One of our favorite ways to start seeds is by using newspaper pots! Yup—these pots are made from pieces of paper, and they are a wonderful, economical, plant-friendly way to get your seedlings off the ground each spring.
We’re going to show you how to make newspaper pots, why they are one of our favorite methods for starting seeds, plus answer all of your questions. Let’s dive in!
Why should I use these for seed starting?
While there are literally dozens of different methods for successfully starting seeds (trays, cups, blocks, peat pots, oh my!), newspaper pots are one of our favorites and have a ton of great benefits! Here’s why you’ll find newspaper pots in our seed starting setup:
- They’re economical: While you’ll need some sturdy 1020 trays to keep your pots contained and a pot maker, you don’t need to buy any other seed starting tools after that. You just use newspaper you have kicking around your house! This might not seem like a big savings if you are only starting a tray of tomatoes, but if you have a larger garden where you might start hundreds of seedlings—it really adds up!
- They’re environmentally friendly: Instead of dropping your finished newspapers in the recycling, upcycle them into pots! Don’t subscribe to the newspaper? Ask your neighbors to use their finished paper.
- They’re breathable and breakable: Why is this a good thing? Well, plants suffer when their roots become root bound—meaning their roots twist and form to the side of the pot. With newspaper pots, the roots of plants can break through the newspaper and either continue to grow, or be air trimmed for healthier plants!
- They reduce transplant shock: Because you can plant the entire pot (newspaper will break down quickly in the soil), you can reduce how much you disturb the roots when you plant, which reduces transplant shock.
How do you make newspaper starter pots using a pot maker?
There are two main sizes of newspaper pots that we use in the Growfully gardens, medium size origami pots (which you can see being made here), and these handy little newspaper starter pots.
To make these newspaper starter pots, you need a wooden pot maker. This pot maker will last for a lifetime! Here’s how you use a newspaper pot maker:
- Cut a strip of newspaper approximately 3” x 10” in length. It doesn’t have to be exact. A slightly longer strip will give you a sturdier pot.
- Line the top of the strip up with the top of the cylinder of the pot maker. Wrap the paper around the pot maker, overlapping the ends. Make sure not to wrap too tightly, or it will be difficult to remove.
- Some people like to use a small amount of biodegradable glue or paper tape to keep the top of the pot closed, we haven’t found this to be necessary if the pots are kept in trays.
- Push in the bottom of the overhanging paper.
- Place the bottom onto the base of the pot maker, and push down hard, twisting to seal the bottom of the pot.
- Remove the pot from the pot maker.
- Line it up in a 1020 tray and proceed with filling and planting.
Do they actually hold up?
Your mind will be blown by how well some rolled up paper will hold up to watering, moving, and seedling maintenance! We keep ours in a 1020 tray to give them a little bit of support, but other than that, we don’t treat them any differently from any other pot (and really that isn’t different either). You can top or bottom water them, move them around, fertilize, handle them—everything you’d do with a tray, peat pod, or pot! We wouldn’t recommend growing for a whole season in a newspaper pot, but they last plenty long enough to stand up through a course of seedling care.
Do I need to worry about mold?
When you keep germinating seeds moist and warm, mold naturally shows up. In general, a little bit of mold is nothing to worry about in your seedlings as long as the plants still seem strong and healthy. In fact, some minor mold growth can be a good sign of a robust colony of microorganisms in your soil!
But, of course, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, and we haven’t seen any more mold growth with newspaper pots than we have with other kinds of seed starting methods—in fact, we’ve seen noticeably less mold growth with newspaper pots than we’ve seen with plastic pots in the past. Probably because the newspaper is so breathable!
Can you plant newspaper pots?
Sure can, and that’s one of the big benefits of them! Just like peat pots or cow pots, you can plant newspaper pots directly in the ground and reduce transplant shock. Unlike peat pots and cow pots though, newspaper pots break down much more quickly! Once in constant contact with the soil, they disintegrate within just a few days, letting your seedling acclimate to its new home quickly!
We recommend testing out all kinds of seed starting methods to see what works best for your garden, but we think you’ll fall in love with newspaper pots just like we have! Happy planting!
- Biodegradable glue or tape (optional)
- Cut newspaper into a 3" x 10" strip—it doesn't need to be exact, but err on the side of slightly longer rather than shorter. A longer strip will make a sturdier pot.
- Align the top of the strip with the top of the cylinder of the pot maker. Wrap the newspaper around the pot maker, making sure the ends overlap. Be careful not to wrap the newspaper so tightly that you won't be able to remove it at the end.
- Optional: Some people opt to use a dab of biodegradable glue or paper tape to hold the pot closed, but we typically don't. When they are in the tray all nestled together, we haven't had a problem with the pots unraveling.
- Push in the bottom of the overhanging paper strip, and place the bottom onto the base of the pot maker.
- Push down hard, twisting to seal the bottom of the pot.
- Remove the pot from the pot maker, and line it up in a 1020 tray.
- When all your pots are made, proceed with filling and planting.