Biodegradable pots for plants

If you’re thinking about planting lots of seeds, make biodegradable seed pots. They’re easy to make and they can be transplanted right into the ground when the time comes. Plus, they’re economical! See our video on how to make the seed pots—plus, we’ve included accompanying text instructions.

In this video, we explain the best recycled materials to use when making your pots and demonstrate how to produce containers which are perfect to start your seedlings in

How to Make Biodegradable Plant Pots

Seed trays and pots can be expensive, and as they’re usually made of plastic, they’re not always very environmentally-friendly. The good news is, it’s easy to make your own from nothing more than egg boxes, toilet paper tubes, and newspaper.

Newspaper Pots

To make paper pots, you’ll need an old newspaper (not a glossy magazine, as this will take a long time to rot down and may be printed with inks containing traces of toxic heavy metals), a pair of scissors, and a jar or glass to use as a mold. Follow the instructions below to make your newspaper pot:

1. Cut your newspaper into strips about 1 inch (3cm) taller than your jar.
2. Fold a flap along the length of a strip, then unfold the flap to leave a crease.
3. Lay your jar on the newspaper at one end of the strip so that the open end sticks out.
4. Tightly roll the strip around the jar.
5. Holding the paper closed, turn the jar on its end.
6. Fold the loose ends of the paper in to create the base, and push them down.
7. Pinch along the edges to firm them up.
8. Holding the bottom flaps, pull out the jar and firm up the base.
9. Fold the top of the paper along the crease you made earlier – this creates the rim of your pot.

Once filled with potting soil, the pot will become more stable, but it’s best to also nestle your pots side by side in a tray to keep them secure once the paper is wet.

At planting time, dig a hole into prepared soil and plant your seedling, including the pot – the paper will biodegrade within a few weeks.

Toilet Paper Tube Pots

Cut toilet paper tubes in half for most seedlings, or leave them whole for plants that need more root space – peas, corn, and tomatoes for instance. Alternatively, cut down paper towel tubes to the desired length.

Making a toilet paper tube seed pot is even easier than making a newspaper pot!

1. Cut four equally-spaced inch-long slits into one end of the toilet paper tube.
2. Fold the flaps down, alternating the tucks to create a strong interlocking base.
3. Fill with potting soil, and sow your seeds into it.

Set the tubes in trays so that they don’t fall apart as the cardboard softens. As the seedlings grow, their roots will help hold the potting soil together. You can also group pots together using string or rubber bands.

Cardboard tubes rot down more slowly than newspaper, but roots will find their own way out of the pot eventually. However, you can peel off the cardboard before planting if you prefer – it peels away very easily when wet.

Egg Crate Seed Trays

Using cardboard egg crates is the simplest method of all.

1. Cut off the lid.
2. Put the lid underneath the base for additional strength.
3. Fill the compartments with potting soil, and sow!

Be aware that the roots of some crops will soon become constricted in egg crates, so they should only be used for crops that will quickly be moved on or planted out.

When you’re ready to plant your seedlings out, egg carton cells are easily torn apart when damp. Make sure to also rip away the base of each cell to help the roots escape into the soil.

After you watch the video, why not try our easy-to-use Garden Planner for a more successful garden? .

Despite garden centres literally heaving with things for us to buy at this time of year, growing seeds can be really cheap, or even free. Ask neighbours, friends and family if they have any seeds they harvested last year, or experiment with tomato, pumpkin and apple seeds. The cheapest way to begin growing is to make your own plant pots. This means you don’t have to buy non-biodegradable plastic seed trays. These simple pots will hold your seedlings until they are ready to go in the ground or a bigger pot, and then they will break down in the soil. This also means you don’t have to transplant seedlings, which is great for fragile plants, plus it saves you time.

Making biodegradable pots is a great way to recycle old newspaper and is a learning activity for kids that encompasses ecology, science, biology and some artistic flair! You can experiment with different sized cylindrical objects to make different sized pots.

You will need:
Old newspaper (black and white, not coloured or shiny)
A cylindrical object such as a drinking tumbler or tin can

How to make the pots:
1. Fold a sheet of newspaper (two pages with fold in middle) in half lengthways, then fold it again lengthways. The newspaper will now be in a strip with eight layers.
2. Place the can or tumbler (cylinder) at one end of the folded newspaper, leaving enough paper above the rim of the cylinder so you can make a floor for your pot.
3. Wrap the newspaper around the cylinder.
4. Hold the paper in place so it doesn’t unravel, and tuck the edge of the newspaper into the mouth of the cylinder, pinching it as you go.
5. Now slip the cylinder out of the newspaper and place your pot on the table. Add a little compost into the bottom of your newspaper pot and press into place. One way to ensure your pots keep their shape is to group them together on trays so that they provide support for one another.
6. Fill the pots with compost and place on a waterproof tray so you can water them. Now you can start planting!
7. When your seedlings are ready to plant out, you can either put the pot direct in the soil if planting outside, or you can ease the seedling out and shred the newspaper pot for compost – worms turn newspaper mulch like this into rich castings.

