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.
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.
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:
- Starting Seeds in Coffee Filters (or Paper Towels)
- Soaking Seeds to Speed Germination
- Advice for New Gardeners: The Best Seeds to Plant in Spring
- Leggy Seedlings: What Causes Them and How to Correct Them
This post updated from an article that originally appeared on March 12, 2011.