10 Uses for Milk Jugs

December 14, 2002

Found this one on OrganicGardening.com tonight. I could kick myself after reading #1. I just spent $15 on plastic plant markers I ordered over the internet. Here all along I could have been making my own! Aaaargh!!!

Every organic gardener places their faith in recycling. But for some (and you know who you are), recycling and reusing become a religion. Sondra Francoeur of Independence, Kansas, is one of you. She offered to share her "Ten Uses for Milk Jugs Around the Garden (not including the ever-with-us cloche)."

1. Cut the sides lengthwise into long triangles and mark with a waterproof pen for plant markers.

2. For more detail, cut a double-length rectangle as wide as a seed packet. Fold this over a seed packet for protection and staple to a triangle from above to use as a marker.

3. Fill jugs with water and place these around plants in a ring or square. Slip a bag over these at night to radiate heat. When the need for cold protection passes, use the warmed water to give your plants a drink.

4. To make these jugs of water do dual duty, put a small amount of liquid fish fertilizer or compost in each one. When you are ready to use them to water, you will have some ready-made plant food or compost tea.

5. You can also use water-filled jugs to secure plastic, netting or fabric over beds.

6. Cut a hole out of the corner opposite of the handle to use for a harvest basket. Holes punched in the bottom will allow water to drain so you can use also this as a basket to wash the produce.

7. Make a cut the three-quarters of the way around about an inch up from the bottom. Use a small nail to melt 5 inch holes in the lid. Slightly bury and invert this beside a plant for its own personal drip irrigator.

8. A larger hole melted into the lid allows you to use the jug to sprinkle soil amendments evenly and precisely.

9. Cut the bottoms entirely off about 2" up to use for toad and bird watering holes.

  1. Cut a strip out of the side opposite the handle. Fill with birdseed to attract birds to your organic garden.

Comments (62)

  • kathy547

    Palyne - the jugs you saw may have been filled with water & had tiny, tiny holes put in the bottom so the water could SLOWLY leak out. A cheap way to water the lawn?

  • Rhus_toxi

    palyne: A cloche is basically a miniature greenhouse; looks like the top of a cake holder. Will help heat up young transplants, or here the first tomato is such a prize. This way, you can plant a little earlier, warm it up, or even prevent frost kill. I've used them, cut the top of the handle to put a stick through, to keep them in the soil. If too warm, slide jug up the stick-stake, and spin around to harden off plant. Also, adjust the temp. w/ cap.

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  • Al

    fill with $100 bills. carry one or two along on vacation (just in case). ;o)

  • huffy1

    You must vacation a lot cheaper than I do. The wife could go through 2 gallons of 100s in nuttin flat.

  • kathy547

    Here's another use:
    Cut the top off & thread handle through a belt or rope around your waist or attached to your mower. Use as a trash can when you're mowing or gardening or just walking around the yard picking up rocks, etc.

  • babblingbetty

    I like the "Vacation plan" best.... Please explain how it works, my HD dosen't understand!

  • jhain

    I have done all of these- except use them to hold down plastic- and I was wracking my brain this morning to come up with something EXACTLY like that. Thanks!
    My favorite plant stakes are plastic/vinyl mini blinds cut to size-perfect- and one blind provides a ton of stakes!

    Fondly, Jude
    in HOT , HUMID and VERY windy South Jersey

  • rhonni

    I use mine as a duster for putting Sevin on the 150,000 bugs all over my garden...works great. I love the idea of carrying one around with you in the yard while weeding.

  • margaretjanew

    Genuinely puzzled--what is a milk jug?
    In U.K. a milk jug is usually made of china/pottery, used for pouring milk at the table, decanted from a bottle or container bought in the shops. From some of the suggestions I would assume you are all referring to the latter i.e.the disposable cartons bought in the shops, but ours certainly don't have any handles,so perhaps I've got it wrong. Please enlighten me!!

  • margaretjanew

    I feel so stupid!! Hubby and I are both on low fat diets, and have switched to Tetrabrik long life milk. Was completely forgetting we used to have milk in a clear/opaque plastic bottle, complete with handle, which completely fits with the uses you have all given for milk jug usages. You must think me silly, but it was the word 'jug' which threw me!! Question answered!!


  • giardiniere

    Cut the bottom off, of a half gallon jug, at a 45 degree angle, and use it to scoop the leaves and other debris from your gutters. The handle can be used as a....handle.

  • Simon_AL

    Great ideas.

