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Gardening Tip: Watering on the Cheap

From fridge to garden: Plastic milk jugs find new life as watering cans

Gallon milk jugs filled with water stand at the ready to offer a drink to newly planted tomato seedlings. Photo: Ruth Dobsevage

Except when transplanting, I rarely water my garden. Here in Connecticut, it generally rains once a week or so, and most of the time, that’s more than enough for my vegetables. If the plants are well established, with roots that reach deep into the soil, they don’t require a lot of additional water.

My kitchen garden is close to the house and easily reachable by hose. I find watering by hose fairly tedious, especially if I have to maneuver the hose through a densely planted labyrinth of beds without crushing any plants. Watering by hose is also notoriously ineffective. If you don’t believe me, try this: Water a garden bed for what you think is a sufficient time, then scratch the surface of the bed. You’ll probably find that the water hasn’t penetrated very far.

Fancy vs. frugal?
There are all sorts of watering systems you can purchase that involve perforated pipes, soaker hoses, and timers. These are relatively costly and complex, and may not make sense for a small- to medium-size garden. I have a simpler solution: gallon milk jugs. I have quite a supply of these, and they last for a few seasons. They have handles, and they make perfect watering cans.

Instead of using the hose directly, I use the hose to fill plastic milk jugs, which I position strategically around the garden. When a plant is thirsty, I simply pour some water around it. Because I plant out my seedlings in slight depressions, the water passes quickly to the roots, where it is needed.

My solution isn’t the prettiest, of course, and if you want to, you can get yourself a fancy copper watering can for well over $100 that will perform essentially the same function as the humble jug. To each his/her own, I say. But that $100 sure buys a lot of milk!

More about watering:

Video: Build a Rain Barrel
How to Grow Superb Summer Squash

Previous: 10 Ways to Conserve Water in the Garden Next: Setting Up a Garden Drip-Irrigation System
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  1. nwphillygardener 04/24/2020

    Lots of cat litter is sold in multi-gallon plastic totes with handles. The cap is around 3 inch diameter and you can punch holes with an awl. Same principal as the milk jugs, just a larger capacity.

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