Upcycle old newspapers, junk mail, and other waste paper to make these easy, eco-friendly containers you can use to sprout new plants for your garden.

By Jenny Krane
January 08, 2020
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Getting a head start on the growing season is easy to do by planting a few seeds indoors in the winter. Most seeds aren't too picky about what they grow in, as long as they get enough warmth, moisture, and sunlight. While there are plenty of containers you can purchase made specifically for starting seeds, you can save a little cash by making your own out of items that are likely already in your recycling bin. Newspaper, paper towel rolls, small boxes, and shredded paper can all be easily transformed into biodegradable seed pots. Follow our step-by-step instructions and you'll soon have plenty of pots for growing all the seedlings you want.

Blaine Moats

Newspaper Pots

Finished with the Sunday paper? Now you can turn it into some handy little pots for your seeds. While you're rummaging in your recycling bin, fish out any small glass jars to serve as a mold. A juice glass with straight sides will do just as well if you don't have any jars.

Supplies Required

Step 1: Cut Newspaper

Cut newspaper into rectangles that are large enough to wrap all the way around the jar with a little overlap.

Step 2: Soak Newspaper

Immerse rectangles of newspaper in a shallow pan of water until moistened.

Step 3: Shape Pots

Roll the softened paper around the jar. Extend the bottom edge of the paper enough to fold and form the pot's bottom. Crimp and press the paper around the bottom of the jar. Flatten the bottom by pressing it on a flat surface, and set aside to dry. Carefully slide the paper pot off the jar.

Step 4: Plant Seeds

Fill your new paper pots with seed starter mix and lightly pat down the soil. In the center of each pot, create a shallow hole in the soil with your finger or the end of a pencil. Place the seed in the hole and cover with soil. Spritz the pots with enough water to completely moisten the soil.

Upcycled Box Seed Starter

Lots of household items come in small paper boxes that are just the right size to hold seeds and sturdy enough to hold together until the resulting seedlings can be planted outside. We like to give new life to the boxes that once held pantry staples like tea bags by turning them into seed trays for sprouting several seeds together.

Supplies Required

  • Small paper box (such as a tea box)
  • Scissors
  • Seed starter potting mix
  • Seeds

Step 1: Cut Boxes

Use scissors to cut one of the longer sides off to form a shallow tray.

Step 2: Make Dividers

Use the cut-off pieces to create dividers as needed.

Step 3: Plant Seeds

Fill each box with seed starter mix and lightly pat down the soil. Create a shallow hole in the soil with your finger or the end of a pencil in each section. Add a seed to the holes and cover them with soil. Spritz the homemade seedling tray with water until the soil is completely moistened.

Related: The Easiest Seeds to Start

Paper Towel Tube Pots

As useful as paper towels are around the house, the leftover tubes can be just as versatile for DIY projects like these biodegradable seed planters. Just make a few snips, fold in one end, and you're done.

Supplies Required

  • Paper towel tubes
  • Scissors
  • Seed starter potting mix
  • Seeds

Step 1: Cut Tube

Cut paper towel tube into three-inch sections. At one end of each section, make four evenly spaced cuts approximately ¾ inch long to form the flaps that will close across the bottom of the pot.

Step 2: Fold Flaps

Fold in each flap to close one end of the tube section. It's okay if there is a small gap between the flaps—it will help with drainage.

Step 3: Plant Seeds

Fill your new tube pots with seed starting mix. In the center of each pot, create a shallow hole in the soil with your finger or the end of a pencil. Place a seed in the hole and cover with soil. Spritz the soil in each pot with water until it is completely moistened.

Papier-Mâché Pots

A little heat helps make these DIY containers extra sturdy. The process starts out similarly to other handmade paper projects, but then you stir in a little flour and bake after forming it into pot shapes.

Supplies Required

  • Shredded junk mail, newspaper, or paper bags
  • Blender
  • Water
  • Mesh strainer
  • Large bowl
  • Small sponge
  • Flour
  • Muffin pan
  • Oven
  • Seed starter potting mix
  • Seeds

Step 1: Blend Paper Shreds

Fill your blender with shredded paper and completely cover with water. Let the shredded paper sit in the water for five minutes to soften it. Then, blend until the paper has a smooth consistency. Start heating your oven to 200 degrees.

Step 2: Strain Paper Mixture

Pour the blended paper into a mesh strainer over a bowl. Press the paper in the strainer with a sponge until the paper mixture has a wet clay consistency.

Step 3: Form Pots

Place paper mixture into a clean bowl and add about 2 tablespoons of flour. Use your hands to combine the flour and paper until you have an even consistency. Place small balls of this clay-like mixture into muffin pans and press it onto the bottom and sides of each cup, in as thin a layer as possible. Repeat until you use up all the mix.

Step 4: Dry Pots

Bake in the oven for one hour. The pots will not be completely dry when you take them out; the oven just accelerates the drying process. Once the pots are cool, remove them from the muffin pan and place on a cooling rack. Let them finish drying overnight.

Step 5: Plant Seeds

Fill your papier-mâché pots with seed starting mix. Poke a shallow hole in the center of the soil in each pot with your finger or the end of a pencil. Place a seed in the holes and cover with soil. Spritz the pots with water until the soil is completely moistened.

Check the seed packet labels to help you figure out when to sow your seeds in your DIY pots. Usually, it'll be about six to eight weeks before the average last frost date in your area (so if that's April 15, count back from then and make sure you start your seeds on or after March 18). Once your seeds have sprouted, make sure to provide them with as much sunlight as possible, or use grow lights. When the weather outside has warmed up and there's no threat of frost, it's time to harden off your seedlings. This means slowly getting them used to outdoor life by placing them, pots and all, in a protected spot in your yard for an hour or two and gradually lengthening that time until they can stay outside all day. Then they are ready to transplant into your garden beds or porch pots.

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