Starting Seeds In Newspaper: Making Recycled Newspaper Pots
By: Amy Grant
Reading the newspaper is a pleasant way to spend the morning or evening, but once you’re finished reading, the paper goes into the recycling bin or simply tossed. What if there was another way to use those old newspapers? Well, there are, in fact, several ways of reusing a newspaper; but for the gardener, making newspaper seed pots is the perfect repurpose.
About Recycled Newspaper Pots
Seed starter pots from newspaper are simple to make, plus starting seeds in newspaper is an environmentally friendly use of the material, as the paper will decompose when the seedlings in newspaper are transplanted.
Recycled newspaper pots are fairly simple to make. They can be made in square shapes by cutting the newspaper to size and folding the corners in, or in a round shape by either wrapping cut newsprint around an aluminum can or folding. All this can be accomplished by hand or by using a pot maker – a two part wooden mold.
How to Make Newspaper Seed Pots
All you will need to make seed starter pots from newspaper is scissors, an aluminum can for wrapping the paper around, seeds, soil, and newspaper. (Do not to use the glossy ads. Instead, opt for actual newsprint.)
Cut four layers of newspaper into 4-inch (10 cm.) strips and wrap the layer around the empty can, keeping the paper taut. Leave 2 inches (5 cm.) of the paper below the bottom of the can.
Fold the newspaper strips under the bottom of the can to form a base and flatten the base by tapping the can on a solid surface. Slip the newspaper seed pot from the can.
Starting Seeds in Newspaper
Now, it is time to start your seedlings in newspaper pots. Fill the recycled newspaper pot with soil and press a seed lightly down into the dirt. The bottom of seed starter pots from newspaper will disintegrate so put them in a waterproof tray next to each other for support.
When the seedlings are ready to transplant, simply dig a hole and transplant the entirety, recycled newspaper pot and seedling into the soil.
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Make your own newspaper seed pots
These pots are not only recycled and biodegradable but also fun and easy to make. Why not get your kids involved, too?
The finished pots are quite sturdy while the seeds are growing, but they’ll break down quickly once they’ve been planted in the soil, meaning you don’t have to transfer them.
What you need
How to make it
- Lay a full sheet of black and white newspaper flat. Don’t use shiny, coloured paper as it may contain heavy metals that could drain into your soil.
- Fold the paper in half lengthwise twice to form a long, narrow strip of folded newspaper.
- Lay a small, glass jar on its side and place it on one end of the strip of paper. Roll the newspaper around the jar. The jar is used only as a form to roll the paper around. About half of the strip of paper should overlap the open end of the glass.
- Push the ends of the paper into the open end of the jar. This step doesn’t have to be neat and tidy just stuff the overlapping newspaper into the jar.
- Pull the jar out of the newspaper pocket so you have the newspaper pot in your hand.
- Push the bottom of the jar into the newspaper cup, squashing the folded bottom to flatten. This step will seal the bottom of your pot. Once the pot has been filled with soil, the bottom will be secure.
- Pull the jar out and you have a finished paper pot, ready to grow seeds in.
2 ways to make newspaper pots for starting seeds
This first method just involves folding the newspaper to make a square pot. See the video for full instructions. They’re super simple to make!
And using this method from HGTV, round pots can be made using a bottle or can as a guide. Simply roll folded newspaper around a cylindrical object, fold in the edges at one end to create a base, and fold over the top edges to make the rim of the pot. See the full instructions here.
Once your newspaper pot is complete, fill it with potting soil, plant the seeds, and put them in a waterproof tray in a sunny window or greenhouse. When the seedlings are ready to transplant, just dig a hole large enough to plant the whole pot in the ground. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
Be sure to check out our article on biodegradable seed starter pots to see more ideas of free materials you can use to make pots. You probably have most of these items sitting around your house right now, so might as well use them for gardening!
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Two ways to make Newspaper Plant Pots: the quick way and the origami method
Two ways that you can make newspaper plant pots. One method gives you round pots in less than 30-seconds and the other is a square origami-style pot. Use either for starting seeds, or growing small plants in. Full video at the end.
It’s not news that our world is swimming in plastic. It litters our seas, communities, and countryside and so far the focus has been on single-use food packaging. Water bottles, carrier bags, and the like. What’s less talked about is the plastic we use in gardening. The plastic bags that compost arrives in, the flimsy pots we buy plants in. Sometimes it seems overwhelming.
