DIY Herb Carton Planters: Growing Herbs In Milk Cartons
By: Laura Miller
Making a milk carton herb garden is a great way to combine recycling with the love of gardening. These money-saving paper carton herb containers are not only simple to make, but also decorative to use. Plus, DIY herb carton planters are an excellent way to introduce children to both gardening and the concept of reduce, reuse, and recycle.
How to Make Paper Carton Herb Containers
DIY herb carton planters can be crafted from any size milk carton, but the half gallon size provides sufficient root space for growing herbs in milk cartons. These planters can be crafted in three different ways:
- The top or folded portion of the milk carton can be cut off and discarded. This makes a tall, thin planter (unfortunately, this still sends a portion of the milk carton to landfills).
- The milk carton can be cut in half. The herbs are planted in the top (folded) portion. The top is then inserted into the bottom half, which serves as a drip tray. This method provides the most support to the carton.
- Long planters can be made by cutting one side out of the milk container and planting lengthwise. This gives the most growing space per milk carton.
Before planting herbs in milk cartons, use a large nail or Phillips screwdriver to poke drainage holes in the bottom of the container. It’s also advisable to thoroughly wash the milk carton and allow it to dry 24 hours before decorating.
Decorating DIY Herb Carton Planters
Gardeners looking for inexpensive planters can use the prepared milk cartons as-is, but the real fun comes with the decorating process. Here are some cute ideas for crafting your own unique paper carton herb containers:
- Paint – Either spray paint or brushed on acrylics can be used to coat the outside of the milk carton herb garden planter. From psychedelic sixties to generic white with black lettering, the DIY herb carton planters can be made to match a room’s décor or simply be practical.
- Adhesive paper – Use duct tape, shelf liner, or self-adhesive craft foam to decorate the sides of the planters. The additional layer offers support when growing herbs in milk cartons.
- Animal friend – Before cutting the milk carton, trace the ear shape of your favorite animal above the cut line on one side of the container. Then, carefully cut around the “ears” to include them in the planter. Next, cover or paint all sides of your special milk carton herb garden pot. Add eyes, mouth, a nose, and whiskers (if appropriate) underneath the ears to represent the face of your favorite animal friend.
- Ribbon, yarn, and buttons – Pull out those leftover craft supplies and go to town decorating your milk carton with scraps of ribbon and spare buttons. Or use hot glue and wind leftover yarn around the sides of the planter.
- Craft sticks – Glue wooden craft sticks to the outside of the paper carton herb containers, then paint or stain in your favorite finish. The craft sticks offer extra support to the milk carton.
Once decorated, use a quality potting soil when planting your favorite herbs. Place your milk carton herb garden in a sunny location and water regularly. These cute planters also make adorable gifts for family and friends.
This article was last updated on
Read more about Container Gardens
Why Do I Need Plant Markers?
Why is it so important to mark where you’re planting things? Here are a few compelling reasons:
Knowing where you planted something is critical. You know you sowed kale seeds, but if you can’t remember where, then you’re stuck waiting until the seeds germinate. If your garden is a mess of weeds, you might even mistake seedlings for weeds and pluck them out by accident. Markers ensure you know that a spot in your garden is taken. It’s especially crucial if you’re starting seeds (indoors or outside) since the plot will be bare until the seeds germinate.
Organized seed starting. When starting seeds, it’s necessary to know what should be popping up where, especially if you’re growing different varieties. Some seedlings look similar (many brassicas, for instance, look alike in their young form), so it’s important to differentiate with markers. Make your life even easier and mark the planting date on the marker in addition to the plant type and variety.
Information for guests. Markers aren’t just for you. They’re useful for guests perusing your garden. If you’re part of a community garden or educational garden project, markers are a must for ensuring everyone who passes by knows what’s what.
Milk Jug Garden
When to Use These?
Usually I put my milk jug greenhouses together sometime in February or March. Depending on the seed and how busy I am, I have even started them as late as mid-April and still reap some benefit.
In Northern Ohio, where I live, the final frost date is typically mid-May which is the first safe day to plant outside without a risk of frost killing a plant or seedling. The milk jug greenhouse allows me to plant earlier than this May date and have fully established seedlings at planting time.
Really these greenhouses can be made any time before that final frost date in your region. Some years I do not get around to transplanting my seeds until a few weeks after the frost date. Here is a frost map to help you determine your final frost date.
A milk crate garden is a great way to grow a lot of produce in a small space. Plantable, stackable and cute, repurposed milk crates grow great gardens.
A milk crate garden is such a clever way to grow a productive garden in a small space. Instead of growing vegetables, herbs and flowers in expensive flower pots, grow them in stackable, repurposed, plastic milk crates. You can often find these crates on Craig’s List or freecycle.org, or at garage sales, thrift shops and other inexpensive (or free!) sources.
