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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Yet Another Reason to Drink Wine

Shhhhh, don't tell SDOT!
If you like to have a glass of vino with dinner, like I do, you probably grace your recycling bin with many wine bottles....over time. Instead of tossing them in the bin for the weekly pickup, try re-purposing them for simple garden borders. It's easy-peasy to do and the result can be rather striking. You'll need to buy the varietal of wine that's in a bottle with a distinct neck and shoulder. The sloping shoulders of some bottles (like Chardonnay's) won't stay put as well when you plant them in the soil, nor will you get a straight, solid looking connection between each bottle.


If you wish to calculate how many bottles you'll need for your border, multiply the total running inches and divide by 3 inches which seems to be the average width of a wine bottle. So, for 10 feet, which is 120 inches, divide 120 inches by 3 inches. That equals 40 wine bottles. You'll need more than you think you do.

As you know, wine bottles come in several different colors including blue, dark amber and clear; however, green is the most common. Roland and I end up with a lot of that color because we mainly drink 3 Buck Chuck (in our area it's actually 2.50 Buck Chuck now, but that's too awkward to say). The bottles also come in different heights and some have indented bottoms that will catch rain or irrigation water in the garden. To remove the label, simply soak the bottle in hot water for a while. It should just scrape right off. Apply a little mineral spirits with a rag to remove any stubborn glue residue or just let it slowly wear off in the garden. Some bottle labels are actually etched into the glass, so just consider those bottles part of the charm.

Notice the indented bottom-ups on some bottles.
To install your bottle collection, dig a narrow trench with a garden trowel deep enough so the neck of the bottle will be buried up to the shoulder. The shoulder should be cradled on the soil surface. Unless you find or drink just one brand of wine, chances are the bottles will be different heights so you'll need to adjust the depth of the trench. Make sure the bottles are as plumb as possible and snugged next to each other. You can eyeball weather they're straight and tweak them as you go. Pack the soil firmly around the bottles to hold them in place.

If the bottles are on a slope, you might try a pole stake (like bamboo or a hardwood dowel) to hold the bottle more firmly in place. Measure the stake twice as long as the bottle, then with a rubber mallet, pound just the stake into the hole until enough is sticking up to fit well up just touching the bottom of the bottle (or is it the top now? How 'bout calling it a bottom-up). You'll need to put the stick in the bottle and mark the spot where the stake goes to get the spacing right. If you use rebar, then I suggest you pad it with an electrical tape or a rubber tip of some sort, especially where it may be in contact with the neck of the bottle and around the end of the stake or the bottle could break. This technique may also server you well if you're using bottles for raised bed borders, holding back a lot of soil.

Not only are you re-purposing a common item while adding an attractive element to your garden, the wine bottle border will help warm the soil, encouraging happy plants. Depending on the size of your project, you probably can't drink enough wine to construct your border within your lifetime. If you can, well then.... So, I suggest you become a dumpster diving recycling bin raider to collect enough for your weekend project. Ask your wine drinking cohorts to start saving bottles for you. Just make sure you pick them up in a timely manner, before the beneficiary's garage gets overrun. Be forewarned however; upon hearing about this idea your friends may get inspired enough where they'll be competition with you for a somewhat limited resource. Things could get interesting, like an old Woody Allen movie interesting.
 

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