Though many of these items can be reused, I’m loathe to buy any more plastic than I need to. That’s how I got into a panic.
It’s spring and my greenhouse is overflowing with seedlings. Tiny plants that need planting into their own pots. The ones I had already were used right away and before I knew it, I’d run out. Instead of guilt-buying more, the situation presented the perfect opportunity to learn how to make paper plant pots. The good news is that not only did I learn quickly, and think you can too, but you don’t need any special-made tools to do the trick.
Paper plant pots that I made yesterday and planted up with Cosmos seedlings
Recycled paper pots for growing seeds and plants
The gardening industry knows that demand is increasing for eco-friendly products and you can already buy plastic-free plant pots. There’s the popular peat pots, more durable bamboo pots, and compost plug pellets, among others. They can be quite expensive if you plan on growing more than a few plants though.
Using newspaper to create your own pots is cheaper and even more eco-friendly. Use up the newspapers you have already or take some home from your local recycling center. Once made, they’re durable enough for the purpose.
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Is newspaper safe to use in the garden?
I originally shared how to make newspaper plant pots on YouTube and was surprised by how many people hadn’t heard of them before. Many people thought it was a great idea but some were worried about whether using newspaper in the garden was safe.
Ordinary newspaper with black or colored ink is considered safe to use for plant pots. In the past, inks were made with petroleum-based ingredients but these days it’s made mainly with soybean oil. That means that the ink and paper are both biodegradable. The colors in the ink come from non-organic substances but are in such small amounts that it would’t harm you to eat it. Eating newspaper might not be the best meal you’ve ever had though.
You might be unsure about your own newspaper and fortunately there are ways to check if it’s safe. Sometimes newspapers will include a section telling you about the printer, paper, and ink, so look for that first. If you can’t find anything, see if the ink rubs off on your fingers. If a lot of it does, then it’s old-fashioned petroleum ink that doesn’t completely dry. Modern soy inks don’t tend rub off. Here’s more ways to test.
As for other types of paper: avoid anything shiny. Shiny paper like the advertising inserts in some newspapers and magazines are made with paper and ink that may not be safe for your garden.
You can make round pots as big or as small as the glass jar you use to make them with
You don’t need a special tool
The reason it took me so long to make my own newspaper plant pots is that I thought that you needed this special tool. This is so wrong and I’m kicking myself for not looking into it earlier. I also found not one way but TWO ways to make paper plant pots. All you’ll need is newspaper, glass jars, and some basic crafts tools.
If you wanted to get the tool that I was thinking of, you can make smaller plant pots. They’re the type that would be most handy for growing smaller seedlings in. Saying that, I don’t think it’s necessary, especially when you see how to make plant pots using the easy method.
Roll the newspaper around the jar, crumble in the bottom, and you have a plant pot ready to go
Easy newspaper plant pots
The easiest way to transform newspaper into plant pots is by using a glass jar. The diameter of the opening will be the diameter of your pot. Use different sized jars or glasses to create different sized plant pots. Just make sure you choose vessels with straight sides rather than tapered to make your life a little easier.
Standard sized newspapers are pretty big once you unfold them. Begin by cutting one down the folding line to separate it into two pages. Take one and fold it in half lengthwise. Next, place the jar at one end so that the closed bottom sticks out by a half inch or so. Roll the paper over the glass then crumple the overhanging paper into the open end of the jar.
Pull the jar out and your plant pot is nearly complete. Just squish the crumpled paper at the bottom flat and you’re ready to go. Easy-peasy and you’re on to making the next one in only thirty seconds. If any of this didn’t make sense, just watch the instructional video at the end.
Newspaper plant pots made with the origami style are a little more involved but come out beautifully
Origami plant pots
Although the round pots are easy to make, square origami plant pots have their own charm. The learning curve on making them is higher, but once you have the method down you can make pots relatively quickly. It’s also a brilliant skill to have for making small gift boxes.
For this method I’m going to direct you to the video since it’s makes more sense to watch. The video clip below this section shows how to make them.
