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Using Toilet or Paper Towel Rolls for Seed Starting

An easy way to start your seeds indoors is to use empty toilet paper, gift wrap or paper towel rolls. Toilet paper pots are a good planting method to use with children. You can use bigger seed in these pots – corn, beans, cucumbers. Some plants do not like to be transfer but when using a paper roll pot, you will plant the pot and the plan and roots will not be disturbed.

The main advantages of using paper rolls are they are free, biodegradable and you probably already have them around your home.

Items you will need to create toilet paper or paper towel seed pots:

  • Cardboard toilet paper, paper towel, or gift-wrapping paper rolls
  • Scissors
  • Tray, plate, or bowl to put seed pots on
  • Twine
  • Seed starting medium
  • Seeds

Once you gather the materials, it is relatively easy to get started. Making paper rolls to grow seedlings:

  • If using a toilet paper roll you can cut the roll in half to make more than one pot. For larger rolls cut into about 4- or 5-inch pieces.
  •  Make a series of 1 to 1 1/2-inch cuts around one end of the roll, approximately a half an inch apart.
  • Fold the cut sections in toward the center of the roll. This will create the bottom of your pot.
  • Place the seed pots on a tray, plate, or bowl. If they seem to not be standing up well on their own, add more pots to your tray for support or you can support them a bit by tying some twine around the whole group of pots. You can also reinforce the folds of the cardboard for more sturdiness. 
  • Fill the pots with soil, moisten the soil pot and plant your seeds. Keep the pots moist but not wet. Do not let the pots dry out after they are planted, the seedlings are very tender and need a little water to survive. Maintain the planted seeds as you would any seeds sown indoors. Typically, you will have to wait a few weeks before you can remove the plants and plant them into the garden.
  • You will want to acclimate the plants to the garden before putting the pots into the ground. To do this, take your tray or seeding bin out to the garden for a few hours each day. This can ease the stress on plants that sometimes occurs during the transplantation process. 
  • Plant the toilet paper seed pots in the garden, cardboard tube, and all. If the cardboard is sticking up above the soil’s surface, simply tear off or cut any excess. If you do not, it will wick moisture away from the roots. The cardboard is biodegradable.

The author of this article, Rachel Dutton, is a Paulding UGA Extension Master Gardener. Master Gardeners are trained to provide education for homeowners on horticulture, sustainable landscaping, and environmentally friendly gardening practices using unbiased, research-based information from the University of Georgia.  For more information, contact University of Georgia Cooperative Extension in Paulding County to speak with a Master Gardener or County Extension Agent at 770-443-7616 or view our online resources at www.ugaextension.org/paulding.