Empty beverage cartons can save you money

Use empty containers to form a well around your plants.

Cheap tip on how to save money on watering tomato and pepper plants

A couple of weeks ago we shared a tip from Doug Burton in Nazareth about planting empty vegetable cans next to your tomato plants to save time and money when watering them.

That prompted a response from South Whitehall Township resident Liz Phillips, who had a suggestion of her own.

"My suggestion, which I've been doing for years, is I take waxy half-gallon beverage containers and cut the bottom off and top off and the center section I divide into thirds," Liz said. "When I plant my tomatoes and peppers, I put one of those sections over the hole, put my plant in and fill it with soil. Then you have a lip right around your tomato plant and pepper plant and you can just water inside the lip for the longest time, instead of the dirt around the plant, so the water goes right to the roots."

We took a trip to Liz's place and made a demonstration video you can check out at http://www.mcall,com/onthecheap. You'll see how this is a good technique for directing water to your plants, especially if your garden is on a slope like Liz's. Watering a sloped garden can result in a lot of waste. And the lip helps you save time on watering since you don't have to slowly drip irrigate. You can fill the lip and let it soak down to the plant. If you try to rush without the lip, a lot of your water will just run down the slope.

If you don't have cardboard beverage containers, you can use plastic ones instead. Just cut them the same way.

Before we get to further benefits of Liz's tip, we wanted to share some feedback from one of our most loyal readers, Bob Stevenson. He got pretty excited about the vegetable can water tip for your tomato plants, which we estimated would save $7.23 over 20 years.

"Saving $7.23 on water over 20 years is a joke," Bob said. "Is that the best you can do? Thirty-six cents a year? Less than a penny a week. Does your boss read your stuff before it goes to press? He must not."

Actually, she does. And she's Italian, so she probably loves tomatoes.

"Now see what you can do to save us some real money," Bob said.

We're glad he took the time to write us such an encouraging note. He should consider a career on the motivational speaker circuit.

Turns out, there is a lot more to these tips than saving on water. Liz explained that her tips also help save on fertilizer, which costs a lot more and can be more damaging if it spreads far and wide. You'll be using less water, which means you'll need less water-soluble fertilizer if you use it.

"You could put your Miracle Gro right in there, too," Liz said. "If you want a bigger reservoir, you could cut the container in half instead of thirds. Just thought I'd pass that tip along for whatever it's worth."

It's worth quite a bit, Liz. We did some number crunching in the On The Cheap lab and figure this tip would save you $246.60 over 20 years. That's enough to help Bob spread a lot more fertilizer.

Send your tips: spencer.soper@mcall.com, 610-820-6694 or P.O. Box 1260 Allentown, 18105.

Facebook: Type "On The Cheap" in the Facebook search box and check under pages.

Videos: mcall.com/onthecheap

Save on fertilizer

Cheapster: Liz Phillips

Tip: Put cardboard beverage cartons around plants

Estimated savings: $246.60 over 20 years

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