The most important thing to know before making origami plant pots is about paper size. You will most likely need to measure and cut your newspaper down before you begin folding. Your paper needs to be in a ratio of 1:2, meaning that it’s length should be double the size of its width.
- A piece of paper sized 11×22” will give you a finished pot that is 3” square
- Paper sized 8.5×17” will make a pot that’s almost 2” square
- Starting with paper sized 6×12” makes 1” square pots
How long do newspaper pots last?
Although paper plant pots seem like they would disintegrate, they’re actually relatively durable. The easier to make round pots have quite a few layers and that sturdy crumpled bottom. They are more hard wearing than the origami pots and standing up well in my greenhouse after several weeks.
Newspaper pots I’ve received in the past have lasted well over that. The rim of the pots that don’t get as wet actually hardens over this time. I’ve had to pick it off before planting the seedlings out.
This is my first time using the origami style pots. Though they’re not as sturdy they’re still holding their own.
Over time the newspaper will discolor and wrinkle but it does hold together
Mold on newspaper pots
Another concern people have over paper plant pots is mold. Sometimes it starts growing on the sides of the pot and you might worry that it will affect your plants. Let me put your mind at ease.
Any color of fuzzy growth, or white filaments are mold and bacteria that feed on non-living organic matter. It’s a big issue in the book world when paper gets damp or is stored in humid conditions. The same thing happens to me sometimes when I grow plants in toilet paper rolls. These growths are interested in breaking down the cellulose in the paper, not your plants.
So when it comes to growth or mold on paper plant pots, don’t let it bother you.
Use trays to support your paper plant pots
Planting newspaper plant pots
Fill the pots you’ve made with compost, plant your seedling or sow the seeds, and water it. Treat it the way you’d treat any other plant pot. One thing that I’d recommend is setting them in some type of container that will give them a bit more support. I’m using empty seed trays and trays that I bought mushrooms in at the shop.
The pots will discolor and possibly mold with time but as long as the plants look healthy you’re fine. When it comes time to plant out, don’t forget to harden the plants off. Then you can plant them in the soil paper and all or gently pull the paper off first and compost it.
As already mentioned, newspaper is generally considered to be non-toxic. There are trace amounts of pigments that add the black or color to the ink but these too are not considered to be a threat. If they were, then just licking a finger to turn the page in reading the paper would be a hazardous act. Thankfully it’s not, or I’m sure folks would be lining up to sue.
More recycled gardening ideas
I hope you’ve found this recycled gardening idea helpful and please do watch the full video above. If you enjoy my videos I also invite you to subscribe to Lovely Greens on YouTube.
There are quite a few other items that you can recycle for use in the garden too. Plastic fruit and veg trays from the supermarket can make seedling trays. Paper cups can make plant pots – better yet if you can pick them up used from a coffee shop. There are loads more ideas over here.
How to Make Sturdy Recycled Newspaper Pots
Making seed pots out of old newspapers is not only a thrifty use of the newspapers, but also good for the planet. Commercial seed pots usually make you choose between throw-away plastic, or expensive pressed peat moss pots that can go straight into the ground, but use up a scarce natural resource in the process. Newspapers are equally biodegradable, much more economical, and provide a mulch and fertilizer for young plants. Remember not to use glossy or colored pages. Most colored inks these days are soy based inks and are safe.
Using Newspaper Pots
The easiest thing about making your own recycled newspaper pots is that when your seeds are ready to transplant outdoors, the transplant shock is considerably lessened. All you have to do is be sure there are drainage holes poked in the bottom of the newspaper pots, dig your planting hole, and place the seedling, pot and all, straight into the hole with some water. As the seedling grows, the newspaper decays into the soil, giving the tender plant instant mulch and fertilizer.
Here’s a tool designed especially for making your own newspaper pots, quickly and easily.
There is a complete origami folding method that you can use. But, folding pots around a mold is perhaps the easiest and sturdiest method of making recycled newspaper pots for your seeds. These have thick bottoms and tight folds, and are very roomy for seed starting. While you can purchase pot-making wooden molds from seed and garden catalogs, it’s just as easy to form them around a tin can.
Take a whole sheet of newspaper and fold in half vertically, then cut along the crease. Each piece makes one pot. Fold it in half again, and fold an inch over horizontally to make a lip. Roll the newspaper around the can, with about two inches extending beyond the bottom of the can. Fold over these two inches to make the pot bottom. Carefully slide the newspaper off the can while holding the bottom, and fold the lip over again inside the pot to secure the folds.
