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In the garden…our homemade irrigation system

SchneiderPeeps - Milk Jug Irrigation is a great way to make sure that your garden gets watered deeply during the summer.
Sometimes I feel like some of the things our family does would qualify in the list “You might be a ______ if…”; You can fill in the blank…redneck, crazy woman, frugal gardener, whatever. 

Our new watering system probably qualifes us as one of those things.

Last year we struggled to keep our garden watered, we tried hand watering and it took forever.  Then we tried using sprinklers and they broke.  We also struggled with powdery mildew on our squash plants which is mostly due to the leaves getting wet.

This spring we decided to try something different, we would poke holes in milk jugs and bury them.  That way when we watered we could just fill up the jugs – the plants would get a deep drink and  the leaves could stay dry.  And we would mulch with lots of leaves.  So, we began hauling leaves and poking holes in milk jugs – this is where teenage boys come in very handy.

We used a long finishing nail to poke about 25 holes on each side of the milk jug and about 5-10 on the bottom.  For our squash, we made hills about 3 feet across and then planted the jug in the middle – kind of like a volcano.  We planted our seeds about 4 inches from the top of the jug.  When I first filled the jugs the water just went straight through… that sandy soil and all. I saturated the entire bed, with a combination of filling the jugs and watering th soil.  When the jug started holding water we put leaves over the entire bed and then went to the next.
SchneiderPeeps - Milk Jug Irrigation is a great way to make sure that your garden gets watered deeply during the summer. This is our green bean bed when we planted it. 

SchneiderPeeps - Milk Jug Irrigation is a great way to make sure that your garden gets watered deeply during the summer. This is it two months later. 

SchneiderPeeps - Milk Jug Irrigation is a great way to make sure that your garden gets watered deeply during the summer. These seeds for these squash plants were sown about 4 inches from the milk jug. 

When I water I fill the jugs and sometimes let them run over, to flood the bed and I am free to pull weeds or harvest some veggies.

Disclaimer: We have very sandy soil, if you have clay soil, I don’t know how well this would work for you. It might keep the ground too wet.

To peek into other great gardens check out Tuesday Garden Party and Frugal Gardening 101

You can find information about other fruits and veggies by searching clicking on the In The Garden tab up top or in The Gardening Notebook.



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  1. says

    I do wish I had sandy soil so I could do this! I really am tired of moving hoses, but we haven’t had rain in months! Your garden looks lovely.

  2. Anonymous says

    South Florida here … I actually have a large empty cat litter jug that I was thinking of doing this with for a few of the summer things I’m planting … not sure how it’s going to work but what the heck, any other way I can’t keep up with the heat and lack of rain anymore! Thanks for sharing the pictures!! http://www.frugalinflorida.blogspot.com (can’t sign in with google to leave message for some odd reason)

  3. says

    Good idea. If you don’t try it, you’ll never know! We haven’t had any rain this year (maybe 4 inches since early Feb.) and I do think this and the leaves have helped.

  4. says

    Milk jug? Hey, that sounds like a clever idea for irrigation. Really, the best way to find what works in your garden is to do a bit of trial and error. Experiment to see what works best for the soil and whatnot in your garden. If you can use something to make your gardening more fun, then go for it!

    • says

      Thanks. I planted the jug in our raised bed with the amount of holes you stated. It never held water. So we replaced it with a jug with half the holes. It still doesn’t hold. What am I doing wrong?

    • says

      Depending on how moist your ground is already will depend on how long the water stays in the jug. For sandy soil the water won’t stay in long and you will probably have to fill them several times, esp. the first time. After that you can just fill them once or twice each time you water. This way there will be very little evaporation, you’ll get water down to the roots where it is needed and you’ll keep the water off the leaves. I wouldn’t worry too much about how fast the water comes out, the soil will absorb what it needs at a rate that it needs. Have fun!

  5. Christine says

    I had done this years ago and forgotten it already. I’ll put it to good use again this summer. After last summer and the 90+ days of 100 degree heat, I’d almost given up the idea of gardening at all. I’m going to persevere, though and at least offer up something home grown to my family 🙂 It’s so fulfilling to feed your kids something you grew in your own garden.

    • says

      yes, it is so very fulfilling! This system worked so very well for us…even in the worst drought in our area in history. We had very sandy soil. Now we have clay soil so I’m trying to come up with a new solution.

  6. Cathy says

    I’m in the planning stage of our raised bed garden. Your buried milk jug idea is just fantastic! I will give it a try.

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