Portable Drip Irrigation With a Recycled Milk Jug
Portable Drip Irrigation With a Recycled Milk Jug

Do you have plants that need extra water this summer? I have the portable drip irrigation solution for you!

Many of us have a few plants that aren’t connected to an irrigation system. Some people don’t have an irrigation system and use a hose to water plants, which is time-consuming and inefficient.

Portable Drip Irrigation is an Alternative to Traditional Irrigation

While you can certainly haul out your hose and water each of your thirsty plants, it is not the best way. The main problem is the hose puts out water quickly and the soil can’t absorb it fast enough. As a result, much of the water 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, I’m here for you. You can make life easier by creating your own portable drip irrigation system with a recycled milk jug.

3 Steps to Create a Simple Recycled Drip Irrigation System

This solution is very easy and will have you digging through your recycle bin collecting your used milk jugs.

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

1. Make the Holes:

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

Pouring water in a jug for portable drip irrigation

2. Fill the Jug with Water:

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

Portable Drip Irrigation at the bottom of a  Recycled Milk Jug

3. Portable Drip Irrigation Water Pressure

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, pick up your milk jug and move it to the next plant. After you are done, bring the empty jugs inside and store until the next time you need them.

Special Note: If you live in a windy area and worry the milk jug will blow away, weigh them down with an inch of small rocks in the bottom of the jug – the rocks won’t interfere with the water dripping out.

Milk jug next to an agave plant

I usually recommend this method of irrigating cacti monthly in summer.

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

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

I hope you find this DIY garden project helpful. Please feel free to share it with your friends by clicking the “Share” button below. 

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Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, 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."
16 replies
  1. Carol
    Carol says:

    Awesome tip! I also like that there is no chance of forgetting the hose on and wasting tons of water. Thanks for posting this.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ
    Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ says:

    That's a great idea Noelle! Some of my plants are on a slight slope and the water from the hose tends to go down into the street instead of water the plant. I'm going to try it for them. Thanks!

  6. 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.

  7. 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 :-).

  8. 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

  9. arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
    arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

    Hello Keith,

    I wish I could help you however, I only use one at a time and can’t think of how to fix that problem. You may have to split them up into 3 or 5. An irrigation expert may be able to help you.

  10. Nancy Ely
    Nancy Ely says:

    I bury terracotta ollas in these plant beds – easy to fill and totally hidden, except for their tops, so not unsightly.

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