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bonniepunch

How to make cheap/free pots for your seeds(long)

18 years ago

It's seed starting time! There are a million different sorts of pots and systems out there for starting your seeds, but I might be able to save some of you a few bucks. I don't buy those peat pots or plastic thing-a ma-jigs - I make my own pots out of newspaper. They're not perfect (everything has it's good and bad aspects), but they cost basically nothing, and for many sorts of seeds, they are far better than those peat pots.

I don't like peat pots for many reasons. Peat pots are supposed to break down in the soil, they're supposed to allow the roots to grow through, and they're supposed to breathe well. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. They're not deep enough for many seeds that put out a tap root. They're too dense for fine rooted plants to break through, and they can form a barrier once planted in the ground that prevents water from reaching the root system of your seedling. But most of all they can get expensive if you buy a lot of them (I'm cheap!)

Newspaper pots can be made as deep as you want. Mine have no bottom, so the roots don't have to be disturbed at all, they can grow straight down and out. Wet newspaper tears away very easily, so you can make gaps in the pot and remove much excess paper when you plant the pot. And it's free! I don't use one of those 'blocker' things you have to buy - why pay money if I don't have to.

The main disadvantage of my pots is that because they have no bottom they are difficult to move around if you want to shift seedlings from one tray to another (it can be done if you're very careful). I just plan ahead a bit - I don't sow lobelia next to tomatoes :-)

Here's how I do it:

First, I cut a bunch of strips from newspaper. I make mine about 4-5 inches wide, and this is how tall my pots will be. I then hold one of the strips and wrap it around my fingers to form a tube.

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I seal my tube with a strip of masking tape - it peels off easily when I want to plant the seedling. I now have a tube of newspaper about 2 inches in diameter. You can make them as big or as small as you want (if you make it bigger, use more layers of newspaper).

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I make as many tubes as I need, and then I place them in my prepared trays (Anything will work, as long as the sides are roughly as high as the newspaper pots).

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Now I fill the tubes with seed starting mix, and I tamp it down lightly.

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I water the trays carefully (too fast will make the pots float at first!) and I'm ready to go!

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If I need to cover anything I cut out small squares from a plastic bag and place them on any individual pot needing covering.

When I am ready to plant the seedling I carefully remove the pot from the tray and tear off the top bit of newspaper. Usually by this time the roots have grown down to the bottom of the pot and will hold the soil together, but sometimes the roots haven't gotten that far and the bottom of the pot will fall out - it's no big deal. I just tear off any extra newspaper and plant it.

Sometimes a fine mold will grow on the newspaper - that's fine. The newspaper is just breaking down a bit, and it won't hurt your seedlings or cause damping off (that's caused by a different fungus and too much moisture)

BP

Comments (14)

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Bonnie: It's always good to see what techniques others are using for their successes with their seed sowing and your description with pictures is great. I know I am always glad to see these"tutorials" on any subject as they are wonderful learning tools. Thanks for sharing your techniques with us all. Ross.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    wow what an amazing idea. I am going have to try that one as I have tons and tons of newspapers.
    Thanks for sharing that with us.
    Patricia

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I have done this before. Thanks for the great instructions and photos.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks so much for the pictures and great instructions Bonnie.
    I plan to make up some of these little pots this afternoon :)
    I save my toilet paper rolls to use as well...but I never seem to remember to start saving them soon enough...and usually run short. Now I have a solution to that problem :)

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Perfect timing, I bought some seeds today and was wondering what I could use as pots to keep the cost down. Thanks so much for sharing and the pics.

    Val

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    What a great post. The pictures really make the difference. Thanks for the money-saving idea.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I bought a newspaper-pot-maker about 10 years ago, and I've put a lot of mileage on it. I'm not as nimble as Bonnie, and need a little bit of help. The one I bought was from Lee Valley, but I'm sure you can get them at any garden center. You get to the point where you just zip off a hundred pots while watching the evening news.

    I'll include a link to "my" particular type. A little hint: when I tuck in the bottom, and before I "seal" (squish) it, I spray it with just plain water. It holds together beautifully.

    Hope this helps someone.

    - Merri

    Here is a link that might be useful: The Lee Valley Pot Maker (1 type)

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I save my toiletpaper rolls and cut them in half.
    I have become quite addicted to saving them, I can't seems to stop. I just hang a bag in under the sink and throw them all in there. My problem is finding the trays to put them in.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    mastiff, margarine bowls work pretty well, as do the plastic trays from bagged cookies (although they are getting flimsier and flimsier).

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Mastiff: thanks for the TP roll idea. I usually save them to tuck electrical cords in (extension cords, messy computer cords, etc.), and I always feel guilty when I toss one out. Now I can slip in some newspaper for a quick "bottom" and...tah dah! Seedling homes!

    VERY nice trick! :-)

  • 16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Merricat, I have one of those potmakers. I keep a damp dishcloth in a bowl beside me to wet the folded bottom on. I just fold the bottom and then push it down on the cloth before inserting it in the base.

    I came up with an idea awhile back, and that's to dip the newspaper in a flour/water mix like paper mache to help make the pot hold it's shape and the bottom stay folded. I also thought about mixing some water soluble fertilizer in with the flour and water to feed the plants when the roots get that far.

    Any comments?

  • 16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I made about 80 or so of these paper pots and the plants seemed to do well in getting started. Started Columbine, corn, cucs, melons, peppers, tomatoes, morning glories, and a number of annual flowers. What I did not do was to open the paper up when I planted and some things just did not seem to get roots out quickly through the paper so they were delayed flowering and/or producing. The corn did remarkably well though. We left a bit of the paper showing to thwart the cutworms but I would not do this again with corn as they ended up too shallowly planted. Longer paper tubes probably would do the trick. I think I will find a taller bottle to use as a form. See this link from my blog on making the pots.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Paper pots

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I have another great recycling idea. I start my plants in paper to go coffee or drink cups. I have had amazing results. I too shun the peat cups, they seem to suck the moisture out of the soil and I dont find them to break down at all. good idea with the toilet paper roll..however my child always steal those for crafts lol

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    The problem I have with any of these methods is dealing with molds and some molds do kill the seedling. I find with paper that things get slimy on the sides despite that I have used fans to circulate air around the plants. So for indoor growing, these is not a method I would employ for risk of getting mold in the house.

    I do like peat pots though for plants that do not take long to grow and will easily transport outside. I use thin peat pots that will easily break down and once i am ready to plant outdoors, I woul simply rip off part of the peat pot and plant them deep so pot doesn't show. In time the pot becomes part of the soil outdoors.

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