In this post, I will show you how to make toilet paper roll seed starter pots. There are four different ways to do this and they are all super easy and fun. The pots are biodegradable and so at transplanting time you don’t need to remove the seedling from the pot, you can go ahead and plant the whole thing in the ground! It makes the transplanting process super simple for both the gardener and the tiny seedling.
A couple of years ago I came up with the idea of creating a kid friendly vegetable garden. I wanted to create a space where my kids can go wild and dig and experiment with growing food without messing up the “real garden”. You can read about this project in my post: Best Varieties to Grow in a Kid Friendly Vegetable Garden.
I wanted the kids to be involved with the whole process from planning to harvesting and I was looking for a fun way for us to start seeds indoors, something a bit more creative than filling a 72 cell flat with soil, and came up with the toilet paper method.
It was a fun project back then. I didn’t expect too much of it but I was surprised to see how simple it was to make the pots and how easy it was to transplant the seedlings to the garden. These pots became a regular seed starting method on our homestead and I have to say that if you are growing on a smaller scale this is a great way to save some money on seed starting equipment. (Read: Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors Under Lights).
How to Make Toilet Paper Roll Seed Starter Pots…
These rolls hold a nice amount of soil so you can grow your seeds to good-size strong little plants before transplanting to the garden. The rolls are biodegradable, you don’t have to take your young plant out of the pot to transplant it, you just plant the whole thing in your garden and with time the roll will decompose.
And there is more than one method you can use, actually, there are four different ways to use toilet paper rolls to start seeds, so you can choose the best way depending on what seeds you start.
First, collect your rolls. You can also ask the neighbors and your friends for theirs.
The easiest way to use them is just as they are. Take a plastic bin (I used the basic 6 qt bin you would use inside the house to organize stuff) and place the rolls in it tight together. Fill the rolls with seed starting soil (we will go over that part soon) and plant your seeds in the center of each roll.
You can start seeds like corn and beans and peas this way. They are larger seeds that usually are direct planted, but since the roll holds a nice amount of soil and you don’t have to disturb the plant and roots (you are planting it with the roll) you can go ahead and start them in the rolls. This will allow you to control the spacing better or start those plants a bit earlier.
When you pick the rolls up to plant in the garden, some soil will stay behind in the bin, but most of it should be held by the plant roots.
The next option is similar but instead of using the whole roll, you use half the roll. Many crops like lettuce, for example, don’t need so much soil when started indoors, so instead of using the whole roll, we can simply just use half.
For that, I needed a shallower dish. I had these mesh greenhouse flats that I bought for a few cents from a nursery that closed down a couple of years ago.
I covered it with tin foil so it didn’t leak inside the house… I used them just because I had them on hand. There are leak-proof seed starting seeds that are especially for this purpose. I now have them on hand too, I use the ones from Johnny’s Selected Seeds and they are great.
Cut each roll in half…
And placed the rolls in the flat. I could fit about 80 half rolls in this flat. Then I filled the rolls with soil and planted my seeds.
The third method is to use the whole roll but close it at the bottom, this will help to keep the soil around the roots when lifting the roll to transplant.
And the fourth way to do it is to use half a roll and close the bottom. This is what I ended up doing because this little pot holds enough soil to start most seeds.
So grab a roll…
Cut it in half…
Make two half an inch cuts across from each other on the bottom of the roll…
Then one cut in the center of each of the halves you created. So basically, we divided the bottom of the roll into four equal parts.
Start by folding the first section in…
Over the second section…
Then the third section goes over the first while one corner of the last section goes under the second section and the other corner above the third.
It holds nice together but if you can find a biodegradable tape to use on the bottom it would be even better.
Organize all of your pots on the flat or whatever container you plan to use…
And fill them with seed starting soil. I buy an organic seed starting soil at a local farm supply store and mix in with it some worm castings that I get from Amazon. I used to gather all of the ingredients and mix my own seed starting soil but it was just too much work for me. I now just buy the mix but boost it with the worm castings which gives me amazing results.
I mix my soil and castings in a large mixing bowl…
And add a little bit of water to make it wet.
You don’t want to make a soup, just make it damp enough so it’s easier to work with.
Then I fill my pots with the soil mix…
And plant my seeds. These are lettuce seeds…
I plant the seeds in the center of each roll according to the recommended depth. Here, I planted a few seeds in each roll since the seeds were old and I wanted to make sure that at least one germinates.
Then I cover with some more soil and tap it down.
That’s it! From here, the trays go on my seed starting shelves under the grow lights. I keep a close eye on them and when they are ready I transplant them to the garden.
I love to re-purpose stuff and I love even more when these re-purposing projects actually save me time and make my life easier. Starting seeds in toilet paper rolls is really a win-win. They are easy to handle, a perfect size, free, and make transplanting really easy which is a huge job for every gardener.
I’ve been doing this for a few years. I usually start collecting my toilet paper rolls around December and by Feb I have enough. I don’t plant only in rolls, I also use plug flats from Johnny’s, but I still always have a few trays of toilet paper pots. They save me some money and they are fun and easy.
Have you ever done this? What is your experience with seed starting?