.

Space seeds in garden Want an easy way to perfectly space seeds in your garden? Use an empty soda bottle as your guide. Find the distance that the seed company recommends between seeds and then cut off the tapered top of the bottle so its diameter equals that distance. When you start planting, firmly press your bottle, cut edge down, into the soil and place a seed in the center of the circle it makes. Then line up the bottle so that its edge touches the curve of the first impression, and press down again. Plant a seed in the center, and repeat until you’ve filled your rows.

Build a bug trap Do yellow jackets, wasps, or moths swarm around you every time you set foot in the yard? Use an empty 2-liter soda bottle to make an environment-friendly trap for them. First, dissolve 1/2 cup sugar in 1/2 cup water in the bottle. Then add 1 cup apple cider vinegar and a banana peel (squish it up to fit it through). Screw on the cap and give the mixture a good shake before filling the bottle halfway with cold water. Cut or drill a 3/4-inch (2-centimeter) hole near the top of the bottle, and hang it from a tree branch where the bugs seem especially active. When the trap is full, toss it into the garbage and replace it with a new one.

Isolate weeds when spraying herbicides When using herbicides to kill weeds in your garden, you have to be careful not to also spray and kill surrounding plants. To isolate the weed you want to kill, cut a 2-liter soda bottle in half and place the top half over the weed you want to spray. Then direct your pump’s spraying wand through the regular opening in the top of the bottle and blast away. After the spray settles down, pick up the bottle and move on to your next target. Always wear goggles and gloves when spraying chemicals in the garden.

Build a paint bucket Tired of splattering paint all over as you work? Make a neater paint dispenser by cutting a large hole opposite the handle of a clean 1-gallon (3.7 liter) jug. Pour in the paint so that it’s about an inch below the edge of the hole, and use the edge to remove any excess paint from your brush before you lift your brush. You can also cut jugs in half and use the bottom halves as disposable paint buckets when several people work on the same job.

Store your paints Why keep leftover house paints in rusted or dented cans when you can keep them clean and fresh in plastic jugs? Use a funnel to pour the paint into a clean, dry milk or water jug, and add a few marbles (they help mix the paint when you shake the container before your next paint job). Label each container with a piece of masking tape, noting the paint manufacturer, color name, and the date.

Use as workshop organizers Are you always searching for the right nail to use for a particular chore, or for a clothespin, picture hook, or small fastener? Bring some organization to your workshop with a few 1- or 1/2-gallon (3.7- or 2-liter) jugs. Cut out a section near the top of each jug on the side opposite the handle. Then use the containers to store and sort all the small items that seem to “slip through the cracks” of your workbench. The handle makes it easy to carry a jug to your worksite.

Use as a level substitute