Garden of Eatin' / How-To / Seeds & Seedlings

How to Make Recycled Newspaper Pots for Seed Starting

How to make recycled newspaper pots for seed starting

Seed starting doesn’t always mean going out and spending money on all those nifty peat pellets and peat pots and plug trays. Often times, you can recycle seed starting containers you already have in your house.

Related: Dollar Store Deals: Secrets to Scoring Cheap Seed Starting Supplies

These newspaper seedling pots are a great, simple weekend project to use up all those newspapers you’ve already read or, if you’re like me, the Sunday sections you’ll never read.

I cranked out 40 of these newspaper pots in an hour in front of the TV one night! If you have kids who love a crafty project, making seed pots is also a good way to pass a rainy day at home.

Related: Starting Seeds in Eggshells… Cute and Yes, Even Practical

You only need three basic materials that you likely already have around the house: newspapers, scissors, and a small can.

Newspaper seed starting pots are an easy DIY

How to Make Newspaper Pots for Seed Starting

Step 1: Gather your supplies.

Gather a stack of old newspapers, a pair of scissors, and a 6-ounce can of tomato paste.

Note: For seedlings, I find that a 6-ounce can (the kind that tomato paste usually comes in) is the perfect size. A shot glass also works well, or even a small jar (what you might find capers or curry paste in).

Gather a stack of newspaper, scissors, and a can of tomato paste to make your newspaper seed pots

Step 2: Cut the newspaper into long strips.

Grab two pages of newspaper (so you have a four-sheet stack). Cut the newspaper into thirds lengthwise, giving you three long strips.

Cut the newspaper into thirds lengthwise

Step 3: Use the can as a mold for rolling the newspaper.

On the end closest to you, lay the can on its side across the strip of newspaper. Leave about 1 inch hanging off the end of the can.

Roll the can along the newspaper away from you until it's wrapped all the way around

Step 4: Start rolling the can away from you.

Roll the can along the newspaper until it’s loosely wrapped all the way around. (Loose being key for easy removal of the can later.)

Make the bottom by folding the newspaper edge down over the can

Step 5: Fold the edges of the newspaper down to form the bottom of the pot.

Fold the edges of the newspaper down over the can, and work your way around in a circle until all the edges are folded over firmly.

They don’t have to be perfect; you can just smush the paper down with your fingers. It’s also fine if there is a small hole where the folds meet in the middle ā€” that just provides extra drainage.

Fold the edges of the newspaper down

Step 6: Flip the can over so your pot is right side up.

Flip the can over so the folded edges are now on the bottom. I like to press the can down on the folds to really crease the edges against the bottom of the can.

Finished newspaper seed pot

Step 7: Slide the can out to finish the pot.

Slide the can out and you’ve got a thrifty and biodegradable seedling pot!

Repeat the process to make as many seed starting pots as you need.

Homemade paper pots for seed starting

Don’t worry if it seems like the pot is flimsy or unraveling, especially at the bottom. Once filled with seed starting mix and moistened, the pot is surprisingly sturdy and holds it shape well.

The benefit to making recycled newspaper seed starters is that you can transplant your seedlings right into the garden, paper pot and all, and the newspaper will decompose naturally in the soil.

Or, simply unwrap the pot before you transplant the seedlings. Since you don’t have to dig them out of a plastic container, you won’t disturb the young roots.

Take care not to overwater, drench the bottoms, or let your seedlings live in the seed pots for more than three to four weeks, as the newspaper could disintegrate or mold.

You can toss the used newspaper into your compost pile, or repurpose it as bedding for your vermicompost bin.

See? That stack of aging newspapers in the garage can be good for your garden ā€” in more than ways than one.

Newspaper seed starters
Yield: 3 pots

How to Make Recycled Newspaper Pots for Seed Starting

How to make recycled newspaper pots for seed starting

If you've got time on your hands and a rainy day ahead, these recycled newspaper pots are the perfect project to give you a head start on the gardening season. Get the kids involved and crank out dozens of cheap seedling pots in a single afternoon!

Prep Time 1 minute
Active Time 4 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Difficulty Easy

Materials

  • Stack of old newspapers

Tools

  • Scissors
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

Instructions

  1. Grab two pages of newspapers (so you have a four-sheet stack). Cut them into thirds lengthwise, giving you three long strips.
  2. On the end closest to you, lay the can on its side across the strip of
    newspaper. Leave about 1 inch hanging off the end of the can.
  3. Roll the can along the newspaper until it's loosely wrapped all the way
    around. (Loose being key for easy removal of the can later.)
  4. Fold the edges of the newspaper down over the can, and work your way
    around in a circle until all the edges are folded over firmly. They don’t have to be perfect; you can just smush the paper down with your fingers. It’s also fine if there is a small hole where the folds meet in the middle — that just provides extra drainage.
  5. Flip the can over so the folded edges are now on the bottom. I like to
    press the can down on the folds to really crease the edges against the
    bottom of the can.
  6. Slide the can out. You now have a thrifty and biodegradable seedling pot!
  7. Repeat Steps 1 through 6 to make additional pots.

