Making Newspaper Pots

If you are like most gardeners, you probably have a mound of plastic multi-pack containers growing in the basement or piling up behind the garage. You know, the dirty, crumpled flats right next to all of those gallon pots you plan to reuse. Sure, you may be able to reuse them once or twice, but when they eventually break down, most will end up in a landfill. Here is an old idea for inexpensive, do-it-yourself seed starting pots made from newspaper. When your seedlings are ready for the garden, just pop them in the ground-pot and all.

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A daily newspaper can be turned into dozens of customized, seed-starting pots. If you don't have a newspaper laying around the house, grab one from the office break room, stop by a coffee shop right before close, or look for free weeklies in the entry way of local restaurants and grocery stores. Avoid using newspaper printed with colored inks. Black and white ink is usually derived from soy-based products , which are better for the environment (and your seedlings). Brown paper shopping bags will also work well for this project.


  1. Gather your materials: a small jar, can, or juice glass to roll newspaper around; a pair of scissors; tape; and newspaper. (Note: baby food jars, and 5.5 oz cans of tomato paste work great for this).
  2. Open a single sheet of the newspaper (two facing pages). Fold the newspaper in half (from top to bottom), and then fold it in half again. When your finished, this should give you a pot that is approximately 4 layers thick and 3 1/2" inches deep (far better for growing seedlings that the often recommended egg carton). If you want to customize the pot's size and thickness, you will need to cut the newspaper into the appropriate sized strips. Cut each strip as long as a full-sized page is across, and almost as wide as the small jar, juice glass, or can you are using. The width of the strips (size of the pot) that you will need depends on how long your seedlings remain in the pot before transplanting them. Seeds that take a longer time to mature (6 weeks or more) will need bigger pots. When deciding on the thickness of the pot, keep in mind that walls made up of more 4 or more layers will hold up better to frequent watering.
  3. Place the jar (or can) on the newspaper so that a small amount of extra newspaper sticks out beyond the bottom. After you roll the newspaper around the jar to make the sides of the pot, this extra paper will be folded under to serve as the pot's bottom.
  4. Roll the newspaper up snuggly around the jar. You want it to be secure, but make sure it is not wrapped so tightly that you cannot slide the jar out. Secure it with a piece of tape.
  5. Fold the excess newspaper under the jar to make the bottom. Stand the jar upright and use a hard surface to squish the bottom firmly into place. Secure it with a piece of tape.
  6. Slide the jar out of the newspaper. Viola! Now you have a biodegradable seed pot. Repeat the procedure for as many pots as you need.

Tips: Once you have filled your pots with soil and planted your seeds, it's a good idea to place the pots side by side in a large, waterproof tray (a cardboard flat lined with a garbage bag works well). Keep an eye on moisture levels. The newspaper will provide for some natural drainage, but thick pots will drain more slowly.

When seedlings are ready to transplant, either unroll the pots to gently remove seedlings or, carefully remove the tape and plop the entire pot directly into the ground. Because the newspaper is biodegradable, it will break down in the soil relatively quickly once it is surrounded by dirt and moisture. Again, keep an eye on moisture levels. If the pot was still in relatively good shape when you put it in the ground, it may act like a wick and soak up surrounding moisture.

Toilet Paper or Paper Towel Rolls

Another genius idea and almost ready-made! When using toilet paper rolls for this, remember that cardboard is thicker than newspaper. It will hold up better to frequent watering, but break down more slowly once it is in the soil. As an alternative to planting the pot, simply cut the roll down the middle to free the seedlings for transplanting or tip it upside down and slide them out.

Directions: Cut 1/2" to 1" strips around one end of each roll, fold the strips under and secure with a piece of tape. You are done! Paper towel rolls can be cut down to make multiple seed pots. Set a covered basket in the bathroom to collect the rolls.

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A good way to extend your vegetable gardening season is to start the seeds inside while the ground is still too cold to plant, before the last frost date in your area. You can make your own pots for free out of newspapers!

A tray of newspaper pots with seedlings, ready to plant.

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I start by folding one page in half. On the folded side (to make it neater) I roll the paper around the bottle. I fold the rough end down and put the cap on the bottom. Then I pull the bottle free, leaving the cap on.

Gardening: Paper Pots - making the pots with completed ones in a plastic bag lined container in the background, closeup

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February 28, 2008

I take a large Foldgers coffee can and put a folded sheet of newspaper over the top, I then take a smaller coffee can and gently push the paper inside to form the pot, making sure that the sides are folded in as I go along.

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

August 11, 2009

Does anyone have any ideas on making your own peat pots? I have decided to experiment, but would like to know if someone already has the solution.


Hardiness Zone: 7a

By mary from Jackson, NJ


August 18, 20090 found this helpful

You can save your toilet paper rolls to fill with soil and ad a seed in them I put them in a pan with strait sides, I did it and it worked great much better then Pete pots.

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August 20, 20090 found this helpful

For as far back as I can remember my mother & I have used the pressed paper-type egg cartons to start seedlings for our gardens. You may pay just a tad more for eggs in the paper cartons, but in the long run you save because those little peat pots can get expensive if you need a lot! The paper egg cartons keep you from over watering your seeds & drainage for the young plants before you have planted them in the garden. Just fill the paper egg cartons with garden soil about early to mid-February (we live in Oklahoma), plant the seeds, put them in some type of under liner to catch drips (I use cut down cardboard boxes with plastic in the bottoms), put in a sunny location (window or sun porch) or use sun lamps, & care for & water them as needed until ready for planting in late March or early April.

When ready for planting, take a pair of scissors or clippers & cut the individual egg/plant holders apart & plant the whole thing (starter plant & individual paper egg holder) in the garden. Since the egg cartons are paper, they have already started to deteriorate by planting time & deteriorate faster once planted in the ground. You can do the same thing with the styrofoam egg cartons, but you have to poke a hole in the bottoms of the styrofoam egg holders with a toothpick for drainage and of course you can't plant the little styrofoam holders in the ground because their deterioration time is so slow - so you have to take the plants out of the egg containers before planting in the garden & throw them away anyway. You're not saving anything from going into the landfill. Truthfully, the paper egg holders are lots better because you give back.

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March 30, 20100 found this helpful

I do the same thing as described by sheilamay. One tip I would add is to use a wine bottle with a little indent in the bottom. This will let you make a flatter bottom to the pot. Here is my army of pots, snugly hanging out in a pizza box lined with plastic from my winter window plasticizing.

Here is a video of me making them. Though it should be self explanatory without the video.

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March 30, 20100 found this helpful

Oh shoot I was trying to respond to an archive post. in any event this is an nice recycled alternative. also you don't need tape as described in the original post.

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

August 11, 2009

This is in response to the post about making recyclable plantable paper. I have been thinking about taking that idea a step farther and making little flower pots from recycled paper with seeds in them. Do you think they would still sprout if the whole pot was planted? Also, any ideas about an eco-friendly additive that would help them keep shape?

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