Garbage Made Useful: Milk Jug Garden Scoops, Two Ways

Got Milk? Then you’ve got milk jugs. We don’t drink a huge amount of milk, but I do buy several gallons at a time to make yogurt. That leaves me with a lot of these:

Empty plastic milk jugs are recyclable in my area, which is good, but they can also be made into handy repurposed things, which is even better! You probably know about the milk jug cloche trick, and it’s a good one.  But once you have 20 or 25 (or 250) milk jug cloches squirreled away in the shed, then what?
Here’s a few other things things you can do with an old milk jug.
Half-Gallon Pots
Pots! The weirdo new-style stackable jugs that are sold at Costco and other mega-box-stores make a really nice size ½ gallon pots for large veggies starts like tomatoes. Cut down the side until you are clear of the handle. Cut the top portion of the jug off and recycle it.
And you have this:
Poke some holes in the bottom (carefully, please) with a small knife, nail, or drill bit so your pot has drainage.
Now all you have to do is fill your pot with potting mix and get something growing in it. These pots can be re-used countless times, but if you ever tire of them, rinse them well and recycle them. Since they are basically square they snuggle together nice and tight under seed starting lights.
Garden Scoop # 1
Another garden helper that can be cut from a milk jug (the traditional or the stackable style) is a pitcher or garden scoop.
Let’s say you’ve bought the good milk, and this is the leftover jug:

You want to cut your scoop from the bottom of the jug, angling a big V-shape around the corner under the handle, like so:

Cut away the bottom up to the part you’ve outlined.

Feel free to trim and adjust the shape of the scoop until it’s to your liking and well suited to your purpose. Notice that the lid is still on; that’s important for the next step.

Now make it really useful and throw some measurement lines on there. Measure out a cup of water and fill up the scoop.

Hold the pitcher steady and level and mark the top of the water line. Add another cup of water and mark again. Repeat this process as many more times as you like, or until you have reached the cut-out portion of your scoop.

I measured out 4 cups.

Now just label the measurement lines, dry out your scoop, and put it to use!

This scoop has found a good home in my bin of organic fertilizer. If I need to throw 2 cups of fertilizer on one of my raised beds while preparing for planting in the spring, it is super easy to scoop, measure and distribute the fertilizer all with this one scoop. I really do love it.

Garden Scoop # 2

Ok, you didn’t buy the fancy-pants milk, you bought the Costco milk, but you still want a scoop. No problem!

Start by cutting around the pour spout. You want to open this part up while leaving enough of the top to support the handle, which you will not cut. Adjust the shape for your use.
The result is a wide-mouth scoop/pitcher with good balance. You can mark the edges of this one with measuring guides as well if you like.
You can use this to scoop up dry stuff like fertilizer or garden lime or potting mix. I use one for mixing up batches of dilute fish emulsion and then watering in transplants or peaked veggies that need a little shot-o-fertigation-love. It’s excellent for watering large potted houseplants, too.
There’s a lot of ways to use a milk jug in the garden and around the home. What are yours?


  1. says

    I use the half-gallon sized jugs to make sub-irrigated planters. Cut in half, remove the lid, cut the handle and put the top half into the bottom half and you have a water reservoir. Fill the top half with soil and you only have to water once a week or so. I live in the desert so something like that is useful to me.

    I also use the traditionally-shaped one gallon jugs as hot hats for my tomatoes. I simply remove the bottom leaving a couple of 'ear flaps' on the sides and use garden staples to hold them in place. Saves a bunch of money, uses them a second (third, fourth) time and if it gets damaged or split in storage from spring to spring, so what?

    I also use the bottom half of a one gallon jug as a wash basin when I am camping. Weighs next to nothing and since it can hold stuff in my backpack, it really doesn't take up any space.

  2. says

    Great ideas!

    The one idea we have is filling them with water and freezing them to use in coolers. My husband does this for hunting so that the meat isn't sitting in a pool of melted ice on the way home. But we usually have to go buy milk in a regular jug just for this, since we normally buy our milk in returnable jugs.

  3. says

    We buy Costco milk… 4 gallons every two weeks or so with two growing boys in the house. I was also trying to figure out a scoop for my chicken feed tonight so this was perfect. I may also check to see if the "pots" work in my seed trays for tomatoes. I got a bunch of 2? quart black pots recycled from Emery's up north back when they had a pot recycling bin, but I'm always looking for great new ideas. Thanks for these. I may even try your yogurt someday, especially if I can use non-fat milk, which is what we buy.


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