Starting seeds indoors is a gardener’s trick to getting ahead of spring planting, no matter where you live. But if you’re avoiding plastic or living a low-waste lifestyle, you may wonder about alternatives to traditional seed starting trays. There are many types of biodegradable seed starter pots you can make at home.
You don’t need to buy fancy pots from your local garden store to set your seedlings up for success. The project I’m about to show you is one of my favorite DIY projects with toilet paper rolls. They make excellent seed starter pots and are completely biodegradable, so transplanting your seedlings becomes a swift process.
Why Choose Biodegradable Materials for Gardening?
My favorite part about using biodegradable seed starter pots is how much money I save on supplies. I take something my family would normally recycle (toilet paper rolls), and reuse them. Doing so allows me to replace the plastic in my gardening technique and from coming into contact with our food.
Plus, a biodegradable seed starter makes transplanting the seedlings a breeze later. Studies show cardboard breaks down over time to produce soil, so it maintains a low environmental impact. You just plant the entire thing directly into the soil or in a bigger pot and let nature handle the rest.
Here are a few of the main reasons people choose biodegradable seed starter pots:
Never buy seed stater pods or trays again
Low to zero waste gardening
Cardboard can be planted directly into the ground
Ideal for plants that don’t like to have their roots disturbed
Helps you start seeds indoors in areas with colder springs
Fantastic toilet paper roll crafts for kids
By reducing the amount of plastic waste we produce, we can help save the environment. So for me, asking myself how I can use biodegradable materials is #1.
How to Make Seed Starter Pots
Toilet paper tubes are the perfect shape for seedling pots.
The biodegradable seed starter pots that worked well for me come from toilet paper rolls. You have the option of leaving the tube whole, but I cut each roll in half to conserve materials. Here are the steps to follow to make your seed starters.
Toilet paper rolls
Start by collecting the toilet paper rolls you’ve saved. If your family doesn’t use much toilet paper, you could ask neighbors, friends, and family to save their rolls for you. You’ll need quite a few toilet paper rolls for this project, depending on how many seeds you want to plant.
Turn each roll into two to get the most of the materials. Cut each toilet paper roll in half.
Take the new, half-sized roll, and make four equal-sized cuts about 1/3 of the way up. I find that four tabs work fine, but some people suggest using five tabs for a sturdier pot.
See the image below for an idea of what your seed starter pots should look like at this stage.
Fold the bottom section where you made the cuts in the same way you would close a cardboard box. You might need to press on the corners a bit to help the bottom sit flat.
Next, pack each toilet paper roll with seed starting mix or potting soil. Push the soil down using your thumb. Place a single seed in the center according to its proper depth. Cover the seed with soil and water.
You might want to set the seed starter pots in a watertight container to prevent messes when you water the plants. When watering, your goal is to completely soak the paper roll.
If your plants require a cover, you can place the rolls in a reusable plastic bag until the seeds sprout for a greenhouse effect. Some people create a mini greenhouse from old produce plastic containers. Otherwise, allow proper air circulation for the plants or the toilet paper may mold.
Seed Starting Mix vs Potting Soil: Which is Better?
I typically use a regular potting soil mix to plant seeds. However, many gardeners swear by seed starting mix or adding a bit of compost to the potting soil. The right choice for you may depend on the seeds you’re planting.
Larger seeds, like in most indoor herb gardens, thrive in potting mix. Avoid moisture-control potting soil for starting herbs from seeds. It’s not the best choice for indoor plants.
Seed starting mix is worth the money if you’re planting unique or hard-to-grow plants. The soil helps germinate the seeds, then you can transplant the seedling into potting soil later. You may also want to go with a seed starting mix if you have mold and fungi issues with your soil.
Some potting soils may also contain a fertilizer, which might not pair with your seeds. Seed starting mixes avoid fertilizers. Tiny amounts of fertilizer won’t harm the plants, but it all depends on your seeds and whether the soil is synthetic or organic.
The best way to know what soil will work for your plant is to read the seed packet directions.
Alternatively, you could skip the soil and seeds altogether if you grow veggies from scraps.
How to Transplant the Seedlings
The cilantro seeds I planted last year took off quickly! I transplanted them into these metal containers by slightly opening the cardboard bottom and gently setting the seedling directly into the soil still in the toilet paper roll.
Transplanting seedlings from toilet paper seed starter pots is a breeze!
As soon as the seeds sprout, you can place the toilet paper rolls directly into the ground. You can also transplant the seedlings into a larger pot. The cardboard will compost away, providing extra nutrition and safety for your plant.
Finally, keep pests away from your seedlings with a homemade bug spray. This recipe kills and repels many of the pests I’ve encountered, including gnats, spider mites, and aphids.
So Why Toilet Paper Rolls Again?
The seed starter pots I made to get ready for spring this year.
Compared to the other biodegradable seed starter pots you can make at home, toilet paper rolls are the sturdiest option. In the past, I’ve tried making newspaper pots, upcycled egg cartons, and repurposed yogurt containers. Toilet paper rolls are the best.
Unlike repurposing recyclables like plastic yogurt containers and cardboard egg cartons, you don’t have to dig the plant out from a container that decomposes naturally. That’s why cardboard is so awesome. I found the cardboard rolls still break down over time but also maintain their shape when wet much better than newspaper. The tube keeps the seedlings safe and sound.
What are your favorite seed starters? Have you tried homemade seed starter pots before? Share your experiences in the comments. And if you enjoyed learning about DIY gardening, share this article with your friends and family.