Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Peat Pots Shmeat Pots

It's crazy, the things we throw our money away on. I only bought peat pots a couple of times before realizing just how much they can add up if you start a lot of plants from seed. Plus, they never seemed to work that good. I was never able to just plant the seedling whole in the ground, I always had to peel away the peat pot before planting because they often got root bound and thus their growth was stunted. In my humble opinion, when you add the cost of soil and seeds, you may as well buy your plants already partially grown from the nursery. So then I tried one of those wooden peg pot maker thingys with quite a bit of success. I was able to reuse the newspapers that Lee accumulates. It was certainly a lot cheaper and paid for itself in one season.

Then I checked out the book Self-Sufficiency for the 21st Century from the library (which is an absolutely brilliant book I might add, do check it out) and happened upon the fantastic idea of repurposing toilet paper tubes for seed pots.

It was one of those moments where I gave my forehead a good slap and thought, now why didn't I think of that? I had been saving toilet paper tubes for months and had a paper grocery sack full. Lee had been bothering me about what I was going to use them for and why they were taking up space in our tiny house. I finally gave up on finding a good practical use for them and tossed them in the compost bin only just before the book had arrived. Grrr. Up to that point, I had been spending afternoons cutting newspaper into the right size strips and folding them around the pot maker carefully, pressing each one into it's own finished product. The toilet paper tube trick was sooo much simpler! And more convenient. And less time consuming. Plus, it put those tubes to use.

I know a lot of you probably just throw them away. Save them. Even if you don't have a garden yourself, you can teach a gardening friend how to do this and save your tubes for them! If you only have flower beds and buy annuals, save yourself some cash and grow your own! You might spend $2-$3 on a six pack of marigolds? You could grow a whole flat of 70 plants for about the same price.

After learning about this trick in Self-Sufficiency for the 21st Century, I then started finding several versions of this idea online, and everyone had some tiny twist that they did differently. Here's how I do it, as plain and simple as possible:
First of all, you are going to find a nice, shallow box to hold the tubes. I have discovered that repurposing our strawberry flats are perfect for the job. They hold a lot of tubes, you can probably squish about 68-70 tubes in the entire flat. Of course, any shallow box will work or you can cut a taller one down. Just be sure it's at least half of the height of the tubes. A little taller is fine too, just not so tall that the walls make too much shade. Your seedlings will want all the sun they can get.
The first simple step to make a TP Tube Seed Pot, is to make several little snips at one end of the tube. The snips should be about an inch long, and they should be about a half an inch apart.
When you are done snipping, you should have a tube that looks like this with a bunch of little flaps.
Next, fold the little flaps inward.
Voila! That's it. Don't worry about securing the flaps, that's not necessary. They will stay put once all of the tubes are squished back together in the box, snipped sides down of course. Fill with seed starting mix and plant your seeds.  Simple.

Now is a good time to start saving your TP tubes so that you'll have a good supply on hand for next Spring's garden.  


  1. I am going to use this technique come spring & share with my other family members who garden. Thanks for the eco & money saving share!

  2. Awesome, Theresa! Glad the tip came in handy. Let me know how they work out.

    Sharing this post with my organic gardening neighbor who graciously shares his abundance with us!!!!

    Love it! :)

  4. Fantastic! That's exactly what I hoped to accomplish with this post. Thanks, Karen!

  5. I saw this idea on pinterest once and couldn't figure out how they kept the dirt from falling out the bottom. Now I know! Now I'll have to save all my tubes between now and spring so I'll have some ready to go...

  6. Hi Elissa, welcome!

    Yeah, I've actually seen examples where they don't close the bottom, they just keep them tightly packed in a plastic tray until planting time. That works too, because by that time the plant's roots will have created a ball like the ones that you pop out of the little plastic six packs from the nursery and it won't matter that the tubes are bottonless. Since I am not using plastic trays though, I thought it would keep things neater if I closed up the bottoms. Good luck with your planting!