Monday, February 4, 2013

How to Make Seed Starting Pots from Toilet Paper Rolls

We have less than a week before we sow our first seeds of broccoli, kale, and cabbage. I am so excited to be getting started with this year's gardening tasks. While the year is young and nature is still hibernating, it's easy to be full of optimism and forget the failures of last year's growing season.

Hubby Dear and I are using mostly recycled materials as pots to start our seeds in. This is quite perplexing to my mother-in-law. She really doesn't get our homesteading activities - she grew up on a farm and is very happy to live in boring suburbia today - but when she heard about what we were going to do, she actually tried to drag Hubby Dear to a home improvement store so that she could buy us some "real" (plastic) pots! No thank you, mom.

I saw a picture of toilet paper roll pots on Facebook somewhere. I wish I remember where so I could cite the source, but it seems to be a pretty common idea. This exercise in frugality is also a great way to recycle toilet paper rolls, which are something that we have in abundance. Here's how to do it.  

Hubby Dear makes a great hand model, doesn't he? ;) 

Take a toilet paper roll.




Flatten it out in one direction.




And then flatten it in the opposite direction.




This will give your toilet paper roll four corners.




While the toilet paper roll is flat, cut it in half. You can make two tiny pots of the size suitable for seed starting from one toilet paper roll. We also used paper towel rolls and were able to get 5 pots from one of those rolls.





Now make small (1/2") cuts on the corners that you created by flattening the tube in two directions. There are four corners, so make four cuts.


Here the tube has been cut and is now ready to be folded.


Start folding the flaps in to create the bottom of the tube.


If you tuck the flaps under just so, they will stay in place perfectly. It is just like how you can secure the top flaps of a cardboard box under each other.

The finished product

That's it! The finished pot is about the same size as the pots made from Jiffy Peat Pellets.  Once you get the hang of it, they come together very quickly.


We have about 64 of these little guys already made.


Eventually, the seedlings started in pots like these will grow too big for the container and will have to be transplanted. That's why we've saved our milk jugs, 2 liter bottles, etc. for the last month. No need to buy pots here!

We will plant our first seeds in less than a week, so I'll be able show these pots in action soon.

16 comments:

  1. Don't be so hard on your Mother-In-Law she is only trying to give something to her son and you let her There are many Mother-In Laws who are not so kind. Don't be jealous be thankful
    Toilet Paper Roll is a great Idea but the pots can be cherished for many years as a first start to your homestead planting. They can be passed to your son and his wife Hopefully she will be a thankful recipient. Build a Tradional that is what a HOMESTEAD is all about Love, Family, Sharing

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    1. My MIL has many fine qualities, and at times I am probably overly hard on her, but not in this case. She was wanting to buy disposable plastic seed starting cups, not something that would last for generations. We are trying to move away from disposable items and to re-use things we already had on hand. I wasn't even there at the time the offer was made, so it wasn't a matter of my "jealousy". Hubby Dear was the one who refused the offer, but he did ask her to save all her used water bottles so we could cut them down into seed pots.

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  2. Clay starting pots are a lovely pass along. We have some my great-great grandmother had it is wonderful to hold in your hand and know that over a hundred years ago one of your family planted their seed in the little pot, watched it grow, harvested it, canned it and served it at the family dinner table Tradition is a wonder thing to have. Strongly agree.

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    1. That is great that you have something like that from your great-grandmother! I have other things - an ironing board, some furniture and dishes - from my ancestors that I really enjoy using. Unfortunately, I don't get many warm fuzzies when I use that ironing board, but that's probably because it is one of my least favorite tasks! Not to mention the board is HEAVY. They made things to last back then.

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  3. We save toilet paper cores too and use them just like your photo's show. They decompose when planted and it's a win-win situation.
    We tried reusable pots but they are more trouble than they're worth. The cleaning and sterilizing is not worth the time and effort. Not to mention having to find a place to store that many tiny pots! I am really looking forward to the coming spring too!

    Blessings,
    Red

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    1. Glad to read that you've had success with this method. :)

      Emily

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  4. Perfect timing. Have a new little greenhouse (made from recycled/scrap stuff of course) and was starting to plant seeds today (in various containers I had sitting around). After reading this I went looking for empty toilet paper & paper towel rolls. I now have a little line of these pots I just made sitting here in front of me. Thanks for the illustrated tutorial.

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    1. Awesome! Good luck with your seed starting. :)

      Emily

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  5. I learned this a few years ago and used to make them for fun while answering the call. They work great.

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  6. Funny I've been saving empty rolls through the winter to have a count of how many are needed from November and still working on that. The rolls were going to be used as torched, good for a good while, the longer one longer just make sure they're upright. These boxes are exactly what I need for my seeds..Thanks and Why didn'
    t I think of that (y)

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  7. I clean a local pool hall/bar 4 days a week. We use the industrial rolls of toilet paper- the ones that start out about 12 inches across. The cardboard tube in the middle is quite thick and is about 3 inches wide by 4 inches tall. It is just like a 3 inch peat pot. I was able to successfully start some of my herbs, tomatoes, okra, mini cantaloup and icebox watermelon. I can go longer before transplanting, so I started my seeds sooner (I am right on zone 4/5 border). They have held up well and the water does not seep through the sides. To keep the soil & seedlings from dropping out of the bottom, I put a layer of wax paper down on a flat that beer & pop cans come in (again, courtesy of the bar), then set as many as I could on top of the paper. This also keeps water from leaking through the flat and the excess water is soaked up as it is needed. To keep soil from falling out when I transplant, I will simply put to use a wide pancake turner by sliding it under and lifting it up with the device. Best part of it all was that the tubes were free, the flats were free and I can get plenty more where they came from! Oh! Almost forgot: I had a 90% successful germination rate! Made it hard to thin the plants out because they were all well formed! :)

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  8. Tina what a wonderful way to go! I just did my very first 2 seedlings....I had glanced at a post similar to this one earlier (may have been this one, was on FB) but did not start saving the rolls. Today, after probably killing half of my little seedlings trying to transplant them from a plastic starter kit into a bigger pot (still too cold here to put outside) I thought about this way....so I did 2...I put them down in clear plastic cups that we had used to jumpstart germination on the ones before...but when I watered, it soaked the paper, so I know it will fall apart....I was going to post a question about how to prevent that. Great idea whoever thought of doing this! Love using what we already have :) Blessings from NC, Lynn

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  9. Do the seedlings have to be taken from the tp tube when it gets big or does the tp tube degrade so I can just put it in a bigger container?

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    1. My understanding is that the tubes will degrade when placed in the ground. I do not have personal experience with that, however, as I always have had to transplant my seedlings into larger containers before that time. These pots hold so little soil that if your seedlings are indoors for more than a week or two, you will need to transplant up.

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  10. This is the second year that I've used toilet paper rolls to start seeds. I use whole one roll but I keep getting mold. Is it because the rolls are too tall? Do you have to cut them in half? And is there something I can do to get rid of the mold? I know its the perfect environment to grow mold. Thanks, Mold Over

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