Notes

For seedlings, I find that a 6-ounce can (the kind that tomato paste
usually comes in) is the perfect size. A shot glass also works well, or
even a small jar (what you might find capers or curry paste in).

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

More seed starting tips:

This post updated from an article that originally appeared on March 12, 2011.

Linda Ly About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring ā€” all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more Ā»

23 Comments

  • Avatar
    user new
    August 10, 2017 at 8:25 am

    it is a very good idea for the plastic cup. but do not hide it with paper . the best way to see the rots of your seeds when they starts

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Linda from Garden Betty
      August 15, 2017 at 12:03 am

      I don’t find this to be necessary. If you overwater and the seeds end up rotting, you’ll know because they don’t germinate. Or do you mean the roots? I don’t think that’s necessary either. Just look for a couple sets of true leaves to appear on your seedlings; that’s when they’re good and ready for transplanting.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Silly Little Sheep
    March 16, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    I do the same with toilet paper rolls. I cut and fold the bottom and then just unfold it before putting the plants in the soil. I love it. Yours look a bit nicer though šŸ™‚

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Sylvie
    April 5, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    I was wondering you did not speak of the color ink in the newspaper and/or soy ink preferred regarding it being biodegradable and for those of us who prefer to stay organic? thanks

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      April 9, 2015 at 1:02 am

      You would have to call your newspaper office and ask what kind of black and color inks they use. Petroleum and soy-based inks are both biodegradable, but if you’re striving to stay organic, you might not want to put petroleum in your soil. (Though in a compost pile, microbes are able to break down petrochemicals.)

      Reply
      • Avatar
        wildnsweet
        April 9, 2015 at 12:08 pm

        Oh didn’t know that the microbes will break it down, thanks

        Reply
  • Avatar
    Jess Smith
    March 7, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    Hi Linda! Would you recommend using any type of clear plastic cover when starting seeds in these cups? I usually use the store bought kits that come with a clear lid, mini greenhouse style, but I’d rather try this method this year. Love your blog!

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      March 10, 2015 at 8:16 pm

      Hi Jess, if your environment is fairly cool, I do recommend a cover of some sort to speed up germination. You can place all your newspaper pots in the black trays that come with dome lids (your kit should be reusable), or you can cover them with plastic wrap until the seeds sprout. These days my kitchen stays around 68F and gets all day sun, which is sufficient for starting seeds without a lid.

      Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Drayton Kittel
    July 31, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    What is the fastest way to fill these cups?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      July 31, 2014 at 11:57 pm

      Hold the bottom and use it like a scoop.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Andy
    April 25, 2014 at 6:51 am
  • Avatar
    John Cody
    June 3, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    What’s the problem with petroleum-based ink? Will it actually harm my plants (keep them from sprouting or kill them) or is it just because petroleum-based ink isn’t organic?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      June 3, 2013 at 8:45 pm

      Petroleum will leach into the seed starting mix and potentially weaken the seedling. And if you let the paper pots biodegrade in the soil when you transplant the seedling, that petroleum will taint your garden soil as well, defeating the purpose of an organic garden. I wouldn’t say it’s disastrous for your garden, but it’s something to think about if you’re striving to be as pure as possible.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        John Cody
        June 3, 2013 at 9:32 pm

        Thanks for the quick response! I try to be as organic as possible, but I think that my paper uses petroleum ink. It seemed more wasteful to buy a paper specifically with the intent of slicing it into pots, so I wanted to make sure there were no serious harms from the ink. I think I’ll start my seed in the pots, but not plant the pots in the soil. Thanks for your help!

        Reply
  • Avatar
    AE
    March 23, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Note to anyone interested in trying this:
    I spent hours making newspaper pots and planting seeds in them today (47 pots in all!). After I finished I received an email from the Denver Post (Colorado’s main newspaper) telling me that they use petroleum-based black ink. Now all of my veggie starts are ruined. You will want to check with your newspaper company to make sure they use soy-based, which can be used for veggies, before you spend the time.

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      March 24, 2012 at 3:19 pm

      I hope you’re able to salvage those seedlings by moving them into different pots! I’m surprised a large newspaper would still use petroleum-based ink these days.

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Amber
      June 24, 2013 at 7:50 am

      Thanks for this info, AE. I live in Denver and have an enormous stack of the Post that I was planning to use.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    AshleyWaterstradt
    March 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    ooo! Fantastic!Ā 

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Dofmercy
    February 9, 2012 at 5:12 am

    Hi again,
    May IĀ  translate this post for my greek blog and of course upload your link?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      February 9, 2012 at 6:51 pm

      Hi there, you can summarize this post in Greek, but you must upload your own pictures to your blog with a link back to my original post. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Dofmercy
        February 11, 2012 at 8:11 am

        Ok!Thanks a million!Great work!

        Reply
  • Avatar
    Dofmercy
    February 9, 2012 at 5:03 am

    Excellent work!
    Greetings from Greece

    Reply
  • Avatar
    tiffany
    March 23, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    love this post and following posts on starting seeds indoors… i am going to bookmark for when we are in one place again, as a vegetable garden is on top of our list!

    Reply

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