The Bottle Growing System (BGS) is a low-cost growing
system ideal for growing Wisconsin Fast Plants®. Made
from recycled soda bottles these growing system are easy
to build, use, and can be cleaned and reused for multiple
The Bottle Growing System is a hydroponics system; the plants water from the reservoir below. Up to twelve Fast Plants® in a 2-liter Bottle Growing System is ideal. This system works well for both group and individual projects with FastPlants®.
Detailed bottle preparation instructions are at bottlebiology.org »
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- One water or soda bottle
- One bottle cap or aluminum foil and rubberband to cover bottle opening
- Wicking material (fabric interfacing or cotton string)
- Planting medium (a soilless seed starter mixture)
- Fertilizer: Solid pellets (Osmocote™)—added during planting
- Wisconsin Fast Plants® seeds
Bottle System Construction
|Size of Bottle
||Recommended Number of Plants
||Number of fertilizer pellets
|16.9 ounces (0.5 liter)
|24 - 33 ounces (~.75 -1 liter)
Remove label from the bottle. Cut bottle 1 cm below
Poke or drill a 1 cm hole in bottle cap.
Alternatively, rubberband several layers of aluminum foil across the opening and poke a hole in the foil.
Thread a thoroughly wet wick strip through bottle
top, invert top, and set into base. Wick should reach bottom of reservoir and thread loosely through cap (or aluminum foil). To be effective, the wick should run up into soil, not be plastered along a side of the bottle and not extend above the soil.
Planting Your Seeds
Fill reservoir with water..
Moisten the potting mix if needed (it ought to be moist enough to hold a loose ball if compressed). Add growing mix until 1/4 full.
Scatter 12 Osmocote pellets on the surface of the potting mix then fill with
additional potting mix until the bottle is filled with mix.
Lightly sprinkle water over the surface of the potting mix until water drips from
the wick. The potting mix may drop 1/4 to 1/2 inch after watering.
Place 8 seeds, evenly spaced, on top of the potting mix in a circle that is near the edge
of the bottle.
Cover the seeds and soil with a layer of vermiculite approximately 1 cm deep. Lightly sprinkle water to moisten the vermiculite. If you do not have vermiculite, cover the seeds in potting mix.
Growing Your Plants
Place the bottle on its water reservoir, and tape the shoulder to the reservoir to keep them together.
The last step is to place your Bottle Growing System in a lightbox with the surface of the
vermiculite or soil mix approximately 10 cm from the light bulb.
As your plants grow, you may begin to see algae growing in the water
reservoir. Two solutions to this that we recommend:
Cut a piece of black plastic trash bag into strips the width of the
height of your water reservoir, and tape the plastic around the reservoir
to prevent light from getting to the water.
Rinse and clean out the water reservoirs approximately once a week to
prevent a build up of the algae.