Note: Avoid coloured or shiny newsprint as the dyes used are chemical-based. Black and white ink tends to be soy-based and biodegradable.

Spring is my favorite time of year. Not only is it great to see the weather start to warm but there’s so much life. Trees begin to turn green and flowers begin to bloom – which reminds me, it’s time to start thinking about your summer garden. If you’re planning to plant a vegetable garden this year, now is the time to get started. Not outside of course, the weather is still just a bit too chilly for that. But, you can start many of your vegetable seedlings indoors and I’ve got a wonderful list of 20 DIY seed starter pots to help you along.

You can of course, buy seed starter pots at any gardening center and they even have them at the Dollar Store. But, why would you spend money buying them when you can easily make them yourself and save your money for those seeds? These DIY seed starter pots are all things that you can upcycle – things that you would probably otherwise throw in the trash. Instead of adding to the landfill, why not turn those items into seed starters and get started on your garden today? Speaking of your garden, you should really check out these 6 gardening hacks that are sure to help you in the garden this summer.

Some of the DIY seed pots in this collection can be planted directly into the ground when they’re ready to go outdoors, which makes it really easy for you. You just drop them in and you’re all set. Others are not biodegradable so you’ll need to pull the seed and its dirt out of the container but you can then reuse those containers next year to start your seeds again. I love upcycle projects that turn trash into treasure. Of course, I love anything that makes my life easier, like these 100 expert gardening tips. I assure you that there is something in here that will help you to grow healthy plants easily.

If you’ve been longing for spring so that you could start gardening, now is the time. You can start those seeds indoors and then you just have to transplant them when they’re ready. This saves you money because you don’t have to buy plants that have already been started and it helps you to grow a wonderful vegetable garden that will give you delicious veggies all summer long.

Table of Contents

1. Chinese Takeout Container Seed Pods

Most of those takeout containers from your favorite Chinese restaurant are water resistant, meaning they won’t leave water spots all over your house when you use them to start your seeds. You will need to remove the seeds and dirt from them when transplanting them outside but these are really effective seed starters and they’re free if you eat a lot of Chinese takeout. They also make really nice planters if you want to put flower seeds in them.

Tutorial/Source: instructables

2. Egg Carton Seed Pods

Cardboard egg cartons are perfect for starting those seeds. They’re about the same size as those little seed starters that you can buy but if you already have them on hand, then they’re free. Who doesn’t love free? You just cut the top off the carton and then use the individual sections to start your seeds. Fill them with potting soil and plant those seeds. You can put several seeds in each section to get them started and then just thin them out as they begin to grow in.

Tutorial/Source: motherearthnews

3. Ice Cream Cone Seed Starters

Ice cream cones work great for a number of reasons. They are the perfect size for starting seeds and they are biodegradable so you can just plant the entire thing when your little seedlings are ready to go outside. They’re really not expensive either. You can get a box of 24 or so for a couple of dollars at the Dollar Store – just buy the cheap ones since you’ll be using them to plant and not to eat.

Tutorial/Source: designmom

4. Upcycled Juice Carton Seed Pods

ey’re big enough to hold several seeds and give them plenty of room until it’s time to weed them out and transplant them. Surely you remember starting seeds in school and using those little milk cartons from the cafeteria? This is the same concept.

Tutorial/Source: pinterest

5. K-Cup Seed Starter Pods

K-cups are great. Not only do they contain the most delicious coffees – or teas or hot chocolates – but the actual cups can be upcycled to create the perfect sized seed starters. You just rinse out the coffee or whatever was in your K-cup when you made it and then peel away the lid to reveal the perfect little seed starter pod. You can even leave in the coffee – it’s great for helping plants to grow. You’ll need to remove the seed from these before transplanting since they aren’t biodegradable but you can clean them up and use them again and again.


6. Repurposed Loofah Sponge Seed Starter

Did you know that you can grow your own loofah? You can and you can use that loofah to start your seedlings. While this is something that you will need to get started on this year and it won’t pay off for seed starters until next year – what a great idea this is! If you really want to go all out and do a homemade seed starter, this is a great way to do it and the loofah is biodegradable so you can plant the seeds right into the ground and not worry about taking them out of their starter pod.

