How To Make Seed Starting Pots From Newspaper
This how to post will cover the creation of small pots out of newsprint, perfect for starting seeds. The photo above shows stout seedlings of Cynara scolymus ‘Violet de Provence’, free seeds that came with an issue of the British magazine last year. Since our issues arrive a month late in the United States, it was too late to start these purple flowered artichokes then. We didn’t know that however and planted some outdoors in the ground. They never came up. These seeds were sown on heat mats in the greenhouse on January 17, 2010.
You will need to buy the wooden form to make the pots. Ours came from Thompson And Morgan Seeds online, but they are offered from other vendors and most are the same size and price, around $20. Note: I bought the form, it was not free and I have received no compensation from T&M. I provide no link, either, you might have noticed, but you can find them yourselves, I am sure.
You will need a newpaper, measuring device with centimeters or inches, a pen and scissors. You may use any section of the paper that you wish. Most newspapers are printed with soy based inks, and there are color photos throughout the paper. It’s okay to use those pages with colored inks, she says with optimistic fervor. A table top helps make the job go faster, but you could do it on the floor or any other flat surface. A newspaper from top to bottom was approximately 57 centimeters, the length called for on the instructions on the box. That certainly makes life easier, doesn’t it? To measure the height, we used a seamstress tape measure, the only thing we had that showed centimeters, and found that 8 cm is the same as 3 and a smidge inches. Let’s call it 3 1/16 inches. Make a mark at that height at each edge of the paper then draw your cutting line across. Make all the lines before cutting. I used one section of newspaper, about five sheets folded to make ten layers total. Our small paper came out exactly to three strips and the top piece when unfolded was the same height. This should make thirty-five pots with no waste. Cut across the lines with scissors and you are ready to roll.
Here is where the directions on the box are not clear enough. When you begin to roll the paper on the form, leave a nice space as you begin, or you will not be able to get the paper pot off of the form easily and may tear it. Continue rolling loosely, keeping the paper evenly on the form. After rolling it completely, straighten the edge if necessary, fold the bottom over the end of the form, having the loose edge in the middle of the first fold. Keep the top edge of the roll nearly even to the top of the wooden cylinder, below the handle. There will be about an inch at the bottom that will be folded to secure the pot.
Continue folding the edges over until it looks like this. It will be sort of loose around the wooden form, important so that you can remove the paper pot from the form with ease. The folds at the bottom can be tight, but don’t have to be as tight as you can get them. The next step will take care of that.
Fit the folded bottom over the wooden base. Push down hard and go back and forth with your hand, smooshing the folded paper into the base. After six or seven twists, the bottom of the pot should hold the depression made from the wooden base. Push hard without hurting yourself, for this will be done over and over again. You will get into a rhythm after the first couple of pots and it will go quickly.
Keep your finished pots someplace where they will not get crushed. I use a shoe box and keep them in the greenhouse where they will be used to start seeds. This size of pot fits nicely into the saved four packs that Mouse Creek Nursery uses for their annuals. The plastic packs are perfect for our seed starting endeavors.
The paper pots are filled with moist seed starting mix. The seeds are planted at whatever depth is recommended, a little vermiculite sprinkled on top to prevent damping off and they are placed in a tray on the heat mats with a clear plastic lid. Once germination occurs, the pots can be moved singly to the light stand. Since seeds rarely germinate at exactly the same time, this allows for each pot to be moved without disturbing the others. Seed starting cell packs, usually with many individual cells are not as convenient. Jiffy Pots made from peat are not as conducive for growth as the bagged seed starting mix that is used to fill the paper pots. Purchased peat pots are expensive and do not decompose as quickly as the newspaper pots, if at all. The peat pots also will keep the precious contents from getting adequate water if the pot edge is above ground level when planted outdoors, drying out too quickly. This has been our most successful year ever with the seeds. Of course they still have to make it outside into the ground. The first shot in this group is of gold and orange swiss chard, backed by the Dahlia ‘Bishop’s Children’ that were sown in the fall, in the paper pots. The above is a seedling of lettuce Brune D’Hiver.
We have learned from past mistakes, and will not put the babies outside before ALL danger of frost and cold weather is over, if that is what they need to thrive. Being able to handle each seedling individually will make a world of difference in providing the proper hardening off. The cost of the pots, prorated against the cost of the form makes these the next best thing to free. Above is a mass of Hyssop officinalis, in a flat without the cell pack dividers for better use of the limited space under the grow lights. The artichokes from the first photo of this post are at the end of the row. These paper pots were also used for the winter sowing in milk jugs that wait patiently out of doors for the right temperture to begin growing. They will be planted right into the ground, with the roots secured and unharmed, growing right through the newspaper. Some roots are already showing in the older seedlings inside, so spring, we are ready when you are.
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We wish to thank The Financier for helping with this post by snapping the shots of rolling the newspaper into pots. A first time for everything.