milk jugs- drilling holes, what size and how many?

arylkin(5b, south of Chicago)February 8, 2014

This is my first year winter sowing (yay!), and I've accumulating milk jugs and am about to prepare my first round. I've been reading a lot about the importance of drainage, but haven't been able to find EXACT instructions.

If you use a drill the bottoms of your milk jugs, can you tell me what size drill bit you use and how many you do?

Sorry if this question seems a little ridiculous, I just want to give my precious seeds their best chance!

Thanks in advance!!

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I'd say 6-8 holes at 1/8 to 1/4 inch drill bit. Drill at the very bottom in the side. But that's just me. Maybe someone else would like to chime in.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 11:05PM
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I use a small soldering iron that is perfect. It makes holes about 1/4 to 1/2 inch diameter. In the bottom of the one gallon jug, I make about 6. I put mine at the bottom not the side, but I don't suppose it makes a difference, long as they drain.

And you can always add more holes if necessary, or cover up some if you feel you made too many.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 10:31AM
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I also use a soldering iron and find it faster and easier than drilling. I put about 8 holes in the bottom and another eight in the sides about 1" up from bottom. Have done it this way for many years and it seems to be the correct amount. My jugs don't start drying out until everything is up and growing nicely and I have cut the filling flap off about a month before transplanting.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 1:56PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Another soldering iron user here! I vary on the number of holes I put in, but I usually put at least one, sometimes two, holes in each quadrant on the bottom, and four in that little trench (two in the bottom and one higher up at each end of the trench). I also put one hole on each side near the bottom. These side holes can help if the bottom gets clogged/frozen/blocked, etc. So usually at least 12 holes total, sometimes 16. Honestly, I can't give a good explanation of why sometimes I do 12, sometimes more. It's just how the mood strikes me the day I'm poking the holes, lol.

By the way, I also use my soldering iron to poke a hole up on one side of the jug, at the bottom of the handle. This hole I use to poke my scissors in to start cutting around the jug.

Not a ridiculous question at all! Experiment and you'll find what works best for you. Remember, it's easier later on to add more holes than try to tape up the extras! (too many holes can lead to too-dry containers).

Good luck and have fun!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 12:47PM
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I posted it to my blog. I plan on skipping the coffee filter this year. That didn't work out as planned. I took a lot of pictures of how I prepared the milk jugs.

Here is a link that might be useful: DW's Blog

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 7:16AM
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Mid----nice blog !

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 11:18AM
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arylkin(5b, south of Chicago)

Thank you midmented- your blog is great!! Do you think side drainage holes are not necessary then?

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 2:56PM
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I've never did side drainage holes. Normally I use the soldering gun and burn about ten holes in the bottom.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 6:16PM
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kilngod z6b(Zone 6b)

I take a scissors and snip 4x where the wall meets the floor. A snip about 1" long. It's easy and fast because it pinches that corner of the jug tightly. Then I cut the whole top nearly off, the 'hinge' method. (Taping the jug back together with packing tape later.)

Fast fast fast. Cheaper without the taping, but takes way more time to do the flap method instead of the hinge. I used to do 300+ things in a season (100+ jugs), so fast was especially important.

Hope this is helpful.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 8:49PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I only put about 4 holes, one in each quadrant and none on the sides. I've been sowing for ten years or so and have found that less is definitely more.


    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 7:00AM
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I use a steak knife. Punch thorugh the bottom (before cutting the jug in half) and then give a twist. 3-4 holes in the bottom of each jug. Makes sort of a long, narrow triangle of a hole.

However, I suspect part of the answer to how much drainage you need is how much rain your containers get. The only good place to put my jugs (where they aren't sitting right in front of the house and getting baked when it starts to warm up and being blown around by the wind) is in back under the porch. The porch is about 15 feet off the ground - so they get sun and some rain, but not alot of rain. I do have to water them some because of the protection. But there's a little corner in the brick wall there, so they're protected from the prevailing winds as well. It's worked well the last several years.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 4:07PM
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I have never had a rotting or drying out problem with milk jugs no matter how many or few holes I put in the bottom. As long as you have adequate dirt when you start (yes at least 4") you will be fine. I only take the flap off when the foliage is touching the top. Then and only then is it necessary to water occasionally.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 5:00PM
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arylkin(5b, south of Chicago)

Thank you RyseRyse! I drilled a bunch of holes, but was worried about too much/not enough drainage. Your comment is really helpful (and helps me to feel less stressed about the whole thing). Now I just can't wait for warm weather to see some sprouts!!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 5:29PM
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