How to Make Paper Pots.

First off I have to say I have NOTHING against plastic pots.  In fact, I think they’re great. They hold moisture well and they can be reused year after year.  But if you run out, these paper pots are fantastic.


Plywood table covered with seed starting supplies, newspaper and bottles of wine!

Skip right to the instructions.

If you start your own seeds or do any sort of transplanting I have 3 words for you … ALERT!  ALERT!  ALERT!    That means you should pay attention to what I’m about to say.  Sometimes it also means a tornado is coming, but in this case it doesn’t.  It’s seed starting season so if you want to make this the year you finally start your own seeds and grow a garden full of vegetables listen up.

A few years ago I got a doohickey for making paper pots.  It’s just a column of wood with a recessed base.  You wrap newspaper around it, smush the bottom together and WHAMMO, you have a paper pot.

I love it.  It looks nice, it feels nice and best of all … it works.  That isn’t always the case with doohickeys.

The only problem with I’ve found with it is, the pots I make are small.

So I went searching around the house for something that would replicate what the doohickey did, and the most reasonable facsimile I could come up with was a straight sided bottle.  Wine bottle, vinegar bottle, juice bottle … anything as long as it has straight sides AND a recessed bottom.

IT HAS TO HAVE A RECESSED BOTTOM.

Sorry for yelling, but it seemed the best way to make my point.

Wanna make paper pots?  Grab some newspaper, a bottle with A RECESSED BOTTOM, and … well that’s it actually.  That’s all you need.  Read on and you’ll find out how to make the paper pots and WHY your bottle needs to have a recessed bum.

  Rip or cut a piece of newspaper.  It should be the height you want your pot plus an inch or two. One inch if your pot is narrow, two inches if it’s wide.

This is an approximate measurement.

 

Rolling wine bottle over a 7" strip of newspaper.
Roll your bottle until all the paper is wrapped around it.

Wine bottled with newspaper rolled around it on plywood table.

See there? That’s the recessed bottom.

Hand holding up newspaper wrapped bottle showing recessed bottom.

Now starting with the seam of the newspaper, push the paper into the recessed bottom. If you use a can or bottle, or something that isn’t recessed on the bottom, the paper won’t stay in position and your bottom won’t form. Then your plant will fall out the bottom. See? The bum is important.

Pushing newspaper into recessed bottom of bottle.

Continue to push the newspaper in until it’s all wrapped under the bottle. Push it hard with your fingers or hand. This will help crease the newspaper and make it more inclined to hold it’s shape and not fall apart.

Pushing newspaper into recessed bottom of wine bottle.

You now have a paper pot. My apologies to everyone who thought they were going to end up with weed. Now go finish your Cheez Doodles.

Finished paper pot beside wine bottle on plywood table with seeds in background.

If you did a good job your pot will stand up all on its own without any soil or anything in it.  If it doesn’t stand up on its own don’t worry about it. It will once you fill it with dirt.

Tiny tomato seedling in paper pot.

Now fill with soil and add your teeny, tiny transplant.

QUESTIONS/ANSWERS

Don’t the pots fall apart when you water them?  Nope.  Not for the month or two you have your seedlings in them.  Don’t however leave the paper pots in standing water all day and night.  Then they will indeed fall apart on the bottom.

Can you plant the entire pot?  Yep.  Come planting time if you want you can plant the whole plant, pot and all, which is handy for any plants that are sensitive and don’t like to have their roots disturbed.

How often should I water them?  More often than you would a seedling in a plastic pot. The newspaper wicks away moisture which makes these pots dry out faster than a plastic pot.

The moral of this story? Nothing. There is no moral to this story at all. Now go make a pot.

 

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64 Comments

  1. Pam'a says:

    Very cool! And P.S. If you don’t happen to have a cool wooden thing to make the small ones, you can cut four little slits in a toilet paper tube and fold them inward (like Karen so aptly demonstrates above)to form the bottom.

  2. Christal says:

    What, no April Fool’s post?

    Wait, is this an ingenious plan to have your readers create small paper pots, the bottoms of which all fall out at a specific pre-destined time, resulting in scads of people swearing at the exact same moment, thus creating the first curse-word heard ’round the world?

    I knew it. Good one, Karen…

  3. Lea Studebaker says:

    I was actually eating cheese doodles, get out of my head Karen! 🙂

  4. Linda J Howes says:

    What are you doing with the sweet potato?

