Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
January, 2011
Regional Report

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These petunias are thriving in their homemade paper pots. Note the roots coming out of the sides of the pots.

Garden Recycling: Homemade Plant Pots

I'm not sure if it is because I like to putter around in the garden and greenhouse, or my environmental sensitivities, or maybe I'm just, well, let's say "thrifty". Whatever the reason I like to recycle things in the garden. But it is not just a cost related issue. When I can make or repurpose something rather than purchase it, there is a sense of self reliance and that same gratification that comes with growing things yourself. I could give a hundred examples of this but to get you thinking, here is a great idea to help you recycle and "make your own" when it comes to gardening supplies -- the homemade paper pot.

Paper pots are easy to make. Take a single sheet of newspaper and tear it down the middle fold to create two pieces about 11" X 22". Fold one in half lengthwise. Then take a soup can or some other cylindrical object about that size and roll the newspaper onto it leaving about 2 1/2" sticking out past the bottom of the can. Fold this over to form the bottom of the paper pot and then pull the can out of the paper cylinder. It helps to not wrap the paper too tightly around the can. Fill the pot with potting soil and you have a great planting container.

I make almost all our planting pots this way. Experiment with different sizes of pots: tall, short, wide, narrow. If you make them with a standard small soup can you can fit about 21 pots in a standard plastic flat. These are great for transplanting very young seedlings or newly rooted plants into. The paper holds up fine for the length of time the plant will be growing to planting size. There are often roots sticking out the sides of the paper by this time if you keep the growing mix moist.

This year I made smaller ones about the size of pill bottles or the old plastic film canisters. These have worked great for starting a LOT of small seeded plants without using too much potting mix in the process. Small vitamin bottles work well too.

Once the plants are up and growing well you can either plant the entire paper pot into a larger pot to continue growing the plant up to a larger size, or you can plant it directly into the garden. The paper decomposes quite rapidly, adding its organic matter to the soil.

The pot making can be rather tedious if you are making a lot of them. I make several hundred each winter/spring season, so I like to do it while watching TV or listening to a lecture or book on tape. The kids actually like helping with this project!

At first the pots may not want to sit straight, but when you add potting mix and then wet it they settle in quite well. Maybe beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but I think they look rather cool.

I've used both regular newspaper and the slick advertising supplements to make pots, and both black and colored ink sections with no problems. The only caution I might add is that if the paper has a political advertisement you might find the plant roots are burned from the excessive nitrogen!

Try these ways to recycle in your garden this year. What are some other ways you recycle in the garden? Stop by my blog and share your favorite ideas!

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