Tutorial/Source: thymesquaregarden

7. Self-Watering See4d Starter With Plastic Bottles

Those old plastic bottles really do gum up the landfill. What if I told you that you could upcycle all those soda or water bottles into seed starters and that those seed starters would be self-watering? You really just have to separate the bottle in half. The top half holds the seeds and sits into the bottom half which you keep filled with water. You’ve got an upcycled seed starter and one that will never run dry.

Tutorial/Source: desperategardener

8. Repurposed Mason Jars

I love anything to do with repurposing mason jars. Really, I look for ways to use these jars all the time and love this idea of turning them into seed starter pots. If you’re like me, you have tons of canning jars and you can instantly turn those jars into seed starters. The smaller jelly jars work best for starting seeds but you can transfer them to larger jars if they grow too tall before it’s time to put them outdoors.

Tutorial/Source: miser-mom

9. Upcycled Plastic Milk Jugs Into Seed Starters

Those plastic milk jugs are so flexible and can be used for so many things. You can turn them into seed starters and there’s actually a way to use an old milk jug to create a little mini greenhouse so that your seeds grow healthy. The next time you empty up a milk jug, just rinse it out and put it away- you’re going to need quite a few of them to start those seeds.

Tutorial/Source: preparednessmama

10. Repurposed Muffin Tin Seed Pots

You can use a regular muffin tin if you have an old one to start your seeds, or drop by the Dollar Tree and pick up a few of those aluminum ones for a dollar each. Use cupcake liners in each section and then fill with potting soil and add your seeds. If you have an old rusty muffin tin that you can’t use anymore for baking, this is a great way to repurpose it and make it useful again.

Tutorial/Source: seedsnow

11. Plastic Salad Container Planters

Those plastic containers that you get salad or bakery items in – or rotisserie chicken in some cases – are perfect for starting your seeds. You’ll need to make the potting soil pod, which is easily done with a Dixie cup and potting soil, and then use the container to hold the all in place. Once they’re ready to go outdoors, just remove the potting soil pods and drop them in the ground.

Tutorial/Source: instructables

12. Upcycled Newspapers Into Seed Pots

Old newspapers are a common way to make your own seed starter pods and the process is really easy. If you have a few old newspapers lying around the house, you can turn them into seed starters and save yourself from having to buy them. You’ll need to mold them into place but this is really easily done with a plastic cup and some masking tape. You can literally make hundreds of these with a couple of newspapers.

Tutorial/Source: learningandyearning

13. DIY Shredded Paper Seed Starters

If you know how to make your own paper pulp, you can keep yourself in seed starters for years. This is a rather lengthy process but well worth the effort. You’ll start by shredding paper and adding it to a blender with some water. This is what creates the paper pulp which you will use to mold your own seed beds. Since the paper is turned to mush with the water, these little starter pods are biodegradable so you can plant the entire thing when it’s time to move your seeds outdoors.

Tutorial/Source: 365daysofdiy

14. Upcycled Eggshell Seed Pots

You knew that you could use an empty egg carton to start those seeds but did you know that you can also use empty eggshells? Eggshell halves are the perfect size for starting tiny seeds and the eggshells are biodegradable. They also help to fertilize the garden once you’ve moved them outdoors and help with pest control as well. So, the next time you crack and egg or two, rinse out that shell and save it for your seed starters.

Tutorial/Source: wholelifestylenutrition

15. Strawberry Carton Mini Greenhouse

Those little plastic cartons that your strawberries come in from the grocery store can be turned into a tiny little greenhouse. If you want to start seeds indoors and you tend to buy a lot of strawberries throughout winter, you’ve got the makings for a wonderful seed starter. The lid can be used to help seal in moisture and humidity which will help those little seeds grow healthy.

Tutorial/Source: earlylearning

16. Upcycled Tin Can Planters

Tin cans can also be used to make wonderful planters and seed starters. You’ll want to rinse them out really well depending on what was in them and then just drill a hole or two in the bottom for drainage. Any tin can will work although tuna cans are much more shallow and would be perfect for those tiny little seedlings. If you’re using tuna cans, I suggest you wash them out really well before planting your seeds.

Tutorial/Source: theguardian

17. Toilet Paper Roll Seed Pods

It amazes me sometimes the things that people can do with what would otherwise be trash. Take these seed starters made from toilet paper rolls. This is a genius idea and such a wonderful way to upcycle those empty toilet paper rolls. If your house is like mine, you have plenty of these empty rolls on hand. Each roll makes one seed starter or you could use paper towel rolls and get two starters from each roll.

Tutorial/Source: gardeningclan

18. Repurposed Ice Cube Tray Turned Seed Starter

Ice cube trays are less than a dollar each and you can get up to 16 seeds or more in each one – that’s a lot less than you will pay for an actual seed starter. Use a plastic ice cube tray to start those seeds by just drilling a tiny hole in the bottom of each section for drainage. Then fill each section with potting soil and add your seeds. This is a great way to keep seeds organized, too. Just mark each ice cube tray with the types of seeds that they contain.

