Newspaper Plant Starter Pots

by Lisa Linderman on May 14, 2009

in diy,photos,seed starting,waste reduction

So I just wrote about dealing with the overflow of plastic pots you might have if you buy plants very often. Of course one easy thing to do with them is use them to start new seeds. But if you actually have a situation where you don’t have enough little plastic pots, or yours are all too large, then what?

You can of course buy peat pellets, or the brown biodegradable pots you can plant right along with your seedlings. Or…you can make your own “plantable” pots out of recycled newspaper. Cheaper, available in endless quantities so you never run out in the middle of planting, makes good use of waste materials, and kinda fun to do, especially if you have kids!

There are several methods. All of them require:
* Black and white newsprint (no colored newspaper)
OR plain brown paper, as from shopping bags
OR other plain, uncolored paper, at least 10″ in length and 3.5″ wide
* Scissors or a paper cutter
* Potting soil
* Seeds or seedlings
* Brown paper tape (optional – use paper tape as it’s biodegradable)
Method 1: Storebought Pot Making Tool
I have one of these little doodads, called a Pot Maker. They’re available at various garden stores, and range in price from $9.99 to $19.99, so shop around.
Take your paper, and cut strips 3 1/2″ wide by 10″ (at least) long. Wrap a strip around the pot form, leaving the first corner sticking up a little bit and wrapping the rest around the cylinder part of the form. You should have it fairly even at the top of the cylinder, and have quite a bit sticking over the bottom.
Fold in the bottom on one side, then the other, creating two pointed bits. Fold in one point, then the other. (You rolled coins sometime in your life, right? Same idea.) Press the folded bottom down onto the mold form, and twist a few times to crease. Remove from the form, and fold the little pointy corner you left at the top forward over the side of the pot, to secure it.

Fill with dirt and seeds or seedlings, pack tightly into a seed-starting tray, pan, or box, and you’re good to go!

Method 2: Homemade Pot Making Tool
Two words: Pop Can. Seriously. It’s a little larger than the pot making tool described above, but it’s got the divot on the bottom and it’s cylindrical. Plus it’s basically free. A full pop can will work better than an empty one, just because you won’t have to worry about crushing it, but either way will suffice. And if you crush an empty one, hey, you can always get another.

Measure the paper lengthwise to wrap at least twice around the can, and widthwise to go halfway up the pop can plus 3/4 of the way across the bottom. Proceed as above. When it comes time to smash it onto the bottom form, use a lid from a milk or preferably a juice jug, and press the bottom of the can firmly onto that, twisting to be sure it creases. If you have difficulty getting it to crease, you can add a small piece of brown paper tape to your pot to hold it together.

If you want to make this a more permanent setup, take an empty pop can, fill it with sand, and seal the top tightly with duct tape. For the base, take a block of wood slightly larger than the diameter of the pop can, place a juice jug lid in the center of it, and glue it in place with heavy-duty glue like gorilla glue or barge cement. Not so pretty, but it’ll work well enough!
You can actually use any size cylinder you like, from a fish food container to a can of vegetables. If you don’t have the divot on the bottom for crimping, just secure the bottom fold with a piece of paper tape.

Method 3: Origami
I haven’t the patience for this method, but some people do! It makes containers more sturdy than the above, and some can be done with recycled printer paper (check to be sure your inks don’t contain anything toxic. Soy ink is ideal.)

Some of you probably made origami boxes as a kid. Same idea for newspaper pots! Since I’m not an Origami gal, I’m going to leave some pointers to tutorials.
Origami Seedling Pot Instructional Video – bit long, but thorough, and good design.
Origami Seedling Pot – same basic pot as above, pictures and instructions
Origami Box – Sure looks the same as the others, but it’s from Rachael Ray’s site, and it’s designed for use with thicker paper to make party snack holders.
Origami Seedling Pot Video 2 – About half as long as the first one, same basic pot.

Notes About Newspaper Pots
* I don’t find these pots to be terribly sturdy, so you’re probably going to want to pack them close together in a tray. A reusable seed-starting tray would be ideal, but an old roasting pan (check Goodwill or your local thrift stores) or even a very sturdy cardboard box would do…just remember the cardboard will get wet and eventually disintegrate.

* Again because they’re not terribly sturdy, you’re probably going to want to use a fairly loose, dry potting soil mix to fill the pots. Of course it will compact down when you water it, it just makes loading the little pot easier.

* They do dry out fairly quickly, though if you keep them packed shoulder to shoulder and in a humid greenhouse, it won’t be much of an issue.
* And finally, when it comes to planting these guys, you won’t be able to carry them too far unless your seedlings have become rootbound, in which case the roots will hold the soil together. Just carry the entire tray over to where you’re going to plant, and lift each pot out carefully or they will fall apart. (This is also true of most peat pots after a few weeks of being in the greenhouse, so it’s not really much different.)


A Chistoff May 21, 2009 at 7:37 am

Hi, yes the idea is great however I’ve found a better one: it is called next generation paper pot maker and it is much cheaper. Plus you can add soil without damaging the pot you just made.

Jennifer Stone October 13, 2009 at 12:31 am

I'm a few months behind, but I'm reading your blog bit by bit.
For those people who still buy their eggs (as opposed to stopping by the local henhouse :D), I find that paper egg cartons work really great for making starters.

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