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.
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).
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.
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.
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.)
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 — that just provides extra drainage.
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.
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.
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 — in more than ways than one.
More seed starting tips:
- 6 Foolproof Tips to Germinate Hard-to-Start Seeds—Fast!
- Germinating Seeds in Paper Towels: A Quick and Easy Way to Start Seeds Without Soil
- How to Soak Seeds and Speed Up Germination Time
- The Best Seeds to Plant in Spring for Instant Gratification
- Damping Off Disease in Seedlings: Best Tips for Treatment, Control, and Prevention
- Leggy Seedlings: What Causes Them and How to Correct Them
This post updated from an article that originally appeared on March 12, 2011.
View the Web Story on DIY recycled newspaper pots for seed starting.
user newAugust 10, 2017 at 3:25 pm
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
Linda from Garden BettyAugust 15, 2017 at 7:03 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.
Silly Little SheepMarch 16, 2017 at 9:10 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 🙂
SylvieApril 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
Linda LyApril 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.)
wildnsweetApril 9, 2015 at 12:08 pm
Oh didn’t know that the microbes will break it down, thanks
Jess SmithMarch 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!
Linda LyMarch 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!
Drayton KittelJuly 31, 2014 at 8:27 pm
What is the fastest way to fill these cups?
Linda LyJuly 31, 2014 at 11:57 pm
Hold the bottom and use it like a scoop.
AndyApril 25, 2014 at 6:51 am
Petroleum based ink doesn’t harm your garden.
John CodyJune 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?
Linda LyJune 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.
John CodyJune 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!
AEMarch 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.
Linda LyMarch 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.
AmberJune 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.
AshleyWaterstradtMarch 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm
DofmercyFebruary 9, 2012 at 5:12 am
May I translate this post for my greek blog and of course upload your link?
Linda LyFebruary 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!
DofmercyFebruary 11, 2012 at 8:11 am
Ok!Thanks a million!Great work!
DofmercyFebruary 9, 2012 at 5:03 am
Greetings from Greece
tiffanyMarch 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!