Tutorial/Source: sillysimpleliving

19. Citrus Peel Seed Starter Pods

Yep, citrus peels. You can turn those orange or grapefruit peelings into wonderful little seed starters. What’s great about this one is that you get an inexpensive seed starter and your house smells wonderful from the citrus peeling. You’ll have to be careful to coop out the pulp from the fruit o that you don’t break the peel. It should be a perfect half to hold your seeds securely.

Tutorial/Source: myromanapartment

20. Mini Yogurt Cup Seed Starters

My kids adore yogurt so we go through several little yogurt cups every week. Who knew that I could use those cups to start my seeds? I love the idea of turning trash to treasure and this is definitely that. Just rinse out those cups, fill them with potting soil and add your seeds. You get a great and inexpensive seed starter and your trash won’t be overflowing with little yogurt cups.

Tutorial/Source: austinvegangardener

Honestly, if we are going to start seedlings, why wouldn’t we want to do it in little biodegradable pots? Seriously, if we use little biodegradable pots, we can just plant out our seedlings in the garden when they are ready. Finally, since we are using little biodegradable pots and we have all sorts of organic material in our everyday trash production, we ought to just make our own pots using that.

Starting seedlings like this are just way better. They can be planted out in the garden without having to remove them from their pots and disturb those fragile young roots. The pot will then decompose right in place, often attracting earthworms, which are always squirming around for a snack. As the pot weakens in the ground, the plant’s roots will be getting stronger and bust through the sides.


Even better, the plants get all of those benefits, and we haven’t created any waste in the meantime. In fact, we’ve creatively used our garbage for the forces of good. Check out these simple and effective options for DIY biodegradable pots.

1. The Newspaper Pot


Newspapers aren’t around quite as much as they used to be; however, there are still plenty of flyers, free journals, and other paper products that can be rolled into plant pots. Cut the paper into strips around four or five inches wide and roughly a foot long. Then, use an old beer bottle to roll up the newspaper into cylinders and fold the one end to make the bottom of the pot. Fill it with a fine potting mix, and there you go.


2. The Toilet Roll



Toilet rolls (or paper towel rolls) are even easier than newspapers, though it will require more time to collect enough for a full crop of stuff. Cut them in half (about three-inch sections) and then cut four equidistant one-inch slits in the bottom side of the roll. Fold the resulting tabs of paper as you would the top of a cardboard box. These are great for early spring planting because the toilet rolls can be saved throughout the winter.

3. Egg Carton Pots



Egg cartons aren’t exactly a common find in most plant-based households, but that isn’t to say we don’t have vegetarian friends and carnivorous neighbors. Check recycling bins or ask folks who might have them. Egg cartons are easy plant pots. Cut up the side where the eggs sit into individual little pots and use the lid as a carrying tray for them. The pots can then be planted right in the ground, and the top can be composted.

4. Paper Cups/Cones


We all sometimes forget our reusable water bottle, to-go mug, or find ourselves lingering around the office water cooler. Paper to-go cups and water cooler cones make excellent seedling starters. In the case of cups, they are ready to roll, and for cones, we can simply take on old box—say the lid from copier paper boxes—and make a handy stand for them. Again, the tops can then be composted when all is said and done.

5. Fruit Rind Halves



With a little forethought, citrus fruits like mandarins and lemons (especially when juiced) and avocados can make perfect seedling cups. Just be sure to cut them in half so that the two pieces of rind are well suited to hold enough soil for seeds to get going. Then, by the time the rinds get a little questionable, the plants — pots and all — can go into the ground.

6. Cardboard Boxes


Cardboard boxes can also make pretty good starter pots, especially when the soil is abundant or the seed being started needs a little more space for its roots to spread, such as with a small fruit variety or quick-growing tree. The concern here will be the box falling apart before the plants are ready to go in the ground, but with some careful management, these can make dandy plant starters or temporary planters that are a bit more durable. Also, be sure to remove any tape as it isn’t biodegradable.

7. Pulp Project Pots


For thinner cardboard boxes, such with cereal or crackers, it’s possible to make pulp planter pots, and it’s a great project to do with the kids. Rip the boxes up into small pieces, soak them in water for a couple of hours, and whiz the soaked pieces in a regular blender. With muffin tins, use this pulp to form little pots inside the molds. Let pulp dry and that’s a pot. These probably work best for really quick seeds like lettuce.

And, that’s all it takes. Homemade biodegradable pots make a lot of sense, they save gardeners a lot of money, and they make good use of garbage. Ultimately, we get to eat the results.

Lead image source: Recyclart/Flickr


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