But, my favorite thing about growing in milk crates is all the design possibilities it opens. You can stack the planted crates on their outer edges, checkerboard-style, to make a living wall of containers. If you fill the stacked crates with vine crops, like cucumbers, squash and melons, they’ll tumble down your milk crate “wall” and provide a delicious – and beautiful! – crop of veggies.
Another option is, rather than planting the crops in the open top of each crate, they can also be planted through holes poked through the sides of the crates. You can even make hanging planters out of milk crates by attaching chains with s-hooks to the top edge of the crate and hanging it from a ceiling hook, plant hanger, or shepard’s hook. In other words, with a milk crate garden, your imagination is the only limit!
Plastic milk crates
Roll of burlap fabric
Enough 50/50 potting soil and compost blend to fill all of the milk crates
Step 1: Cut the Burlap
Cut a large piece of burlap from the roll. It should be twice the size of the inside of the milk crate. Natural burlap will last one or two seasons, while synthetic burlap will last much longer but may not look quite as nice. For added interest, use patterned or printed burlap from a fabric store.
Step 2: Put the Burlap in the Crate
Tuck the burlap down into the bottom of the crate, pushing it into each of the four corners. Pull the top edges of the fabric out over the edge of the crate. The corners of the fabric don’t need to be perfectly aligned with the corners of the crate.
Step 3: Fill With Soil Blend
Fill the burlap with the blend of potting soil and compost to within one inch of the top of the milk crates. There’s no need to cut drainage holes in the burlap prior to filling the crates with the soil blend because excess irrigation water will easily drain through the porous burlap.
Step 4: Plant
Choose a single specimen plant for each crate. Peppers, small tomatoes, cabbage, zucchini, tomatillos and other crops all do quite well in a milk crate garden. But, since each crate only holds a few gallons of soil, do not overstuff them. If you’d like, you can also add one or two filler flowers or herbs to each crate. Jessica Walliser
37 Plastic Milk Jug Hacks You Can Try at Home
Jennifer is a full-time homesteader who started her journey in the foothills of North Carolina in 2010. Currently, she spends her days gardening, caring for her orchard and vineyard, raising chickens, ducks, goats, and bees. Jennifer is an avid canner who provides almost all food for her family needs. She enjoys working on DIY remodeling projects to bring beauty to her homestead in her spare times.
If you buy an item via links on this page, we may earn a commission. Our editorial content is not influenced by commissions. Read the full disclosure.
Do you have lots of used milk jugs hanging around your home? You don’t want to toss them because it seems wasteful, but you aren’t exactly sure what to do with them, right?
It’s hard to get milk jugs out of our lives because most people drink some kind of milk. Unless you raise dairy animals, you most likely purchase your milk from a store and have the jugs to contend with.
I’m going to bring you various ideas on how you can effectively utilize an old plastic milk jug. Upcycling is great! It can save you money and help you lead a zero-waste life.
Here’s how your milk jugs can be used with purpose around your home and homestead:
1. Water Bottle
My husband drinks a great deal of water during the day. He uses old milk jugs we’ve washed out and refill them.
He fills them part of the way when he comes in at night, places them in the freezer, and will fill it the rest of the way the next morning before he leaves. Doing this gives him cold water all day without refrigeration.
2. DIY Instrument for Your Kids
When my kids were babies, I would try to come up with inexpensive games for them to keep busy for a while and encourage a love of music.
One way of doing this is to fill milk jugs with beans. Bean jugs make fun, inexpensive instruments your kids will love! Make sure the lid is secure to avoid little ones from choking on the beans.
3. Grocery Bag Holder
We all try to break away from the grocery store and grocery bags in the process, but it’s hard. How can you store all the grocery bags which come your way?
Milk jugs can be a great help. Cut the lid off the top of the milk and place the bags inside. Leave one bag sticking out to make it easier to remove them when needed.
4. Ice Pack
You don’t need to buy expensive ice packs from the store. Instead, use a milk jug filled partially with water.
Don’t fill it all the way because water will expand when frozen. After the jug has frozen, apply it as an ice pack.
5. Exercise Weights
Who says you must spend a lot of money on weights when exercising? Instead, fill water jugs partially with water.
One gallon of water can weigh as much as 8 pounds. This will give you quite a workout without breaking the bank.
6. Rainwater Collector
Do you like to harvest rainwater? It’s a great way to water your plants and animals without using water from your source.
Milk jugs can be used as a small rainwater collection system. Cut the top off the jug and turn it upside down to be used as a funnel. The water will pour down the funnel and will be captured in the base of the milk jug.
