Grow Your Own... Beans and Tomatoes





Introduction: Grow Your Own... Beans and Tomatoes

About: Hi, I'm Tim. I work on the railways during the day, run a scout troop and have a blog (see above website link) where I discuss my allotment and projects!

Welcome to the first in my series about gardening. It's all about food and food miles. You're set on a magical journey (and it really is quite something if you've never done it before) learning how to feed yourself cheaply and efficiently using all kinds of odds and ends.

In this episode, we'll be looking at pots and seeds. There's not much to growing seeds - you put them in the ground and within a few days or weeks suddenly that small spec of dirt has germinated into a small green plant.

We are going to make use of recycled materials where possible. You will need:

1) Seeds (runner beans or tomatoes)
2) Compost
3) Toilet roll innards
4) plastic tray - you could use the plastic (washed) tray your old beans/chicken legs etc came in, or like in this example a seed tray.

You could just fill a seed tray with earth - but if you're using a very shallow plastic meat tray for instance, this just isn't practical. Toilet roll innards provide more depth for the roots and are biodegradable. I only used a seed tray because we don't generally buy stuff in plastic trays - most our veg comes in paper bags from the grocers or our allotment. Enjoy...

Step 1: Preparing the 'tray'

First take about 28 toilet rolls. Use them, ideally in the way nature intended and discard the tissue, we really don't want to see that again. Take the innards that you get in the middle of a loo roll and put them in a seed tray (as many as you need to fill the tray, or until you run out). They will have difficulty standing up until they are filled. Ideally you'll need a flat surface too...

Step 2: Filling Time

Fill the tubes around 1/2 full of compost and use your fingers to compact the soil down (ie poke them right into the bottom to compress the soil against the bottom of the container). This forms a firm base to the bottom of the biodegradable pot so when you pick it up, the contents doesn't just empty itself on your feet.

Step 3: Continue Filling

The idea is to fill the rest of the tube with soil to the top. Since we're going to fill them to the top and seeds require different amounts of soil, pay attention to the packet but not until you've watered it down in the next step - compost is full of air and will compress massively. Beans usually need to be about an inch under ground whereas tomatoes require just a small amount of coverage (a fine dusting).

We're going to pre water these in the next step which stops the soil (and tomato seed) from floating out!

Step 4: Watering

Before we water it's time to transfer them out of the tray - if you have two trays it is much easier - this'll allow you to get the compost that has fallen down the gap between tubes back into the bag. Once this has been done (or if you don't care about wasted soil, just carry on below...

Watering requires 1337 n1nj4 skills - water wrong and you'll get wet feet and extra mess to wipe up. Unless you're sensible and doing it outside (rather than a disused 5KG Cadburies chocolate bar box. Yes I'll be diabetic soon, but so much chocolate mmmmm).

The water compacts down the soil and unsurprisingly soaks the cardboard tube - that's why we fill the tube right up to the top and carry on topping up with soil as required.

Step 5: Sowing

To sow a seed you just put it on the top of the tube and erm, cover with soil. Difficult huh? Different seeds required different depths as I've said in step 3. These have tomato seeds - I could have sown the beans in this one, but I'd already planted them during my first go at this. Cover in soil, water a little and put on a sunny windowsil

Step 6: Wait...

This is my sunny windowsill - south facing is best. Soon you'll see sprouts coming out of the top and hey presto, bean/tomato plants.

You only need to water when the cardboard tube looks dry - it's fairly difficult to overwater them when they are like this as the seeds get plenty of drainage and the cardboard tube indicates when they are a little too dry.

I will update this instructable with photos over the coming weeks and months with shots of the seeds as they germinate.

Anyone can do this - I live in a flat.



    • Woodworking Contest

      Woodworking Contest
    • Oil Contest

      Oil Contest
    • Pets Challenge

      Pets Challenge

    We have a be nice policy.
    Please be positive and constructive.




    loo roll tubes do make grate pots , I have used them for about 3 years now , plastic module pots are just such a pest to clean .
    If you haven't enough tubes just unwind fresh loo roll onto one hand and you have liberated another tube , I find that having a pile of wound loo paper not an issue as we do not use loo roll holders .

    I am thinking the plastic "push-up" part of a push up ice cream would help compress the soil and compost into the tube. i have short fingers lol. i hope you all know what i am talking about lol. definately trying this idea for our spring garden.

    I'm currently in the process of growing my winter ruffage (lettuce, spinach, mesclun), and wanted to try using toilet paper rolls as the seed starters. The thought of just planting the seedlings with the t.p. rolls seems so much easier than the self-watering starter pots I made from soda bottles, however! I can't seem to keep the t.p. rolls from unraveling after they get wet. Has anyone else had this problem, and does anyone know how to remedy it?

    3 replies

    I realise you had posted this question a while ago, but you never know if this might still be useful. Another option would be using egg cartons. When the seeds have sprouted just plant the whole carton, or cut it into it's individual little compartments and plant these. Good luck :)

    didn't see it either!

    Hi Norcalgrrl - Stack the toilet rolls closely together like I did in the tray - they tend to self support that way without the need for tape which just falls off wet surfaces.  You're not planting long term with these, just to get the seeds germinated and on their way.

    Leosmama  - egg cartons are great but if you can they're better reused to carry eggs in as they don't really degrade and can be used again and again.  If you buy them at supermarkets etc and don't have access to a 'pick you own' egg place, then yes, this is a really good idea.  Egg boxes don't work well for beans however which have deeper roots.

    Hi Tim,

    I haven't got access to a 'pick your own' egg place, but I like the idea. Because yes, the supermarket egg cartons are stacking up.
    Good to know about beans deeper roots - will do these in the few rolls I have collected so far :) Thanks for the tip!

    You Poop alot! lol Great Ideal with the toilet paper rolls. I would have never thought of that. I have tried many peat pots jiffy pots (disks) and even newspaper rolled pots. Thanks for a new ideal. Lee

    1 reply

    when you start saving them you'll be suprised how quickly they collect!

    I use toilet rolls for sowing seeds in and planting out, it works well. The easiest way to water them that I've found is to use an old water bottle with a sport cap - just hold it upside down over the tube and give it a squirt! Good instructable!

    Try dipping rolls in melted beeswax.....

    I tried this with tomatoes, it was a great way of getting the seeds to germinate. I planted the tomatoes in the tubes into a tomato bag, but the plants had trouble breaking through the tube; they only really rooted out of the bottom, so this time I'm trying pressed peat pots. I suppose the tubes could be cut open, but I try not to interfere with the roots when I'm potting on seedlings.

    3 replies

    I had the same problem with peat pots too.

    Peat pots seem to be working, the roots of the tomatoes are through the pots. I have been able to water the plants more because the pots allow great drainage, so maybe the damp pots are better.

    Great information! I read about using cardboard tubes recently, but without any step-by-step instruction. Unfortunately, I only have about three tubes saved up, but I have a paper towel tube and some old wrapping paper tubes. I think they could be cut down to match.

    Nice job and use of urban resources. I use toilet rolls too. I do rip them off before planting to make sure the roots are unfettered. Do not worry; roots are pretty sturdy and any damage should be overcome if you waited long enough to transplant. One suggestion: If you mix your potting mix or compost with water in a bucket BEFORE filling the tubes, you will not have much trouble with compaction. I actually fill the tubes over the bucket with my hand underneath and have no problem with the packed mix falling out during the split second it is being placed in a tray. Again, nicely done.

    This is great! Nice use of recycled materials.