Monday, January 12, 2009

Recycled Newspaper for Seed Pots

I discovered recently that we do not have enough plastic flats for the number of seeds we want to start indoors this year. So what is a frugal girl to do? I didn't want to buy more, but I also did not want to reduce the number of plants we would be growing. And then, it hit me as I was perusing Burpee's website. I saw this item, which sells for $18 and will help you make seed pots out of newspaper. Well, I figured that there was no need to spend money to make seed pots out of free newspaper, so I started looking around on the internet for a tutorial on how to do it. And guess what - it's easy, it supposedly reduces transplant shock, and it is free (or nearly free, if you pay for your newspaper). I could just direct you to the site where I found the tutorial, but that would be no fun, right? So I'm going to make a tutorial of my own for everyone who might want to do this themselves.

First, a note of caution. Most black newspaper ink is made from soy and is not harmful for your plants. But be careful of colored ink. Some is still petroleum based and toxic. So if your newspaper (like ours) uses mostly colored ink, you might not want to use it for edible plants without first checking with the printers to make sure the ink is safe. Fortunately for us, most of the seeds I was sowing this time* were flowers for my new flower bed (yay!), so I didn't bother checking with my paper first. Okay, now time to get started.


*One half pint canning jar, without the lid (this turned out to be a good size for our pots; you could use any size jar you want)
*Newspaper sheets, with the individual pages separated (example: if A1 and A2 are connected to A15 and A16, you want to tear them down the middle so that you have a long rectangle, not a square)
*A box of some sort to give the pots some support
*A place for the seeds to germinate


1. Fold a newspaper sheet into thirds so that you have a long, thin strip.

2. Wrap the strip around the open end of your canning jar, making sure that about half of the paper sticks out over the top of the jar.

3. Fold the overlapping paper into the jar.

4. Remove the paper from the jar, invert the jar, and press the bottom of the jar into your pot such that you create the pot's bottom.

5. Fill with soil and place into the box, making sure the pot is supported on all sides (I found that the pots do not hold their shape for very long without support and something in them).

6. Sow your seeds, water them in, and place the box in a sunny window or under a grow lamp or in a greenhouse to germinate.

When it comes time to plant them outside, you could do one of two things (and I'm not sure yet which I will do). First, you could plant the entire pot into the ground, as the newspaper will eventually decompose and allow the roots to grow out of the pot. But in my experience, this does not happen in our soil quickly enough for me to love that idea. Second option is to unravel the newspaper from the soil, and treat it sort of like you would roottrainers.

*Okay, I know I said in a previous post that we wouldn't be starting seeds until February 4th. Well, I apparently have very little willpower. I decided to start some lettuce and wildflower seeds right now. The flowers I'm starting indoors because the bed I'm planting them in will probably have lots of weed seeds germinate along with the wildflowers I'm sowing. So I divided the flowers up by type and sowed a sampling of each kind of flower. Then I plan to take pictures of each seedling as it becomes distinct and keep that on file for when I do a mass sowing. That way I'll know which seedlings are flowers and which are weeds. At least, that's the idea....

The lettuce is supposedly winter hardy lettuce, so I think we'll be safe there. Also, we have use of a sunny South-facing window this year, which we didn't last year (it was blocked by something else). So I anticipate that most of the plants will fare much better than they did last year. But I will wait until February for the peppers and tomatoes. They just didn't do well at all last year, and I certainly have the discipline to wait for better results there!

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  • Sherry

    How resourceful of you! I wish I had thought of that way back when I was planting so much. I have actually thought about planting my spring garden NOW outside. Peas, radishes, turnips, carrots, kale, cabbage & collards are all very hardy & I used to plant them in Feb. in Charlotte with good results so I thought January in Atlanta might actually work. I am always late planting things (Mar.)because I have no time. I'm not sure this year will be any better, but I can try!

  • Ginny

    Thats a wonderful idea. I have been doing that for a few years now and it works very well. I like it that it is cheap, too.