by Gail Kavanagh
Growing seedlings in plastic trays is a tricky business. While separating the seedlings to be transplanted into the garden, they can get stressed and damaged, and the roots can become tangled. But there is a simple solution: sow your seeds in biodegradable pots and plant them in the earth, container and all. There will be no more stressed or wounded seedlings and they grow happily in the soil in which they were set. Here are some ways you can make your own seedling pots from recycled materials.
The recycled paper material used to make pulp egg cartons (not the plastic kind) are perfect for recycling again into the garden. Cut each cup into an individual container and place them side by side in your garden tray. Each little cup can be filled with soil and planted with small seeds – two or three is best, to give the seedlings a good chance. Don’t heavily water the seedlings, just gently mist them with a spray bottle filled with water. When they are large enough to transplant, it is easy to just take each cup and seedling and plant it directly into the ground. The cup will rot and allow the roots to grow down into the soil.
Toilet Roll Tubes
Have you ever wondered what use these ubiquitous items have besides making skittles for toddlers? They make ideal seedling pots. Fit several into a seedling tray or tin half as deep as the toilet rolls, and fill each roll with potting soil. You can put larger seeds into these, like nasturtium or melon, one to a roll, and keep lightly misted until the seedling appears and fine roots appear at the bottom of the roll. Transplant the seedlings into the spot in the garden where they are to grow in their cardboard containers.
Newspaper, scrap paper and brown paper
Making seedling pots from rolled paper is quick and easy for fast growing plants like squash, but for slower growing seedlings use a technique similar to paper maché. You can use empty yogurt tubs or plastic drinking cups for molds. Tear the paper into strips wide enough to cover the whole outside of the mold – including the bottom – and long enough to wind around the mold several times. Soak the strips in warm water for a few minutes, then wind around and under the mold. Set the cups in the sun and let the paper dry. Slip them out of the mold and fill with potting soil. These will hold together well, but if a corner goes astray, use a stapler (not glue or cello-tape) to fix it in place.
It is simple to make these biodegradable seedling pots, and you will find that other materials can be used as well. Cardboard can be rolled in a fashion similar to toilet rolls and held in place with staples. Old garments can be utilized as well – pieces cut from woolly sleeves and denim jeans can be stood up, filled with soil, and will work nicely as seedling pots. Large potato or rice sacks can be filled with soil, and openings cut in the side to make attractive strawberry or herb planters. Keep your eyes open and you will see that you don’t need fancy, expensive gardening accessories. Recycling is a frugal option that works even better.