  5. Candice says:

    I make these using a can of beans or something for the form, then I dip the bottom in a little tray of shallow water for a few seconds, then let air dry. That seals them a little and keeps them from falling apart so easily. I like the idea of the recessed bottom, I’ll have to try that next to compare. I agree with you…the fancy wooden form doohickey thing is too small.

  6. and I thought you were drinking in your potting shed, and forgot to move the bottles out of the way before taking the photo!

  7. Lynne says:

    Seriously brilliant !!!! I wonder if the same thing happens if I don’t use a RECESSED BOTTOM ? Jokes. Jokes. Jokes.

    *_*. Thanks for the epic idea !

    • kate says:

      really, nothing happens if your ‘jig’ doesn’t have a RECESSED BOTTOM. I’ve been making these for years using cans and jars of various sizes. I usually make sure: 1) the paper goes around at least three times for a small {6 oz. tomato paste} can, four times for a medium {14 – 15 oz can size) and 5 – 7 (or more) times for a large {28 oz can size} — 2) make sure the paper extends beyond the bottom by the width of the can – that is when you press it against the bottom it goes clear across the bottom — 3) place your paper pots together in a box or pan so their combined togetherness hold each other up (otherwise, encirle them more times than suggested so they can stand on their own – remember, they will eventually be wet) —- 4) fill with your soil and sow the seeds, or, as Karen demonstrates, transplant a seedling — 5) when the pant is ready to put into the ground you can just gently pull out teh bottom – it will be easy beacause you’ve been watering it all along and tear or cut the sides and place it in the hole – no need to get rid of the paper as it will just decompose.

      • Karen says:

        Kate – I’ve done it both ways and the recessed bottom really does make a huge difference in the stability of the bottom of the pot. Oops. Sorry … the RECESSED BOTTOM really does make a huge difference. 🙂 ~ karen

  8. Jennifer says:

    Genius! I had one of those wooden paper pot doohickies. Loaned it out, and it has never been seen since. The wine bottle is a perfect solution!

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Wait…. how do you water these? Or do you just plant them after you make them?

    • Karen says:

      Elizabeth – You just water them normally. It takes quite a while for the newspaper to break down. Once it’s time to plant them you just plant them, pot and all into the garden. ~ karen!

  10. Karen – you guru of all things cheap.

    What is proper protocal to share you ingeniousness on my website and blog?

    u rock

    Kim in Alafreakinbama 🙂

  11. I heart you. And now I need to ditch weebly for wordpress…”curses loudly with big curses normally reserved for jail cells or paper cuts”.

    You’re too much!
    ~Kim

    • Karen says:

      GASP! I just took a look at your site and I absolutely *LOVE* the look of the Swedish Hens. I mean I *LOVE* them! They’re stunning!!!! And YES! This comment does warrant all the capitals and exclamation points! ~ karen

      • Well…I’d send you one, but WAIT!!! You are in CANADA. You’d need to smuggle it over *lol*

        • Lois Baron says:

          I had to go look at the exclamation-point-worthy hens, and then I had to go look on Google to figure out which were Swedish hens and which were what turned out to be Sebastopol geese because who am I to know what’s what? I had no idea that there were fowl that look like they are wearing faux-fur-hippy-retro coats–but I love the way they look!

    • Beth says:

      Love your farm photos!

  12. joanna says:

    Hi Karen! Fairly new to your blog, and I wanted you to know how wonderful it is and how very talented you are. The rare and wonderful combination of creativity and organization!!!
    I have been caring for my 90 year old father, and we often read your posts together.
    Thank you so much for many hours of happiness.
    Big hugs to Cheese Wiz.
    xoxo JoAnna

  13. Barbie says:

    I would love to repost this if that is ok with you?

  14. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Thank once again Karen..I have seen the already made pots for sale on Etsy and the little wooden pot maker..now I can make them for cheap as I could use some TODAY!

  15. Janet says:

    I’ve actually had one of those little doohickies for a good 20+ years and I always loved it. So clever a device and truthfully, I love the way it feels in my hand. However, it’s been awhile since I’ve used it and had just a few days ago, pulled it out of the pantry to contemplate my plan of action. I’m so excited to read your idea for larger pots made this way and, dang, who would of thought you could use any other cylinder shaped item with a RECESSED BOTTOM? You, of course. Thanks for the great idea, Karen. Can’t wait to open a bottle of wine and get to potting. The bottle does need to be emptied, right?!

  16. Fran says:

    Style at Home. Wow. Your part of our town looks beautiful.

  17. Laura McG. says:

    I hope you put that wine bottle back in your cellar; a 2011 Cab needs a few more years! Cheers!

  18. Auntiepatch says:

    Kim from Kelly Farms said to tell you “Hi!”

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Is she the one with the beautiful chickens? They’re all mottled looking. Love them. ~ karen

      • Auntiepatch says:

        Beautiful chickens and ducklings! I was attacked by a Banty hen when I was 5 so I’ll never have chickens but I like to look at them.

  19. Push it. Push it real good!

  20. Trisha D. says:

    Hi Karen,

    I absolutely love your garden posts! I’m starting my first one this spring summer!

    Questions (hopefully not a dumb one) but how many seeds do you plant per ‘pot’? And how do you know how big the pot needs to be?

    Thanks tons!

    • Jane m Jacobsen says:

      Two or three. When they have put out their second pair of leaves you carefully CUT off the weakest seedlings and let the strongest grow. Do not PULL the weakest ones as that will disturb the healthy roots too. Some times the info on the back of the seed envelope gives you planting information.

  21. Whitney says:

    I got one of those doohickeys two years ago. And while I had great success constructing little paper pots, my plants failed to thrive in them. :-/ They would dry out faster than I could water them and as such, I had dessicated plants when I came home from work.

    Any suggestions short of hydroponics?

    • Karen says:

      Whitney – This is the first time I’m using them as well (I’ve used decomposable pots before) and I was worried about the same thing. They absolutely DO need more watering than plants in plastic pots. As far as I can tell there isn’t anything you can do about it. ~ karen!

      • Jane m Jacobsen says:

        You have to bottom water them, even if the pots get soggy. The paper soaks up the water and keeps it away from the roots. The soggy pots won’t last as long as you might hope, but they absolutely need the extra water.

        • Karen says:

          Hi Jane. I’ve been doing these for years now and I would not bottom water them. The bottoms just aren’t strong enough to sit in water for extended periods of time. And since most seedlings are in their pots for 1-2 months it isn’t practical. I simply water from the top more often than I would with a plastic pot like I mentioned in the post. ~ karen!

  22. Lucy says:

    What a brilliant idea, I cant wait to make some with my kids! (im actually fighting the urge to go wake them up lol) though I get the feeling ours wont look as well put together as yours do I think chaos may ensue!

  23. Cathy says:

    Hi Karen— found you via Pinterest and now you’re stuck with me. I’ve had one of these little pot jigs for years, and just hit on an idea this year: use the fold of the paper on the bottom and if it is a bit damp it folds better and stays put. Double the next strips to 7 ” and fold vertically to 3.5”.
    My crops are in, just waiting for warm weather. In the meantime Mother Robin had remodeled her nest (amazing job, by the way…wish I could post before/after) and I DID tear my backyard out, so I’ll be tending beds tomorrow.

    Cheers–Cathy

  24. Janet says:

    To the other Janet on the page:

    No the bottle doesn’t necessarily need to be empty for this to work. If you do still have any contents in the bottle you can do one of 2 things… One, (my favourite of the 2 options) is to drink the contents, you will have a great time planting your seeds as you sip away at your wine. Two, find the original cork ( or cap) and seal off the bottle. Lick off any drips off the side of the bottle (we don’t want to waste anything) and make sure you don’t drop it as you work.

    I’m going to try it with a soda can this weekend.

  25. Zucchini Lady says:

    I too, have made these for years but was too cheap to buy the doohickey so use a juice glass. I also make a slurry of water with a bit of flour in it, then dip the paper in this before putting on the glass. It is easy to slide off and I put them on a cookie rack (darn, no cookies left)to dry overnight. You don’t need to wrap as much paper this way and the flour helps to hold them together (remember kindergarten?). It also holds the bottom right where you want it. When they are planted, I put them in a plastic shoe box ($1 each) and use clothespins to clip another plastic shoe box upside down on top. Makes a mini greenhouse. Ta-da, all done now until time to replant.

  26. Mateusz says:

    Hello,
    I like seeding plants and have a lot of used notebook paper and would like to use it as pots. Do you think the chemicals used in this kind of paper would harm my plants?
    Best wishes,
    Mateusz

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mateusz – Probably not, but I’m sure there are others that would advise against it due to chemicals leeching into your soil, etc, etc. The newsprint has ink on it too and no one seems to take issue with that. 🙂 However, the one problem I DO see, is the notebook paper is probably too stiff to use. Newspaper is softer, and therefore easier to mould into pots. Good luck! ~ karen

      • kddomingue says:

        I don’t know about anywhere else but down here in south Louisiana you can go to your local newspaper printing establishment and buy “end rolls” of newspaper for a dollar or two. It’s the leftover paper that was not enough to make the next printing run so there’s no ink on them. I buy end rolls for a variety of purposes…..gift wrapping, drawing paper for the grandchild, drawing paper for the hubs and I, to wrap around dishware and glassware for packing or storage, kite making, cover tables when doing messy projects, fire starting….anyway, you get the idea. There’s usually quite a lot left on an end roll….you’d be surprised!