    I tried to cut strips out of a milk jug to use for plant markers. They just seemed too flemsy for the job. I now use window blinds to make plant markers. All the same nice width and all you have to do is cut to length. Sharp point on side and flat on the other. Pencil lasts longer than permanent marker. Erase or throw away.

    My dog eats blinds when left alone during a thunderstorm, so I have plenty to make markers from. I have no idea where he wants to go, if he gets outside, he will be in the middle of the storm.

  • euka

    the top and handle (minus the cap) make good funnels for filling bird feeders etc... (sorry if that's been mentioned, this is quite the thread!)

  • meldy_nva

    Good for a 1/2-gallon (2-litre) jug: Cut around 4/5 of the top on a slant but above the handle; fold the top part (without the lid) over so the mouth hangs down. Thread a belt though the handle to fasten around your waist; put ball of twine (or nylons or whatever) in the bottom part, scissors in the attached (top) part (let the point go through where the lid was) so you can grab the handles easily. It's like having a third hand when tying up plants.

  • JoBloominGardens

    I keep a jug in the garden with a little soapy water in it. When I'm picking the evil bugs off my plants they go in the soapy water and drown. When it gets too disgusting to dare open it I throw it away.


  • Stan_5_1

    Cut dime size holes on two sides.
    Take a small dime size bacon bit and tie a string 12" long to it and put it down the top and put the cap back on when the bacon is aligned with holes in side.
    Add 1" water in bottom and just covered with oil.
    $.05 YellowJacket feeder.

  • mikie_gw

    if you're a boater, fill milk jugs with fish guts and water - store in freezer, poke some holes, float off the stern... makes good chum.

    lots of floating milk jugs can get you a free beer or two! make excellent floating debree that other boaters think are fish hole/reef markers, you can share your hot spot ;)

  • gunnysack

    We cut the bottom of the jug off and use the upper part of the jug to cover tender tomato plants after planting in the garden in the early spring. The jug serves as a mini green house. During the day we remove the lids to allow air circulation and replace the lids at night . We put tomato cages around our plants when we plant them and the cage keeps the jug from blowing away.We have found we can get a head start this way.

  • Al

    I posted the $100 bill suggestion almost a year ago. Since then I discovered you can also use them in the 'fridge' to keep your milk from running all over the place.


  • TonyaGiv

    Thanks for all the great suggestions. I have heard to fill the unwashed empty milk jug with water and to let it sit for at least 24 hours and then use the water to water your houseplants. I read that the leftover milk in the jug was good for your plants.

  • Al

    I think milk would be considered animal matter & would be pretty smelly pretty quick, not to mention the bacterial colonization of the pot from strains of bacteria not normally associated with vegetable matter. Sort of like feeding the houseplants hamburger.


  • TonyaGiv

    Al , Thanks for the input. I read this on another gardening forum and wondered how much truth was in it. What you write makes lot of sense to me. Thanks so much for the advice that is what makes this such a good forum.....Tonya

  • meldy_nva

    Don't know what you read or where, but, a very old-timey practice was to use a bit of *skimmed* (non-fat) milk to water plants, especially those that weren't perky. I think all this actually did was give the plant some trace elements and a bit of calcium; possibly it "sweetened" the soil or maybe it just encouraged the earthworms to visit. Interestingly, I have tried this with mixed results: some plants did indeed perk up a bit, and some didn't seem to care. There was no smell of spoiled milk at any time, however, I mixed skim milk and water 50/50, so maybe that weakened the solution. I know some folks who wash the leaves of their indoor plants with skim milk (no rinsing, just wiped dry) and again, there was never a spoiled smell, probably because the milk was all wiped off.

  • Al

    Meldy - did you know Tonya was referring to houseplants? I caught the earthworm part of your post & figured you were talking about the garden. I always dump any spoiled milk, along with left over coffee and tea, in the garden, too.


  • TonyaGiv

    Meldy and Al, Thanks for the helpful advice......Tonya

  • ChristyNAlaZ7

    Al, loved your two suggestions! Especially the $100 bill one.
    I have found that milk jugs with the bottom cut out make good scoops, but laundry detergent jugs or dishwasher jugs are stronger and work better. We have one we use to scoop dog food that is YEARS old and shows no sign of wearing out. Would probably work well for the plant labels too. Although the mini blinds sound like the best choice to me.

