Disclaimer: This post is brought to you in collaboration with The Clangers
Gardening week is heading our way! The Clangers love nothing better than growing pretty flowers and recycling. So it is time to get green fingered with your preschoolers and make some plastic bottle planters. We love this activity, as you don’t need very much get started and it is a great activity to teach children how to look after plants and the environment.
The great thing about these self watering plastic bottle planters, is that it reduces both the risk of over- and under-watering! Win-win!
To make your plastic bottle planter, you will need:
- Large plastic bottle (we asked our neighbours for their empties!)
- Some string/ strips of fabric (for the water to “climb”)
- Peat free soil*
- Some seeds – why not try a variety of different seeds – from adorable pansies, to a wild flower mix to attract the bees and butterflies
- Scissors (for grown ups)
- Some rocks/ broken plant pots/ shells (to help drain the bottom of your planters)
- A watering can (or you can make your own!)
*Peat free compost is more environmentally friendly
Why is peat based compost bad?
Environmental experts Azo Cleanteach sums it up really well: “The peat that is used to produce the garden compost is mainly derived from peat bogs. … The intensive mining of peat has adverse effects on the climate, and destroys valuable ecosystems. Many rare and endangered species live in and around peat bogs and these are having their way of life threatened.”
More thrifty gardening ideas
You may also want to check these thrifty ideas – super easy for young kids to have a go at:
How to get kids to garden?
The key thing for getting kids to garden, is to keep it simple! Don’t spend lots of money on expensive gardening tools. Recycle (like we will be doing here today) and innovate. As you will see plastic bottles make great planters, but so do fruit punnets and even newspaper! There are so many thrifty gardening ideas to choose from.
The next step is to choose “high” interest things to plant. There is a trade off between quick to grow and the desirabilityof what you grow. E.g. cress heads and grass heads are super fun to make, and grow quickly, but are not as rewarding as eating your own homegrown strawberry. I recommended doing a mix: something quick, something pretty (my daughter LOVES flowers) and a vegetable/ fruit or two.
Involve your child in choosing what to grow!
Set expectations – sadly, not everything grows.. or sometimes they grow, and then the bugs get them. Other times your plants will grow, but a dry spell will accidentally kill them…. these things happen. And are all part of the learning process. Manage expectations, teach your child about looking after things and just experiment.
What can I grow with my toddler?
Toddlers will want to see results, we have had success with:
- Flowers, flowers and more flowers. My kids show such delight in flowers – especially sunflowers – though they take a loooong time to grow. Today, we will go for a mix of flowers for the bees, but also some cute pansies, nasturtiums, ambella, dianthus (Peach Party) and marigolds – marigolds are fabulous, as they are quite a hardly little flowers and will withstand little hands more!
- Beans and peas – they grow relatively quickly, purple beans are fun, as they change colour when cooking
- Radishes grow super quickly – but not all children like the taste
- Same goes for lettuce or chards – they grow relatively quick and look fun!
- If you are looking to garden for the whole of summer, tomato plants are fantastic (and it is thanks to homegrown tomatoes my son first started eating tomatoes) and potatoes are fun to dig up in early Autumn!
All these flowers, fruit and veggies can be started off in bottle planters and then transferred into the ground if you wish. Our flowers can stay in the bottle planters, as can the strawberries, as they don’t need too much space!
How to make a Plastic Bottle Planter (self watering too!)
These instructions today are available as a Free Worksheet from The Clanger’s activity pages today!
We focussed on Ambella (the purple one), Dianthus (the pink one) and some Nasturtiums in this post!
It really is super easy to make these plastic bottle planters.
Remove the bottle top – you won’t need it.
Then cut your bottle in half (an adult should do this). You can cut a little more from the base if you wish. I do this to avoid the bottle becoming too top heavy. But it isn’t strictly speaking necessary.
Tie your string/ fabric string around your broken pot/ rock or shell.
Thread through the bottle top – so that the rock/ shell is on the inside and the fabric is dangling out.
Pop upside down and into the bottom half of your bottle.
Your basic planter is now ready to be filled with earth and seeds.
Add your compost or earth – you may want to add some water to it already too – it will be light and fluffy, once you add water it compacts.
Add your seeds.
Tope it up with a little earth.
Add a little water to the base of your planter or to the top.
After about 2-4 weeks, you should have lots of little shoots. As mentioned above, gardening is all about patience!
To keep preschoolers and toddlers interested, have a go at a variety of different plants to grow. You can also mix and match “grow from seed” with some ready to plant flowers from the garden centre.
Flowering times for different types of flowers:
- Nasturtiums – 5- 8 weeks to flower, depending on type and conditions
- Violas – should flower within 12 to 16 weeks
- Ambella – again, depending on type and condition, you are looking at 8 – 10 weeks for flowering
- Dianthus – similar to violas!
Why not head over to The Clangers for some more fabulous crafty fun?!
Or check out more thrifty garden ideas: