Eco-Saturday: Newspaper seed-starting pots

Last year, I showed you how to recycle Ro-Tel or enchilada sauce cans into planters for starting seeds. I’ve saved cans all year and have about three dozen to start the season — not bad, but not as many as I’d like. (I try to start at least a dozen of each tomato variety I intend to grow so I’ve got a good selection when it’s time to decide which plants go in the garden.)

To make up the slack, I’m recycling newspaper into biodegradable seed-starting cups.

I could do a step-by-step photo tutorial or a series of diagrams or some such, but the video embedded above is way better than anything I’m likely to come up with. What I particularly like is the simplicity of the design — you don’t need a background in origami to turn a sheet of newsprint into a neat little square planter. The size is also good; peat pellets and a lot of the commercially available planting flats are so small that your plants won’t have room to grow, and you’ll end up having to transplant them to keep them from getting leggy and rootbound long before the last frost date. These are big enough that your tomatoes shouldn’t outgrow them before Planting Day.

I’ll probably use two sheets of newsprint rather than one on mine to ensure they’re sturdy enough to hold up until April 15.

And yes, I know there have been some concerns about whether newsprint is safe to use in the garden, but Cornell University reports most newspapers have switched to soy- or water-based inks that won’t hurt your soil, your plants or you. I feel quite confident in saying heirloom tomatoes started in recycled newspaper pages and planted in your backyard are far better for the planet (and you) than Frankenfood grown on a factory farm 1,500 miles away and trucked all over creation.

In other news, here’s Day 4 of my giving-things-up-for-Lent project:


I love this skirt, but the “one size fits all” label in it is and always has been a lie. That drawstring is purely decorative; a wide elastic band holds up the top, and it’s much too tight for comfort. Too bad, because a solid black broomstick skirt is a handy thing to have. Maybe someday I’ll find one in my size. In the meantime, I’ll toss this one in the thrift-store box for a thinner person to enjoy.


9 thoughts on “Eco-Saturday: Newspaper seed-starting pots”

    1. If you’re planning to grow them in the garden, you don’t need to start cilantro seeds indoors; you can direct-seed it in a sunny spot as soon as the risk of frost is past (April 15 in Tulsa) and it will do just fine. The big trick with cilantro is pinching back the flower heads so it doesn’t go to seed and die back before your tomatoes ripen for salsa.

      1. I came here for the newspaper pot tutorial and left with that and tips for growing cilantro. I did not know to pinch back the flowers and was frustrated that I never had success. I will try it again, this year. Thank you!

  1. I have gone to so many websites to learn how to make these pots. The final bit (where you take the point and fold it at an angle) was explained SO poorly. I just couldn’t figure out what to do.

    Your explanation and video were EXACTLY what a person needs to see.


    1. They’re designed to be cubes, so I’m not sure how to make them taller without also making them wider. It’s been several years since I made any of these, but if you need a more vertical shape, you might look through the Eco-Saturday tag to find my post about using tin cans as seed-starting pots. (I’m up to my teeth in a grad-school project at the moment and don’t have time to look it up, but it should turn up quickly if you do a tag search.)

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