This year I decided to grow a garden. I’m not really sure why, it just felt like the thing to do. I spent some time fumbling with what to use from cardboard boxes to plastic pots in various sizes to terra cotta to peat and finally wound up with a 4’x8’x1′ raised bed made from 1×4’s and some junk wood from the cut bin.
Let’s go back to the beginning. I started all but one of my current plants from seed. I didn’t expect it to work, it never had before. Lo and behold, I made plants! Well, I can grow a baby, so of course I can grow a plant. Shhh, it’s actually easier to grow a baby!
Let’s also skip my early attempts. I planted in paper Dixie cups, figuring once I had a great rootball I could put the cups in my compost bin (which I’ve had for a couple of years now). I got two full cycles out of those cups, and they did make it into my bin, but newspaper cups? Way easier. I promise.
First, gather your supplies. You’ll need an empty soda or juice can (or a juice cup about the same size, the key here is for it to be a perfect cylinder, not angled!), some old newspaper, planting soil*, seeds, and a low-sided box OR a low-sided plastic bin (see photos), both large enough to hold however may pots you are making.
*A note on your soil: if it feels too heavy for the size of the bag, it’s probably top soil and not good for planting. If it feels light, too light for the size of the bag, it’s probably perfect.
Step 1: separate your newspaper. Each full page will make two pots. Fold your full page in half, to make a half page, then fold it in half again to make a quarter page, then fold it in half again to make an eighth page. Now rip your paper down that last fold so you have two pieces. Do this until you have enough pieces for however many pots you want to make. I find it kind of tedious and usually only make 10 or 12 at a time.
Step 2: Now that you have all your pieces ready, stack them out of the way (weight them down if you do this outside!) and grab one and your can (or cup – I’ll be referring to your can from here on in… the one if your hand, not the not the one attached above your legs) and roll it up like in the photos below.
The paper should have about two inches hanging off the end of the can.
Steps 3, 4 & 5: On the side with the overlap first, bend in the bottom of the paper. See photos below. Then do this twice more (you can maybe get four folds, but three seems to be adequate) and there is your basic paper pot.
Step 6: Before you put the pot down, fill it with dirt! The dirt is what keeps it together, so if you set it down before filling it, it will pop open and you will have to repeat the last three minutes or so of your life.
Don’t pack the dirt in, but lightly pack it, like sifted flour or unpacked brown sugar. Lightly tap it down so it is dense enough to stay in but loose enough to allow sprouts out.
Step 7: Here comes the plastic or cardboard box. Put your paper pot in the box. This helps keep them contained for planting and watering, and when it is time to transfer your plants, it lets you carry thrum around easily. See, we’re thinking ahead!
Step 8: Using your pointer finger and poke a hole in your lightly packed soil up to the first knuckle. Most plants are good at this depth, but if your seed packet says otherwise, make a deeper or shallower hole. Do this in each of your pots.
Step 9: Sow your seed. No, not like a man, spraying it everywhere. Depending on what you are growing, drop 3 – 5 seeds into each hole (really though… I plant 4 – 6 bean seeds per hole, everything else I pour in and hope it isn’t too much, we’ll thin our seedlings later anyway) and then cave in the surrounding soil on top of your seeds. Feel free to get more soil from your bag to cover it if desired. Water lightly and walk away!
It can’t get any easier. Make sure your new plants are protected from rain and wind. I keep mine on my front porch, which is covered, and against the inside wall. South Florida torrential downpours still make their way in, but not enough to flood the seeds or ruin the pots. I made the mistake of leaving seedlings out back and the downpour one day ruined four packets of seedlings.
If you purchased the plastic bins, you can use the lids and make a mini hot house inside under a window.
Now, just water this daily (or as needed, the soil should be moist, not soaking wet) for 4 – 8 weeks and you’ll have plants ready to be put in the ground, no de-potting required! The newspaper pots will compost naturally in the ground.