  • love_to_garden

    I use mine for cutworm protectors. Jut take the milk jug cut the bottom out & the top with handle and pour nossel. You then have a square ring. Place it about 2 inches in the ground around a plant when it is small (example Tomatoe), the upper part will also be
    out a few inches. The cutworms haven't touched my plants since I have done this.
    (A cutworm needs to wrap it's body around the stem of a plant in order to cut & destroy the plant) With these collars they can't go down that deep or up that high so your plant should be protected from cutworms.
    Nancy / Prince Edward Island / Canada

  • primulaveris

    Hold the winter cover of a pool in place. Works wonderfully.

  • Soleil_Skyes

    Fill milk jugs with water and dark food colouring (or just paint black) and stack to create a trompe wall in your greenhouse. If you use food colouring you can make a stained glass effect!!

  • ernie50

    Fill with concrete for boat anchors.

  • cohokiller

    On the West Coast, they are left, filled with water, along steep highway grades for over heating autos and trucks.

  • OGinOK

    Cut the bottoms around 3/4 of the way, about 1/3 of the way up. Fill the bottom with seed starter mix, plant, deposit milk jugs under grow light. Got greenhouse? Milk jugs do a REALLY good job of dispersing light and warm stuff up. When you ready to plant the seedlings cut the rest of the way around and you have a nice tray. Then take your jugs to the recycling center so they can make more plastic timbers out of them....

  • Lenh

    Hi All
    I have just been reading all you suggestions to my wife[she thinks computors bite] Stangely enough she just been mentioning starting a file for gardening tips.she is delighted with the tips on this forum.
    A couple of suggestions got me thinking.
    Here this side of the pond we have trouble with cabbage root fly which lays its eggs at soil level,the first one knows of it is when the plant dies,I remember my dad using
    carpet felt to try and stop it happening but a 2 pint milk carton with the top cut off would have been ideal.
    Personally we use plastic blinds for plant labels which would other wise cost us a small fortune,we grow to sell.
    Going on from the milk carton, how about using the used one gallon clear spa water containers with the top cut off as mini greenhouses for special plants? I hope this forum goes from strength to strength

  • anniebc

    well in my family we always cut off the tops and us kids got to paint them to which ever way we wanted and used them as planters for our plants,of course you have to poke holes in the bottem. great for a bunch of kids having fun.

  • dianawrob

    Have been using plastic milk bottles (jugs) as a "pooper scooper" for the dogs and when planting fruit trees over the years, have put some water in the bottles and tied them to branches to weigh them down so that as they grow the branches come down making it easier to pick the fruit. As the trees get larger I just add more water to make the bottles heavier.

  • CindyBelleZ6NJ

    Use them for winter sowing, check out the FAQ at the top of the forum, they work great!

  • shaylaroo

    I live in mole thence voles (in abundace) country. I didn't want to use poisons to kill the grubs and other good guys in my soil.That what the moles are after.
    One day I went out to find more missing bulbs and flopped over gladioulas then I could bear! I gathered my gallon milk jugs. Cut tops and bottoms off. Sunk them where I planned to plant bulbs. Never lost a bulb or plant to a darn vole again. Next squirrels moved in & started enjoying the freshly sprouted tulip greens. So, I sprayed with Hot pepper wax (liquid cayenne pepper) Viola!!! After that all plants being subject to mole/vole vipers I did the same. I even had to steal from the dumps recycle bin for extra milk jugs. (I did pull up and remove the plastic, & took back to recycle bins before moving from the property.)

  • annschickenfarm

    I use them on my maple trees to collect sap for maple syrup.It's alot cheaper then buying pails at 5.99 each.

  • kathy547

    Thought of another one!!!!

    Cut the top off, thread a belt or rope through the handle & attach to your stomach. You can then use it for the clothes pins while hanging clothes out on the line (guess where I was when I thought of this. lol!).

  • sfoakley

    I cut around the top (all but the handle) of a one gallon jug, add rooting mix and cuttings, water, tape the top back on with masking tape and replace the lid. Great little green houses! Do not place in direct sun, water as needed - which in my situation was never. Great propagation with tiger lily, gardenia, hydrangea. Left them outside during the winter in zone 7.

