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How to Make Recycled Paper Seedling Pots

Tomorrow is the first day of spring, and I am just dying to plant seeds. But my garden space is limited to a balcony this year. So a container garden it will be! There are many creative ways to grow edibles in a small space and I plan to utilize every inch that I can. I will have herb boxes on the decking, and hanging planters with tomatoes growing up top. I may even use my railing as a trellis for beans, offering both food and privacy.

I once worked with a 10 year old boy who figured out a genius way to use his deck as a vegetable garden. His family lived in a condo, and like me, he did not have deep soil with which to plant. So he bought a few plastic clear storage bins with casters (wheels) and drilled holes in the bottom for drainage. Then he filled the bins with soil and watched as carrots, tomatoes and greens grew on his deck. But here's the genius part: in the morning the bins were on one side of the deck where the sun rose. Then as the sun traveled through the sky throughout the day he rolled the bins along the deck to keep them in direct sunlight for as long as possible, keeping them out of the creeping shadows. The bins rested for the night in the setting sun on the other end of the deck. ...?! This is the kind of creative thinking we need in this world!

The project that follows was written as a blog post about 7 or 8 years ago when I lived in a rented farmhouse with a tiny 10'x10' garden. I've updated it slightly, and the technique is still usable today, provided you can find some newspaper or supermarket circulars to recycle. Letter sized junk mail will also do just fine.

Today I will teach you a super easy and free way to make your own paper pots to sprout your seedlings. These pots will be their temporary residence indoors until they can stretch their little arms in the warmth of the summer sun outside after the last frost date for your area. The best part is, all you have to do when the soil is warm enough in the garden, is dig a hole and plant the whole thing--pot and all! This will minimize transplant shock and keep your little plants comfortable in the soil they've lived in for weeks.

To get started, you will need:

Step 1: Fold a sheet of newspaper in half lengthwise so that you have one long strip 6-8 inches high and however many inches across. The "however" measurement depends on the size of your newspaper page. All that matters is that it is long enough to wrap around your container at least once. The more you can wrap it around, the sturdier your paper pot will be. So go ahead and wrap your container, making sure to leave a couple of inches hanging over the edge (see photo).

Here I used a 16oz apothecary jar as my container, but you can also use a small candle holder, or even a glass.

Step 2: Tape the edge of paper.

Step 3: Turn your container so that the bottom of the pot is facing you. Tuck in the top and bottom edges of the newspaper like so. Tape.

Step 4: Tuck in the left and right sides of the overhanging newspaper to seal up the bottom. Tape.

Slide the paper off the container and you are ready to plant! Fill your paper pot with moist seed starting soil. (I like to mix the soil in a bowl with a little water first before planting my seeds, instead of watering the seeds after they are planted.) Planting seeds in seed starting mix ensures that they will receive proper nutrition for their tiny size.

I recommend placing all your little paper pots in a foil pan to catch excess water and protect your surface. If the pan came with a clear plastic lid and it fits over your planters, use it! This will act as a mini-greenhouse, keeping moisture and warmth inside as seeds sprout.

Of course you'll want to set your tray of planted seeds in a sunny location inside while they grow. After your last frost date (usually after May 15th in the Hudson Valley), they will be ready to "harden off". This means that you'll take your tray of seedlings outside every day and place them into the sun and fresh air uncovered for several hours to get used to the chill of being outdoor plants, and bring them back in at night. Do this for a few days before you plant them in the ground.

More gardening projects and "how to's" coming in my book for Bohemian Farmgirls.

Happy Gardening!

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