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.
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
5. Teaspoon, Stirrer, Popsicle Stick, Finger, etc. to mix and spread paste
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
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.
My crop of pots
Your seedlings will thank you.