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Thursday, April 20, 2023

Celebrate Earth Day With 8 Ways to Repurpose Plastic Milk Jugs for the Garden

With Earth Day this Saturday. I thought I'd share some of the ways we can repurpose clean plastic milk jugs in the garden, replacing single-use item purchases. I buy milk primarily in 1 gallon jugs, however many of these uses work with 1/2 gallon jugs as well.

1.  planting containers -- before cutting the milk jug, I use a corkscrew to add drainage holes to the bottom. I make about 8 to 10 holes with the corkscrew. After I've made my drainage, I use a sharp knife to make a slit where I want to cut, then use scissors to cut off the portion of the jug just below the handle. 

Milk jugs have a square-ish shape, which means I can fit more of these planting containers on a shelf for growing. I'm growing lettuce, parsley, spinach and basil on plant shelves on the deck this year, using milk jug bottoms as my planting containers. One milk jug planter is just right for 1 head of leaf lettuce, 3 or 4 baby spinach plants (for baby spinach), 3 parsley plants, or 2 or 3 basil plants.

2.  cloches to protect young plants from cold nights (or days as I'm finding this year) early in the season. To make a cloche, make a slit with a sharp knife at the base of the milk jug, about 1 inch from the bottom, then use scissors to remove the base. In windy weather, I secure these cloches by burying them in the soil about an inch.

3.  plant saucers -- those shallow bases cut off the milk jug when making cloches make effective plant saucers for 5 1/2-inch diameter (at the base) pots.

4.  no-cost drip irrigation -- poke 1 or 2 holes into the bottom of the milk jug, fill with water, put the lid back on and set next to a plant that needs watering. If water isn't dripping out as quickly as you'd like, loosen the lid slightly. If you live in a windy area, weight your jugs with a few small rocks before filling with water (so it doesn't blow away when empty).

5. storage container for keeping homemade compost tea.  I make compost tea in large batches, storing what I won't use immediately in cleaned out milk jugs with lids.

6.  hot water bottles under row covers to extend the growing season. I'll be planting out our tomato plants this next week. Due to our cool spring weather, I plant them under row covers/season extenders. When temperatures threaten to drop too low for my plants, I add a few milk jugs filled with hot water under the covers. This works at the end of the season, too. When frost threatens before I've harvested all of my tomatoes, I cover the large plants with a sheet or two at night and add a "hot water bottle" or two.

7.  mini greenhouses for starting plants. This is something a couple of you have told us about. Make your drainage holes first, using a corkscrew. Then cut 3/4 the way around the jug, leaving a connecting 1/4 as a hinge. 

8.  plant markers
for garden rows or pots when starting seeds. Cut the leftover odds and ends from milk jug repurpose into narrow strips about 4 inches long. Use a Sharpie to write pertinent info on the plant marker.


  1. All good ideas for milk jugs in the garden. I never thought about using them as hot water bottles. I will have to remember that one.

    1. 1 or 2-liter soda bottles filled with hot water will do the same thing, if you happen to have more of those, Live and Learn.

  2. That's a lot of uses! Years ago we cut the tops off and used them for dog dishes. Our dog liked to play with her food bowl and would break the store bought ones, so this was a good solution.

    1. Great idea to use the bottoms as unbreakable pet food bowls, Kris!

  3. These were great Lili. I'd not heard of some of them either and will keep them in mind. Thanks for sharing. Happy Earth Day to you!

  4. We don't buy fresh milk in plastic jugs, but I generally like to find second uses for any disposable that I have lots of identicals. Thank you for sharing your repurposing ideas, many I have not heard of.

    Have a lovely Earth Day!!

    1. Hi Laura,
      I am regularly rooting through the recycle box under the sink to see what I can get more use from or compost (like paper/cardboard). I made another note pad from used envelopes a week ago. I hope you had a pleasant weekend.

  5. Great ideas. Thanks for sharing, everyone

    1. It's always nice to hear what everyone else does, isn't it?


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