  27. Anne says:

    Hi! Love this idea, planning on making mine today for tomato seeds… Q: can’t I start the seeds in these & separate to more newspaper pots when needed?

    I haven’t started from seed since I was 15: will natural lighting work or just one grow light? Recommendation?

    Thanks!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Anne,

      Technically you can start the seeds in your paper pots but generally speaking you’re better to use soilless mix for starting seeds and then move the transplants to regular potting soil when they get a bit bigger.

      You can give it a shot though. Natural lighting works fine as long as it’s very strong. The advantage to grow lights is you can raise and lower the lights depending on the height of the seedling (keeping the light very close, about 3″ from the seedling ensures a nice stocky plant that doesn’t get leggy)

      But most people just use bright windowsills and still have great success. Good luck! ~ karen

  28. Anne DeVasto says:

    Karen, thanks for sharing your experience! What kind of soilless mix do you use for starting the little babies?

    Many thnks, Anne-

    • Karen says:

      Hi Anne! I’m not actually sure what brand it is. I get it at my local seed supply store. All soilless mixes are pretty much created equal since they don’t have any nutrients in them. Just peat moss, perlite and vermiculite. The benefit to it is there’s no disease or bacteria in it since there’s no actual soil in it. Sometimes it has fertilizer added. Any soilless mix should work well for you. ~ karen!

  29. Ev Wilcox says:

    Haven’t seen my little wooden pot maker for years- but remember it worked well. Using a wine bottle-great idea. That’s why we keep you, Karen, you are very inventive! Seems kind of late to be starting plants, but I could use the inspiration right now. Maybe today’s the day.
    Thanks Karen!

  30. Catherine Manning says:

    Thanks Karen – this is awesome on so many levels since they don’t seem to be recycling plastic planting pots – i love things that can decompose right into the ground. Which wine bottle will I use….hmmm….

  31. Airwreck says:

    This is a great idea.. now if you would like to make these paper pots even tougher..
    Get some Methyl Cellulose. and coat the outside.. this stuff would also make it not needed to have recessed bottom..and hold every thing together.
    1 pound of Methyl Cellulose is about 15.00 USD and will make maybe 10 gals of a working solution maybe even more. be real patient with this stuff.. takes forever to truly dissolve in water.. but it will

    • Karen says:

      Hey! The problem with that for planting is, you want the pots to decompose or at least fall apart relatively quickly once they’re in the ground otherwise the roots of the plant will have no way to get out and the plant will eventually just get rootbound, the soil in the pot will lose all nutrients and then it will die. ~ karen!

      • Airwreck says:

        nopes that is not a concern.. this stuff is water soluble and all it does is give the paper a tad more strength… give it a try it just might fool ya

        Grin .. I can tell you never lived in the tropics.. a plant WILL find a way to get out of the pot.. ever noticed the broken concrete in your lovely city where that plant trees.. I have seen trees grow on rocks..

        But your worries are noted..GRIN

  32. Mary W says:

    LOVE this! Now for something sorta completely different. Inverted bottom? I have a friend that was training for her job (hospital nurse) and was presented to a man in the bed that needed a bath. She was washing him (he had an overhanging tummy) and she lifted it to wash his ‘privacies’ when she couldn’t find it. She kept looking and then looked up at him – he was smiling. He said it happens all the time, don’t worry, it is inverted. So she had to dig around and get ahold to get it out and clean it properly. If there is one thing good about an inverted pee-er, it is watching as people try to find it.

    • Kim from Milwaukee says:

      WHA? wait…..his peni was an innie? noooo way, that’s a new one on me….I’ve seen many, worked in nursing homes…..seen things I wish I had never seen….but an innie?

  33. Terri says:

    I love that my favorite blogger gave me yet another reason to buy a big bottle of wine (with a recessed bottom, of course.) It ticks off all those boxes….recycling, gardening, cheap or free, and wine!

  34. Alena says:

    I don’t have Cabernet Sauvignon but I have a bottle of Chiraz. Will that work equally well?
    😛

  35. Gwen H. says:

    Thanks for the directions. I will make my paper pots after I empty the bottle of wine. I should have an interesting garden this year.

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