Seed Starting with Milk Jugs

I’ve been saving milk jugs from months now in anticipation of trying something new this growing season – seed starting in milk jugs. I found the idea on Pinterest awhile back and decided it was something I would try. I knew I wanted to start my own seeds this year, but didn’t want to buy tons of trays and other supplies (that way I’m not out much if it doesn’t work out). So here is what I did (feel free to ask questions in the comment section if I skipped over any details!)

Supply List:

  • Clean Milk Jugs – calculate the number you’ll need based on how many things you’d like to grow and how many plants of each you’d like (I’d say 4 up to 12 plants per jug, I did 9 for most of mine).
  • Utility Knife
  • Permanent Marker
  • Something to measure height for marking on the milk jug, I used a short can of corn (3.5 inches).
  • Potting Soil
  • Newspaper – for covering your work surface
  • Water
  • Tray for holding finished planted milk jugs

Step 1: Mark the milk jugs at a height where you’d like to cut them. I chose to use a can of  corn that is 3 1/2 inches tall, which made the line fall right below the handle.

Step 2: Cut 3/4 of the way around the milk jug along the line. Leave one edge uncut so that the top of the jug is still connected, but can be easily flipped open to check on the seedlings. The top of the jug will act as a mini greenhouse, keeping in humidity and warmth for the seeds to germinate.

Step 3: Puncture drain holes in the bottom of each jug with a utility knife. I did 4 holes per jug. I also twisted the blade of the utility knife a bit, once I had gone through the plastic. Just to make sure the hole would actually drain if needed.


Step 4: Fill the bottom portion of the jug with potting soil. I chose Miracle-Grow Seed Starting mix (mostly because it was on sale!). It took a little over a bag and a half for 10 milk jugs; each bag is 8 dry quarts. Once you have the soil in – SLOWLY add water. This step may get a little messy, thus the newspaper, to catch any excess water draining out the bottom. Note: In my pictures watering didn’t take place until after the seeds were planted. This was an oversight on my part.  I wouldn’t recommend this because when the water is added to the dry soil it will puff and move around. 


Step 5: Label type of seeds on the milk jug with permanent marker.


Step 6: Decide how many plants you’d like per jug and make small indents. Base this decision on the type of plant and visualize what the size of the seedlings you buy at the store would look like. If you really don’t know, between 4 up to 9 will likely be fine. The depth on the indent should follow the directions on the back of the seed packet.

Step 7: Plant seeds! Put one seed in each hole. I also threw in an extra seed in the corner of each pot, as back-up for any seeds that don’t germinate. But if they all do, I’ll just discard the extras or transplant to another container. Once seeds are in, lightly brush the potting mix back over the seed hole.


Step 8: Now that the seeds are all planted and watered. Find a container to store them in that will catch excess water. I chose the bottom of an under-bed storage tote, which is handy because it has wheels on it. And will be easy to carry outside when it comes time to “harden-off” the plants.

Step 9: Add light of 12 to 16 hours per day, as some seeds need light to germinate. Now just wait for those little seedlings to pop up! Remember to check the containers every few days for moisture. If the top of the soil is starting to look dry give the soil a little water!

What do you think? Anyone ever planted in milk jugs before? Any other advice or questions you have?


4 thoughts on “Seed Starting with Milk Jugs

  1. I also saw on Pinterest to add a coffee filter to the bottom of the jugs, suppose to catch the dirt and let the water drain….but you know how much of a green thumb I have 😉 Good luck, hope it works!

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