7. DIY Shovel
If you have a potting station around your home, you probably know how big of a mess potting soil can make. It helps to have a shovel to scoop the soil into its location.
You don’t need to buy one. Instead, cut off the top of a milk jug, turn it around, and you have a shovel with a convenient handle.
8. Mini Greenhouse
You don’t need a lot of room to have a greenhouse around your home or property. A greenhouse can be created to hold only one plant.
Your milk jugs would make a perfect DIY individual greenhouse. They’ll keep the plant safe and radiate heat too.
9. DIY Irrigation System
If you’re looking for an easier way to keep your plants watered, consider a DIY irrigation system. They can be inexpensive and simple.
A milk jug can be an effective way to irrigate your plants. Fill the jug with water and place holes in it. The water will seep into the ground over time.
10. Keep Plants Warm Outdoors
When you first plant crops outdoors, it may still become a little chilly overnight. If you’re concerned about this being too tough on your plants, give them a heater.
Place a milk jug outside next to your plants. Fill it with water and allow it to absorb the heat during the day. At night, the heat will be emitted from the bottle and keep your plants warm.
11. Keeps Plants Warm Indoors
If you have a greenhouse, you may be interested in finding a way to heat it without using electricity. This could be beneficial in certain climates if you’re trying to garden year-round.
Milk jugs can come to the rescue in this situation too. Paint the milk jugs black and fill them with water. They’ll absorb heat during the day and emit it at night.
12. DIY Planter
Who says you must have expensive planters to grow houseplants or container garden outdoors? Instead, use your milk jugs.
Cut the neck off the milk jug, add dirt, and plant your seeds or seedlings. This is a great way to create a container garden on the cheap.
13. Pot Base
Watering plants from beneath can be one of the best decisions you make especially when it comes to houseplants.
Instead of purchasing a base to your pots, cut off the bottom of a milk jug. Place it under your pot. It will catch water and be helpful when watering plants from the roots.
14. Watering Can
You don’t need to spend a fortune on a watering can when you have milk jugs at your disposal. They’re easy to make and durable too.
Put holes in the top of the lid of the milk jug. Fill the jug with water and apply the lid. When you lean it over, water will come out of the spout.
15. Hold It Together
There are times in life when we need to weight items down, but the elements aren’t on our side. If you have a tarp or another object you must hold in place, milk jugs can help.
Fill the milk jugs with water and place them on each corner of the item. The weight of the water in the jugs will hold everything in place.
16. Designated Watering Can
We’ve discussed how milk jugs can make awesome, inexpensive watering cans. They’re watering capabilities go beyond applying water to plants.
If you like to have a designated can for applying compost tea or fertilizer, you can use milk jugs to keep things organized. Mix the fertilizer or compost tea right in the can before applying it to your plants.
17. Functional Storage
Do you purchase many of your dry goods in bulk? Do you struggle with having enough space to store them before you use them?
Store any leftover rice, flour, dried beans, or other dry goods in an easy-to-pour milk jug. It isn’t ideal for long-term storage, but it could help keep dry goods accessible and organized for a short amount of time.
18. Easy to Use Funnel
If you’ve ever needed a funnel and not had one, you know what a pain this can be. The next time, don’t make a mess.
Instead, put your milk jugs to good use. Cut the bottom off, and you have an instant funnel which can be helpful when cooking or canning.
19. Organize with a Purpose
Do you feel as though clutter overtakes your home? Every time I walk into my husband’s shop I feel as though clutter is going to overtake the place one day.
Beat clutter by cutting off the bottom portion of a milk jug. They make excellent trays to hold tiny items on workbenches, on crafting tables, a neat place to put the mail, or even as a napkin holder.
20. Take It Fishing
My guys live and breathe fishing. If you enjoy fishing too, you probably know gear can become costly in a hurry.
Therefore, skip on buying bobbers. Instead, attach a large milk jug to your line, and it will serve as a simple, inexpensive bobber which will definitely let you know if you have something on your line.
21. Shed a Little Light
I find myself in hot pursuit of inexpensive outdoor lighting on a regular basis. It’s helpful to have lights in place when you need to get around in the dark.
Milk jugs can help you with this. You can either place sand in the bottom of a jug with a candle, or you could use a solar light or flashlight to help have light instantly when needed.
22. Back-Up Freezer
If you store a great deal of food in your freezer, you’re probably cautious when a power outage happens.
Freeze water in a milk jug being careful not to fill it all the way up. Keep these jugs in your freezer at all times. When the power goes out, the jugs will help keep the food cold.
23. DIY Ice Cream Maker
I didn’t realize how many foods require a blender until I began trying to make healthier food items at home.
