Easy-Peasy Newsprint Pots

Newsprint pots sporting seedlings

Seeds were ordered and are well on their way, so time to prepare to start them indoors! In the past, I’ve used store-bought “professional” greenhouses. You know what I’m referring to: Those flimsy plastic trays with the teeny tiny pockets that are about the width of your index finger, into which you painstakingly plunge your little seeds with a stick and hope they’ll figure out which end is up in their crowded Manhattan-style apartment. And then once they sprout and it’s time to transplant outdoors, you have to surgically remove them from those little pockets with a pointy grapefruit spoon because the roots are so entangled through the drainage hole that the plants are screaming bloody murder while you’re destroying all the work you’ve put into it in less time than you can sneeze. Times 72 pockets in the tray.

Last year I discovered newsprint pots. They are humane. They are bigger and therefore easier to work with, and you can just bury them into the soil with the plant because…they will biodegrade! Kids can make them. Pets can eat them (although I don’t know why they would want to). And my bet is that you already own all the supplies you will need. Special thanks to the National Gardening Association for their article on Eco-Containers, from which these instructions are adapted.

Finished pots

Materials:
1. Scissors
2. Soy-Ink Newspaper, cut into strips (3″ wide for very small pots ~1.5″ tall, 4″ for medium pots ~2″ tall, 5″ for larger pots ~ 2.5″ tall, etc.). Length of strip should be about 1″ longer than then length of your cans or jars, see below.
3. Food Cans or Jars (the diameter of the vessel is the diameter of your pot)
4. Flour Paste (start by mixing 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, NOT self-rising, and 1 tablespoon water, then continue to add about 1/4 teaspoon more flour or water until you get it to be the consistency of thin pancake batter)

Bowl of Flour Paste

Bowl of Flour Paste

5. Teaspoon, Stirrer, Popsicle Stick, Finger, etc. to mix and spread paste

Instructions:
1. Roll strip of newspaper around can or jar, using your paste spreading tool to spread a thick line of paste to secure the seam. Don’t skimp on the paste! Be sure to let about half the length of the paper hang off the end of the can so that you have material to create the bottom.

2. On the end where the paper is overhanging, snip 6-7 vertical slits in the paper to create flaps. Make sure not to cut into where you just pasted the seam together.

3. Fold these flaps down one by one in a circle while putting paste under each flap to secure as the bottom. I like to start by folding in the seam piece first and layering the rest around it. Slide the completed pot off the can. Note: You can also try to fold down the flaps as you would a gift, but I found that this did not work as well due to the round shape.

 

You can reinforce the bottom or cover any gaps by applying paste to small strips of paper and layering them inside and across the bottom. You can also spread paste across the bottom if you really want to go nuts with it.

Plugging a Hole

Plugging a Hole

Set pots aside to dry, at least several hours.
Once the paste dries and hardens, you can fill the pots with dirt or seed starter mix and place them in trays, then plant the seeds as you normally would. This year I’m going to place a layer of pea gravel down underneath the pots to encourage better drainage. I find the old trays from the abandoned “professional” greenhouses work well for this, as do old plastic shoe storage bins.

Finished pots

My crop of pots

Your seedlings will thank you.

Garden-Bound

I’ve just begun planning my spring garden. And by “just begun,” I really mean I am still getting around to tearing out the old stuff from last year. Well, that’s mostly done, and I just found a small crop of perfect, still moist-from-today’s-rain Swiss chard and Chinese mustard greens to boot! (Talk about a reward for procrastination…)

Swiss ChardThose beauties will be sautéed tonight with some dill and butter, and served alongside herbed brown rice, smoky black beans (recipe forthcoming), and maybe some tomato side. It may sound weird, but the dill and chard blend together in an unfamiliar symphony, the soprano and tenor voices combining into savory and tangy yet sweet flavors.

Much as it pains me, this year I am giving up on tomatoes (waste of space until it cools off enough for them to grow fruit buds in September, and then all I get are green tomatoes by November) and squash (squash vine borers spoiled it for themselves. Guess they’ll just have to wait and hopefully die out by next year). Admittedly two of my favorite summer produce items, but this will give me an excuse to frequent the farmers markets and collect seeds!

My list of desired plants is long. I need to figure out how to maximize growing space on the property without taking it over. My neighbors will probably hate me for it, but raspberries and beans are probably going to be trellised up the fence in the front yard. I can’t stand to think of the wasted space otherwise!

Also on the seed list…Brussels sprouts; leafy greens like chard, beets, mustard, bok choi, and kale; peas (the hubby’s favorite); purple potatoes (there is NOTHING like a fresh picked organic new potato, trust me, super sweet and actual potato flavor!); fennel; cauliflower; eggplants; okra; hot peppers; cucumbers; and artichokes. Probably many other things as well; I am only at “L” in the seed catalog. (Secretly, I would love to own a farm. With chickens. But I suspect that will not be in the cards…)