Gardening Tip: Watering on the Cheap

comments (5) June 2nd, 2009

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Ruth Ruth Dobsevage, member
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Gallon milk jugs filled with water stand at the ready to offer a drink to newly planted tomato seedlings.
Got milk? Got watering cans.
Gallon milk jugs filled with water stand at the ready to offer a drink to newly planted tomato seedlings.Click To Enlarge

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-sized 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.

More about watering:

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

posted in: watering

Comments (5)

Ruth writes: I'd rather not poke holes in the jugs, jeangogolin. I prefer the flexibility of being able to move them around as needed. But I did bury flower pots in the ground to water my squash hills this year, as described here: . I plan to post a photo or two at some point.
Posted: 9:28 am on June 9th
Ruth writes: We've had tons of rain this spring, veggiegirl2. Do you have any watering tips for gardening in a hot, dry climate?
Posted: 9:18 am on June 9th
jeangogolin writes: How about poking lots of holes in the jugs, burying them next to the plants, and then putting water in them? Would that work?
Posted: 8:40 pm on June 8th
veggiegirl2 writes: Good idea, so long as you live somewhere where the water isn't going to evaporate every 20 minutes. Unfortunately I do.
Posted: 3:24 pm on June 8th
Kate_Frank writes: This is pretty smart. I'm never sure how to maneuver the hose, either. At first I thought this was a rain collection system!
Posted: 2:53 pm on June 2nd
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