This tutorial from Mother Nature Network shows the origami newspaper pot making method.
For those gardeners who don’t have the patience or time to fold newspaper pots, an easier method may be to roll them. Lay out a sheet of newspaper and prepare a glue of flour and water. Starting at one end, roll a thick dowel, soup can or sturdy cup in the newspaper a full turn, then paint the strip of newspaper close to the can with the glue. Roll another layer, glue, and repeat until you get to the end. After your tube of newspaper dries, cut it into short seed pot lengths, perhaps three inches long. This creates open-ended cylindrical seed pots that you will need to put in a tray to water and transport, but it does eliminate any concern of adequate drainage, as the seed-starting soil mix is open to the air at the bottom.
Modest Wanderer blog takes you through the newspaper pot rolling process.
Simply fill these little pots with soil mix as you would any seed pot. Place them close together on trays, so that the newspaper pots are touching each other. These pots transfer water very well, so instead of watering each seed pot individually, you can pour water into the tray and the seedlings will take it up through the bottom of the newspaper pots, whichever pot-making method you choose to use.
Want to learn more about DIY seed pots?
Don’t have any newspaper handy? What about toilet paper or paper towel rolls? See how on YouTube.
Here’s a way to create square newspaper pots quickly, described in detail on YouTube.
Pankaj Sharma says
Sheri Starr says
Good idea but I wouldn’t use it for edible plants as newsprint is toxic
Katie Jense says
Today’s black and white newspaper print is usually soy based and not toxic.
Hasn’t been toxic for several years, might be toxic somewhere small but it’s hard to picture them having enough purchase power to keep old unpopular systems running. I think my home town went eco friendly decades ago.
Not true. Never was. And has been pointed out these days the ink is actually soy based, so everything in the newspaper is plant based.
Mary ann Blay says
Nice for our environment as the items are paper and will disintegrate
What about paper grocery bags? I don’t have newspaper but I have tons of brown paper bags. Do these fall apart? Do they mold easily? Can the roots really get through after transplanting? I’m really interested in doing this so my kids can make the pots and get into gardening.
Not sure why you’re taking all that time and using all that flour to make glue.
Just roll the paper around a jar, PVC pipe, or some other cylinder, leaving a little extra paper overlapping the end of the jar. crimp/fold the paper overlapping around the bottom, press flat against a hard surface, slide off the cylinder, and done.
If you really don’t like leaving a free end to slightly unravel, fold the top edge over on itself, one or two times.
If you are using large newspaper, rip in half. Turn piece of newspaper so the long side is facing you.
Fold in half, left to right.
Fold it again, bottom to top into a quarter size.
Fold it in half again, left to right.
Now fold the bottom rightcorner (marked with an “A” in Step four) up to the middle along the spine.
The crease in the center shown by the red line, was the bottom in Step four.
See how the “A” has moved up now?
Flip it over on the other side and do the same thing you just did in Step five.
Open the wings up to make a smooth shape like this. Do it to both sides.
Fold the wings in to the crease in the center.
Now flip it over and repeat Steps eight and nine. It should look like this when you are done.
Fold the top flaps down and crease them well.
Now you can open up your pot! Make sure to square the bottom so it can sit well.
If you don’t like the ears on your pot, you can fold them into the pot. When you fill it with soil, it will keep them locked in place.
If you want, you can also drop the ears into adjoining pots to make a four or six pack, like you find in the garden shops.
Fill with seed raising mix and plant your seeds and water them. It is best to keep the pots in a tray. When the seedlings have their first pair of leaves just plant the whole thing in the garden!
Some people may be concerned about the newspaper inks being absorbed by the plant. Although most newsprint is reputed to use vegetable based inks these days, if you are concerned, only use these pots for plants that you won’t eat.
Another use for old newspapers is to wet a few sheets and lay them down a few layers thick over weeds you want to suppress. Cover with sawdust or some sort of mulch to stop the newspaper from blowing away. I did this to the paths around my raised garden beds and it was a long time before anything started growing through. Make sure the newspaper sheets are overlapped to stop anything from growing up between the sheets.