Newspaper pots for Earth Day

potsHappy Earth Day! It was a gorgeous day here in Denver.

I helped with a project this afternoon for my daughter’s Daisy Scout troop, planting bean seeds in newspaper pots.

If you haven’t ever made these seedling pots, they are a great way to start seeds. They recycle newspaper, which adds a carbon (dry) aspect to your garden, and they provide a very gentle way to transplant seedlings — gentle enough that you can even give a head start to plants that don’t really like to be transplanted. When it’s time, you simply dig a hole and put the whole pot in the ground. The newspaper readily decomposes, and the plant’s roots are free to grow as if the pot never existed.

Sadly, I had to tear through the explanation of the project because Little Cheap had a bad stomachache and we had to leave Girl Scouts early. I hope the girls got something out of it, but I’m afraid it was so disjointed they might not have.

Anyway, here’s the play by play for those of you who weren’t at Girl Scouts today — or who saw me as the blur I felt like I was.

suppliesYou’ll need:

  • Newspaper
  • Potting soil & trowel
  • Seeds
  • A bottle, cup, yogurt container or any other cylinder of about the size you want your pot to be
  • Some kind of container (waterproof) that you can set the finished pot(s) in

Time commitment:

  • A few minutes per pot.

How to do it:

  1. stripCut or tear a strip of newspaper about 5″ wide (for bigger pots) or 3″ wide (for smaller pots) and 20″ long (I just cut a strip off the length or width of our newspaper). For bigger diameter pots (3″ or so) I use two strips on top of each other; for smaller pots (1.5″ wide) I use one strip.
  2. Place your cylinder across about half the width of the short side of your paper strip.
  3. Roll the paper around the cylinder to the end of the strip. The cylinder will fill half the width of the roll; the other half of the roll will be hollow.
    roll
  4. Fold/crush the hollow half of the roll up to meet the bottom of your cylinder.
    crush
  5. Gently remove the cylinder, holding the cup-shaped pot in place. It will be a little – but not too – flimsy and will want to tip over.
  6. Fill it most of the way with soil. Set the new pot in a waterproof container. (In my photo, I’m using old clamshell containers from salad greens.)
    full
  7. Plant your seeds in the soil.
  8. Water and leave in a warm place. If your home isn’t warm this spring, you can cover the container with the clamshell lid, waxed paper, a pan, etc., to keep it warm and humid while the seeds sprout. Keep the soil moist. Seeds will sprout in the dark. Once they have germinated, they need light to grow.
  9. When the seeds have grown to a good size (2-4 inches high in most cases) and you have passed your area’s last average spring frost date (for instance, here in Denver, ours is around May 15, but I’ll generally wait till June 1 for warm-weather plants just in case), you can plant them outside. To do so, dig a hole big enough for the pot you are planting and put the entire pot — newspaper and all! — in the hole.
  10. Water it in well and watch it grow.

This was our technique for last year’s champion butternut squash plants (two vines generated 15 8-lb. squash — and they are still lasting! We have two or three left in the laundry room). Today, I planted this year’s crop: Butternut squash, cantaloupe, pumpkin, okra, peanuts (from our plants last year) — and the scarlet runner beans from today’s Girl Scout activity.

Let us know how you marked Earth Day – and what you’ve got growing for spring.