Do you have any plants that need extra water? Maybe you have some plants that aren’t connected to your irrigation system, or maybe you don’t even have an irrigation system and use a hose to water your plants instead. It may be that you have cactuses or other succulents that only need water every few months.
While you can certainly haul out your hose and water each of your thirsty plants, the problem is that the hose puts out water too quickly and the soil can’t absorb it fast enough.  As a result, much of the water simply runs off and doesn’t benefit the plant as much as it should.


So, if the time-consuming task of watering plants by hand isn’t your cup of tea, there is a way to make it easier by making your own portable drip irrigation system using a recycled milk jug
This solution is very easy, and I’m sure that you’ll be collecting your used milk jugs instead of throwing them away.


To get started, you will need an empty plastic milk jug and a nail.


1. Heat the nail using a lighter or stove burner and use the nail to pierce 3 – 4 small holes in the bottom of the milk jug.



2. Fill the milk jug up with water and put the cap on and carry it upside down and turn right side up and place it next to the plant that needs irrigation. *You can also set the empty milk jug(s) next to your plants and fill with water from the hose.



3. Slightly loosen the cap, which will allow the water to drip out of the holes at the bottom – this allows the water to penetrate the soil slowly, instead of running off.


Once the water has drained out of the bottom of the jug, simply bring your milk jug back inside or hide it behind the plant out of sight. 


To keep it from blowing away when it’s empty, you can add an inch of small rocks in the bottom of the jug, which will help weigh it down – the rocks won’t interfere with the water dripping out.



I usually recommend this method of irrigating cactus, which appreciates getting some extra water during the summer months.


This portable drip irrigation system is a great aid for those who live in areas that are suffering from drought where an irrigation system may not exist.


**Another semi-permanent variation of this method is to create holes on the sides on the milk jug, instead of on the bottom. Then bury the entire jug next to the plant, leaving just the top exposed. To water your plants, remove the milk cap and fill with water and replace the cap.


If you find this DIY garden project helpful, click the “Share” button below. 
Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

14 replies
  1. Lucy
    Lucy says:

    I was thinking one would have to put stones inside to stop it blowing away but burying it would solve that problem – as well as one of sightliness. However, I suspect those of us plagued with slugs might be giving them a congenial home underneath.

  2. Indie
    Indie says:

    LOVE this idea! I don't have an irrigation system, and this is a great way to water some of those plants that are further out and don't often see my hose during dry times!

  3. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Hi Noelle, yes we do that here too. We only have dry and wet season, so during the dry we do that for our most cherished plant. When plastics are not yet available, the old people use bamboos with small holes at the bottom and it keeps small seedlings withstand the dry season.

  4. Arid
    Arid says:

    Love the idea! I might even set up a five gallon bucket in this way. We just returned from our house in Lake Havasu, AZ. I will keep this idea in mind for our next visit. Didn't need it this time around because of the nightly rains.

  5. Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)
    Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More) says:

    Excellent tip. I've done something similar with buckets but milk jugs are MUCH easier to come by and more suitable for smaller plants than 5-gallon buckets. Instead of a heated nail, I use an icepick. But I'm not sure how many people have icepicks anymore :-).

  6. Keith kendall
    Keith kendall says:

    Have too many jugs to refill by hand (15 or more per row, 5 rows) so I strung a hose with a “T” leading off into each jug much like a used car lot string of lights or banners. problem is first few jugs overflow while last few jugs get little or no water. how can I solve this?
    thank you


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