I have [yet another] long road trip planned in a couple of weeks and I’m worried about my precious tomato plants. You see, while my lifestyle is pretty green, my thumb is not. This year is the first time I’ve ever attempted to grow a vegetable garden, and so far, so good. I’ve kept 3 tomato plants alive and growing. In fact, I harvested my first few cherry tomatoes today and will be able to pick off my first beefsteak tomato tomorrow. But in the last week, the weather has spiked into the high 90s and there has been almost no rain. So, to leave my plants for a week without water would mean certain death.
Thankfully, one of my readers wrote in with a perfect solution to my problem: milk jug irrigation. Being that I have a less-than-green thumb, the idea of drip irrigation is still new to me, but it makes perfect sense. Containers filled with water and pricked with tiny holes deliver water to plants at a slow but constant rate, keeping the plants continuously and evenly watered. It’s not only a good idea for when you’re going on vacation, it also helps save time and water in your day-to-day watering routine.
Make your own milk jug drip irrigation system
- Start saving milk jugs. Plan on at least one jug per plant, perhaps two per plant, depending on the size of the plant.
- Cut 3 pin size holes or slits into the bottom of each milk jug.
- Test the drip over your sink. Fill your milk jug with water, leave the cap off and watch to see that the water drips slowly, but does not pour out. If it does, the holes may be too big. Or, you can try leaving the cap on to slow down the drip.
- Now it’s time to situate your jugs in the garden. To prevent them from blowing away when they get low, you have a couple of options. You can bury the bottom 1/4 in the soil; you can fill the bottom with 3 inches with pea gravel or small river rocks; or you can string the milk jug handles and attach them to a wooden stake.
- Fill each jug with water — the opening should be a perfect fit for a hose.
- Set it and forget it! Ok, well not completely. If this is your first time, you’ll want to monitor your drip system to see how long it takes to empty and to make sure that your plants aren’t flooded (which, if you did the above sink test, this shouldn’t happen).