Build a raised bottle bedSep 1st, 2012 | Category: Skills
by Samantha Schuller
Raised garden beds offer many advantages. One of the most beneficial is that the soil warms early in spring and stays through fall, meaning warm garden beds can be seeded earlier with better germination rates.
A twist on a traditional raised bed, developed by Innovative Landscape Technologies in Everett, uses repurposed wine bottles to form a solar tube retaining wall. The dark bottles collect and distribute heat to the soil, warming it during the day and keeping temperatures steadier at night.
You’ll need quite a collection of bottles before you begin; try posting a Craigslist ad or hitting up restaurants, bars, and event caterers. You want dark bottles to attract the sunlight. Don’t be tempted to use beer bottles—they’re too thin and tend to break. Wine and champagne bottles of 750 ml or larger are made of thicker glass that will withstand temperature fluctuations better and last longer. You need about 14 large bottles per four feet of length.
Once your bottles are all collected, you’re ready to begin. Measure out your desired dimensions for the completed bed, keeping the length of your reach in mind; four feet across is a good distance for an average frame. Loosen the soil within and around your new bed, amending with compost as needed to provide tilth and a nutrient base. Scoop a shallow trench about four inches deep around the outside of your loosened plot. Plug the wine bottles into the trench upside down, necks stuck into the dirt. When you’ve filled all four sides of your trench, secure the solar tube wall with soil. Pack dirt tightly against the outside and gently fill it in against the raised bed side, up to three inches from the tops of the bottles so about 12 inches of soil is raised. Voila! Wine bottles to solar tubes!
If you have an established raised bed already, you can easily add solar tubes to it. Pull the dirt back from the wood frame and nestle the necks of the wine bottles in, with the shoulder of the bottles just submerged enough to keep them steady. Then gently pack the soil back around the bases of the tubes and add fill dirt as needed to reach up to three inches from the tops.
Zsofia Pastor of Innovative Landscape Technologies advises gardeners not to kneel or sit on the solar tubes, tempting as it may be to reach further into the garden.
Published in the September 2012 issue of Grow Northwest