  • sakurako77

    I haven't used milk jugs because I'm basically storing rainwater & couldn't get rid of the post-milk sours. I do buy bottled water and save those gallon jugs for emptying the rain barrels when I've used up every bigger container. Like everyone else, I like to add water-soluble fertilizer to the gallon jugs because it's easy to measure the fertilizer accurately.
    My favorite storage item is white plastic kitty litter containers. They hold about 1.5 gallons and have wide mouths with screw-down covers, so I can store rainwater without inviting mosquitos to lay eggs in it. Last winter I balanced some filled with extra rainwater along the the edge of my rock garden to act as markers so I wouldn't accidentally step into the area where my ferns were wintering while I was shovelling snow. Luckily we didn't get more snow than the height of these containers so the bright pink tops showed. If you cut the top off the container, leaving the handle, it makes excellent year-round storage for salted sand. I still have 2 from 2 winters ago and 8 containers full left from this past winter.
    The kitty litter containers are heavier plastic than milk/water gallons. However, after freezing and thawing all winter, two did spring leak holes this spring. They could still hold kitty litter, of course, so I bought two new containers of kitty litter, transferred it to the leaky containers and could accomodate a bit more rainwater in the new ones.

  • marie009

    S. Skyes, I have a greenhouse. What is a trompe wall? Does it have a purpose? Or is it just pretty? I'm stumped.

  • nicksims

    Well, I must admit, not really a milk jug. But I thought this would be a good group to ask.

    I have these 1 gallon glass jugs. They come filled with apple juice. The glass is thick and it looks like some old moonshine style jug.

    Any garden uses? The recycling bin works, but they seem to good to toss.


  • Flowerkitty

    Saw this on the Carol Duvall Show. Cut off the handle and the oval of plastic the handle is centered in. Punch holes around the edge. Cut nylon netting into strips. This is the stiff netting with open large honeycomb weave used to make things like ballet costumes. gather each strip together and pull material up one hole, and down thru the adjoining so gathers come out on side away from handle. Fill up all holes and you get a great fluffy scrubber with a handle. Good for bathtubs, birdbaths or such

    Supposed to be good for brushing dog and cat hair!!!

    Here is a link that might be useful: Milk jug scrubber

  • northga

    I got this in an email from BHG.

    The Magic Milk Jug
    For sheer versatility in the garden, nothing comes close to the humble plastic milk jug. Save both half-gallon and gallon sizes to create these garden helpers.

    1.Seed flats. Starting your own seeds is the easiest way to cut your gardening costs to the bone. And it's the only way to get many of the newest varieties. To save space and bother, start seeds in shallow trays filled with potting soil, then transplant the strongest seedlings to pots later on. To make free seed flats, cut off the bottom three inches of a gallon milk jug and punch a few holes in the bottom with a nail. Fill with potting mix, and use a pencil to create two or three shallow furrows for sowing. Then plant your seeds according to the packet directions.
    2.Mini greenhouse. In northern zones, young transplants and seedlings are easy prey for spring and fall frosts. Protect them with their own personal greenhouse. Just cut the bottom off a gallon milk jug and, when a cold snap is in the forecast, place the jug over the plant. You can regulate the temperature somewhat by putting the cap on or taking it off. Just be sure to remove the cover on warm, sunny days to prevent turning your greenhouse into a sauna.

    3.Flexible scoop. This simple scoop is fashioned from a half-gallon plastic milk jug. It's great for distributing fertilizer granules or potting soil in tight spaces. To craft it, make two horizontal cuts on the sides adjacent to the handle, and two forward-slanting diagonal cuts in the other sides.
    4.Liquid fertilizer distribution system. Okay, the name might be a bit of a stretch, but this idea is a winner. Use plastic milk jugs to mix up liquid fertilizer, then punch a hole or two in the cap with a nail. Use your "system" to deliver a dose of plant food to even the smallest pots or plants.
    5.Protection plus. If you use a cold frame to extend your growing season, line the inside with plastic milk jugs filled with water. The water be warmed by the sun, and will help reduce temperature swings inside the cold frame. The result: a lower chance of frost damage at night and overheating during the day.

  • roseyt

    Here's another list. Some of the tips were already mentioned on this thread but there are a few that weren't.

    Here is a link that might be useful: 35+ Uses for Plastic Milk Jugs

  • katielovesdogs

    I use the bottoms of milk jugs and 2-liter bottles as pots for giving plants away. I use a soldering iron to punch drainage holes in the bottom. As I divide my perennials, I pot the divisions up so that I can give them away.

  • littleredhat

    I make hanging planters by cutting off the bottoms,punching a couple of holes for string and puting a sheet of newspaper and soil in the jug. They work great.

  • lakewaylady

    When my kids were little I used to cut the flat side out of the milk jug, take an indelible pen and trace assorted shapes (you can see through the plastic) from books, cookie cutters etc and then cut them out. The kids love tracing around the assorted shapes.

  • dickiefickle

    Use to take up space in the bottom of large planters ,makes them lighter and you use less soil or potting mix. crush if needed

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