Gardening tip – The Versatile Milk Jug

One of the most versatile garden tools in my garden and yard is the plastic milk jug!

I start saving them in late fall. Rinse them out very well and leave the caps off to make sure they are dry and clean. There is no worse smell than sour milk. Put the caps in a separate container and run a string through the handles of the jugs to keep them in some sort of order. Tie a knot in the end of the string and hang the milk jugs up until you need them.

When it’s time to start seeds cut the bottom out of a milk jug about 3 inches up. If you poke holes in the plastic container for draining you can use this for a seed starter. The top of the jug I cut into strips and can use later for plant markers.

I also use the tops of the milk jugs for small mini greenhouses for my seedlings once I set them out. Peppers and tomatoes do not like cold winds so until I feel the nights are warm and the plants have adapted to their new home I cover them. To make sure the jug does not blow off run a string through the milk jug handle and attach to a stake put into the ground: your jug will not blow away.

If you fill a milk jug with water and cap it you can set these into cold frames to keep them warmer in the fall and spring. It’s amazing the heat these jugs will give off and if the sun is out during the day the water retains heat and will again warm your cold frame.

I have used several of these around tomato plants and pepper plants if I get one of those later cold snaps after I set my plants out. Tomatoes and peppers have a very low tolerance for cold nights. They may not show sign of damage but their growth will be slowed down and their blossoming or crop size may be affected later in the season.

I also like warm water for many of my plants so I will fill milk jugs and place in my vegetable garden in the morning and let the sun warm the water. In the later afternoon I will water the plants.

One last use I have for milk jugs is a slow watering method. Some plants benefit more from a slow drip watering. It enters the ground and soak in deeply instead of running off. I will punch holes near the bottom set by the plants and fill with water, It takes a few hours for the water to be released so it all soaks into the ground right to the roots of the plant. One suggestion I will make is to mark these jugs well and keep separate from the others; otherwise you will end up with a wet leg.

I get several years use out of the milk jugs.

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10 responses to “Gardening tip – The Versatile Milk Jug”

  1. Coleen

    The idea for a mini greenhouse using a milk jug is a great idea. I agree that pepper plants in particular suffer shock and set back from cold winds and nights.

    I think this would also work for cucumber plants. Coleen

  2. I didn’t realize the milk jug could be used in so many ways. Great tips. I really like the advice of marking them, I know I would be the one to get a wet leg. 🙂


  3. You know there are many ways of doing it. In my case, I use oil container that i cut into half and planted a few tomatos and chillies. Using dripping water method is the best way of watering the plant. Anyway, very good tips for everybody.

  4. Julie

    Wonderful tips! We have people in our area that use this concept of slow watering on a large scale with plastic barrels to water their trees. It works!

  5. Frugal Life

    Thanks for the great tips, I’ve really enjoyed your article and will check out the rest of this beautifully designed blog!

    I’m wondering if you might be able to answer a question? I was originally looking for information about an indoor greenhouse. The greenhouse would be constructed from a box and some tin foil (the instructions are on my blog). I was asked if it would be good to ‘plant seeds in the milkjugs, then set the milkjugs in the box, for extra warmth?’

    Does this seem reasonable to you or would the soil possibly be too moist and cause problems? It’s summer here in New Zealand so I don’t have any indoor greenhouse happening at the moment and I’m still in the doing and learning stages!


  6. Frugal Gardening Tips – Page 2 – Wise Bread Forums

    […] the seeds as it drips down it could be a nice moist atmosphere. I’ve left a question and comment on this organic gardening blog which I found when searching for uses for milk jugs and indoor greenhouses. The author seems […]

  7. admin

    I read the article about using a box lined with foil to start seeds. It’s a very interesting concept and would work well. The foil would also reflect light and help the plants grow stronger. There are a few ways you could add heat to the box if you wanted to. One would be by placing milk jugs with water in for heat. The water heats with sunlight and will add additional heat on cooler days and in the evening.

    A piece on plastic on top of the box would trap heat on cooler days.

    You mentioned planting in milk jugs. I love milk jugs! They have so many practical uses. I don’t think there would be a problem with using them. I would place the jugs on pebbles to make sure they drain well, then in the box. (there is nothing worse than soil mold that makes seedling drop over) I always water from beneath to keep my soil top dry and have a fan handy if your soil looks to wet. A fan on low will dry soil out quickly

    2 Tips: a quick fix for wet soil is baby powder, it will stop any bacteria growth and does not seem to hurt the plant. Also if you seem to have a problem with soil mold use chamomile tea. The tea has natural bacteria inhibitors and is actually good for the plants. I use it a lot for watering. Denise

  8. admin


    Thanks for visiting my site and I hope you drop by again. I answered this on the other comment but I think milk jugs in the boxes would work well.

    I like the idea of a box with tin foil! I also have an article here that you may get ideas from. It was more for starting plants but the ideas can be changed some

    I also visited your site. Great articles! Denise

  9. Frugal Life

    Hi Denise, thank you for your response. That’s very specific information that answered my question as I was concerned about soil mold but didn’t know that was what it is called. Thank you for the comments re my site as well. I’ll be back :0)

  10. admin

    I found out about the soil mold the hard way… which I guess is how we all learn. 🙂

    Glad I could help! Denise

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