If you don’t have a blender, you can place the items in a milk jug and shake. This method works for a variety of ice cream recipes and smoothie recipes.
24. DIY Dustpan
When you sweep your floor, you most certainly need a dustpan to help you finish the job. This doesn’t mean you must buy one, though.
Instead, cut the milk jug at an angle. You can use the handle as the handle of the dustpan and scoop dirt right into the edge of the milk jug.
25. The Birds Will Love It
Do you like to attract birds to your home? The best way to draw them is with food and shelter, but don’t spend a fortune building a birdhouse.
Instead, use a milk jug as one. You can cut a little hole in the side and give them a place to nest. You can also cut holes along the sides of the jug and make a feeder.
26. Take It Plant Shopping
When I purchase plants, it comes from a local store only a few miles from my house. I love going to their store and finding plants they grew right at their backdoor.
The only downside is carrying the plants around can be difficult. The next time you go plant shopping, cut the bottom of a milk carton off and use it as a tray to carry your plants. It can help you get them home without getting dirt in your car too.
27. Mark Your Garden
As you plant your garden, it’s a great idea to mark what you’re planting and where. It can be hard to remember when you plant a variety at once.
Instead of purchasing plant markers, cut up a milk jug into strips. You can write on each strip with a permanent marker, and you have free garden markers.
28. Hold the Line
If you wash your clothes by hand and dry them on a clothesline, you know how important clothespins and a bag to store them in can be.
You can easily make a clothespin “bag” from a milk jug. Cut a crevice out of the milk jug and splice the handle. The open spot in the plastic milk jug allows you to access the clothespins. By cutting off a portion of the handle, it allows the jug to hang from the clothesline.
29. Toilet Bowl Brush Storage
There isn’t a cleaning item any nastier than a toilet bowl brush. Let’s face it, we all need one, we all have one, but we all want it stored to where it won’t touch anything else.
Therefore, you need a toilet bowl brush holder. You can cut a hole in the side of a plastic milk jug and use it to store your toilet brush right next to the toilet.
30. Berry Picker
If you’ve ever had to pick a large number of berries, you know how important it is to have the proper bucket.
Milk jugs come in handy with this too. Cut a hole on the side of the milk jug. This will give you a place to drop the berries while also having a bucket with a handle.
31. DIY Scoop Ball
Have you ever played a scoop ball? It’s a game that takes a great deal of coordination, but most kids and families love it!
If you’d like to make your own set to play, it’ll require one ball and two milk jugs. Cut a hole in the side of the milk jugs big enough to catch the ball. Toss it back and forth for some fun exercise!
32. DIY Jack-O-Lantern
Milk jugs are a great way to decorate for Halloween. You can either cut out the facial features of a Jack-O-Lantern or draw them on the milk jug.
Paint the plastic milk jug and place a light inside of the jug. It will glow in the dark and give a spooky feel to your home without slicing into one pumpkin.
33. Here Piggy, Piggy
Piggy banks are the initial way many people teach their children to save money. If you’d like to make a piggy bank for your child (or yourself) use a milk jug.
You can add stickers, paint it, or leave it plain. Either way, by stashing your dollars and change into the jug, you’re creating a space for saving money and this is a great way to learn how to manage money and live on a budget.
34. Gather Some Easter Eggs
I love how creative everyone seems to be nowadays. We could’ve been this way for generations and didn’t realize it because we lacked the internet.
However, now the internet shows off creativity in a whole new way. Plastic milk jug Easter baskets are one way in which it displays creativity. People no longer purchase baskets. Instead, they use what they have and make adorable creations.
35. Plastic Milk Jug Wine
Do you enjoy making your own wine? If you have the fruit, a milk jug, some yeast, and a balloon, you have the perfect winemaking system.
Don’t feel as though you must sink a fortune into making your own spirits. Put your milk jugs to work and save a bundle in the process.
36. Waterproof Shims
If you do much of your own work around your house or build many items, you most likely use shims. Instead of purchasing them, make your own.
Milk jugs are a perfect solution. Cut out squares from a plastic milk jug. They work well for this purpose, are durable because of the plastic, and waterproof too.
37. Utensil Holder
When you have a cookout, do you struggle with figuring out where to place your utensils when they aren’t in use?
Wonder no more. Cut the top off a milk jug and place the utensils inside of it. This will keep them clean and free your hands when you aren’t cooking.
Who knew a plastic milk jug could be this useful beyond storing milk? You now have a whopping 37 different uses for a plastic milk jug, verifying how unique and purposeful milk jugs can be!
Don’t toss them in the recycling or the trash anymore. Instead, keep them around and make your life easier without spending extra money for convenience.