How To Grow Seedlings With Newspaper

For those dreaming of spring, starting seeds indoors allows you to begin the growing season earlier than planting them outdoors (where you have to wait until after the final frost). And some plants, like certain tender vegetables, just do better starting indoors. With so many seeds in those little packets, finding enough containers can be a task. Instead of buying containers (or even using recycled plastic ones), try a simple technique to turn this newspaper into biodegradable pots that you can plant directly into your garden (therefore not disturbing your seedlings’ roots) when conditions are suitable. Until then, enjoy the up-close seed-sprouting show, which every year feels like a mini-miracle.

  • Read the seed packet or do a little research to see if your seeds should be started indoors or outdoors, or even if they need any special treatment like soaking, chilling or scratching.

  • These pots do not retain water as long as plastic pots, so check on them at least once a day to make sure they haven’t dried out.

  • Open or rip off the bottoms of the pots right before you plant them outside or in a larger container to allow for root growth.

  • Newspaper

  • Scissors

  • Small can (from tomato paste, for example) or straight-sided jar

  • Spray bottle or small bowl of water

  • Pencil or permanent marker (optional)

  • Seeds

  • Sterile potting mix

  • Tray or baking sheet with a lip (optional)

Step 1

Cut the newspaper into strips so that they wrap around your can at least one and a half times and are at least 1 inch taller than the can. (For a tomato-paste can use a strip that is four and a half inches wide and 12 inches long.)

Step 2

Roll the strip around the can, just loosely enough that you will be able to slide it out.

Step 3

While holding the rolled newspaper at the seam so it doesn’t unroll, push the newspaper overhang down over the edge, creating four or five flaps to form a flat bottom.

Step 4

Mist or dab drops of water on the flaps to mold them to the bottom of the can. Once the paper pot starts to hold its shape, slide the can out and allow it to dry for a couple of hours.

Step 5

Label the pots in pencil or permanent marker (or add a plant marker after planting).

Step 6

Fill the pots with moistened potting mix and sow the seeds according to the seed packet. Keep them on a tray or baking sheet with a lip to catch the draining water.