By Mary Hunt at

Instead of sending plastic milk jugs to the landfill, where the Environmental Protection Agency says they never will degrade, consider these clever ways to reuse them in the garden and around the house.

Unless you're saving all your milk jugs to build a bridge (the first bridge made entirely from recycled plastic was constructed over the Mullica River in New Jersey's Wharton State Park in 2003), Marion Owen, co-author of "Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul," has come up with 35 very clever ways to reuse plastic milk jugs.

Here, for your recycling enjoyment, are nine of Marion's clever ideas:

--Bird feeder. Cut a hole in two or three sides of the jug. The holes should be 2 or 4 inches in diameter, depending on the type of birds you want to attract. For perches, make smaller holes below the feeding holes. Push wooden dowel rods through the holes so they poke through the opposite side. Fill the feeder with seeds, and hang it in a nearby tree. You may want to poke a few small holes in the bottom for rainwater drainage.

--Handy scoop. Make a scoop from the part of the jug you cut off to make the seed-starting container (the top section with the handle). Replace the screw top, and use it to scoop up dry potting soil, vermiculite, grass seed, birdseed and so on.

--Slug watering hole. Cut 3 inches from the bottom of a milk jug, and sink this base into the soil so the top rim is level with the soil. Fill with beer. You've created a watering hole for slugs. They will approach, dive in and proceed to drink themselves to death.

--Wall of water. Fill jugs with water, and arrange them in a ring around plants. Cover the ring at night to preserve heat absorbed during the day. When the danger of frost and cold has passed, use the warmed water to water your plants. For warmer water, paint the containers black before filling them. This is a good way to regulate heat in cold frames (winter gardens) and greenhouses.

--Light the way. Make luminaries by cutting off the top of a milk jug and filling the bottom with 2 or 3 inches of sand. Place a votive candle in the sand. Line a walkway or garden path with the lights.

--Berry picker. Cut a hole in the top corner opposite the handle to use for a berry picker. If you're heading out for hours of serious berry picking, slip your belt through the handle to free up both hands for picking.

--Clean sweep. A gallon milk jug can be turned into a dustpan. Set the jug, handle side up, on a table, and cut the top off at an angle, leaving the handled portion as a very handy dustpan.

Go to to find all of Owen's clever things you can do with all your empty milk jugs that not only help you to save time and money but also make you smile!

Mary Hunt is the founder of and author of 17 books, including "Debt-Proof Living." You can e-mail her at, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2135, Paramount, CA 90723. To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at