Biodegradable Newspaper Pots




Introduction: Biodegradable Newspaper Pots

About: I am a teacher outside of Boston and I love making cool stuff! Any prizes I'm lucky enough to win will go directly to my classroom (when appropriate) where I teach 6-12th grade English & Social Studies (...

I was going to include the Origami Newspaper Pots with my previous Instructable, Recycled Seedling Pots, as I'm using recycled newspaper to make them. The instructions are a bit more complicated and I realized they deserved their own Instructable.

A little tricky at first, but once you see where it's all going, it gets much easier and you can produce a pot in a matter of minutes. My students are making these for the marigolds and vegetables we will be starting soon for our garden.

These pots, like the toilet paper pots, are biodegradable and can be planted directly in the ground when your seedling is ready. For more information on getting seeds going, check out my other Instructable Pre-Sprouting Seeds.

Step 1: Folds 1-4

Using a full sheet of newspaper, fold it in half width wise and then again lengthwise (1 & 2). You may need to trim an inch or so off to make everything even. Unfold length wise.

From the fold line, fold each corner in towards the crease line, kind of like you would when making a paper airplane (3).

Take the bottom of the paper and fold it up to the bottom of your airplane folds (4).

Step 2: Fold 5-6

Fold the paper again, it should look kind of like the brim of a hat now.

Step 3: Fold 7 & 8

Flip the paper over and bring each side (one at a time) to the crease line in the center of the paper and fold.

Step 4: Making the Pocket

Bring the bottom of the paper up to the new fold line and fold it down (pics 1 & 2). Fold again (pic 3). Now you have a little pocket, and you want to unfold the last fold so that you can slide the open end into the pocket and secure the sides of the pot (pic 4 & 5)

Step 5: More Folds

Take the pointy tip of the paper and fold it down towards each corner, one at a time. This is going to make a new crease line that will help us in the next step.

Step 6: Ta Da!

Stick your hand inside the opening and the bottom of your pot should form. The crease lines we made in the last step help the bottom cave in. Pinch around the sides of the pot to make it sturdier. Filled pots will sit flat/level on surfaces. Before you add water, put the pots on something that you don't mind getting muddy.

Fill with soil, seeds, and a little water.

Step 7: Video!

After several failed attempts at making a clear and short video, I finally gave up. One of my students was nice enough to let me stand over his shoulder while he made a pot for demonstration.

If you enjoyed this Instructable, please consider voting for it in the Urban Farming Contest. Anything I'm lucky enough to win will go directly to my classroom and students :) Thanks!

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32 Discussions

Very nice instructions! The images mixed with the word instructions made it really clear!


2 years ago

PERFECT use for all that newsprint coupon spam mail I get!

tip: use an ruler or something similar to mark the folds

Couple of tips; if you have a recycling center fairly close, they will normally receive unsold newspapers which are sold to others but we have no problem getting stacks free which we use in gardening.

Also, I don't think anyone is still using carbon black for printing but some organic ink.

I actually used newspaper Pots this year to start my seedlings. While low cost and actually quite sturdy, the problem that I had with them was drainage. There was no drainage at the bottom and this caused mold. I up-potted the plants and/or planted them outside once sprouted and they are doing great, but I imagine the mold could be a concern.

2 replies

As long as you don't overwater them, the paper should act in a similar way to terracotta pots, with moisture evaporating from the pot surface. If you need more drainage, you could raise them up on a bed of small stones or gravel (like the stuff for fish tanks) to get air flowing around the bottom of the pot and for the excess water to escape. I imagine stabbing some holes into the bottom of the pot, or snipping the corners would also help too.

You could snip off a tiny corner or two on the bottom to create drainage. I did that to the pots in which I planted some hollyhock seeds, because they want to form long tap roots and may want to get out of the pot before it decomposes. Just an experiment. I have never grown hollyhocks this way before.

I found information somewhere to the effect that when sowing your seeds, you should not use any fertilizer for a while, as it only invites mold, and the seeds themselves contain enough nourishment for the seedlings to get started.

This is great! I was just thinking yesterday that I would need to go out and buy paper cups for seedlings, as I couldn't think of any way to use my trash. Now I know! Thanks so much for this. The pictures are clear, and assuming I am not slow today, I should have a slew of pots made up for tomorrow! Great idea!

I just updated the Instructable and added a video! Thanks all!

As several people seem to have made these without difficulty, I'm assuming the fault must lay with me...

Doesn't there need to be a cut or a tear to go from 3 to 4? - there's a fold along one side edge, so you can't separate the 'top and bottom' layers when you "Take the bottom of the paper and fold it up to the bottom of your airplane folds" in photo 4.

Photo 5 seems to be a repeat of photo 4 and I can't work out what "You may need to trim an inch or so off to make everything even" is supposed to mean - equal width and height, what?

I've got 48 sunflower and 86 marigold seedlings waiting for me to make 'stage-2 homes' for them...

a video would be awesome, I am very challenged in these matters. Also, depending on which paper you read, what are the dimensions you aare looking at?

I've been working on a video component. I need to figure out a way to shoot that looks less confusing.

Use a sheet of paper with a different colour on each side. You could glue two different colours together or take a minute and colour one side of a white piece of paper with a crayon or coloured pencil. This should make it a lot easier for people to tell which way what gets folded!


2 years ago

I am glad to see this great ible, and since I have used these folded newspaper pots already, some here might be interested on how they turned out.

I made about 32 of them; they just fit into a large carton whose sides I had cut down so they were an inch or two lower than the newspaper pots. Then I lined the whole carton "tray" with a large garbage bag to water-proof it, taping loose pieces at the corners to make it neat, and filled the pots with fluffy coconut fiber (coir) to give the seedlings plenty of soft stuff to sink their roots into. (Later, I divided the pots and put them into two rectangular baking pans to make it easier to move them around as the windows in the house that got the sun changed with the time of day, but someone with a room that gets more sun might not need to do that.

I planted heirloom Brandywine tomatoes, cucumbers, and a few flowers--all in seed form. All are doing well, and I have several little cucumber plants outside in the garden (in So. Cal.) already. I plan to set the rest out sometime this week, if I am not too busy. I water from the bottom, by pouring water directly into the bottom of the "tray," and not onto the "pots." It spreads around and the pots take up just as much as they need. After 1/2 hour or so, I pour off what is left.

The pots last several weeks, probably long enough for the plants to be ready to go into the garden, depending on where you live. But I did transplant the tomatoes rather early (when their secondary leaves had become big) into some new newspaper pots and filled them with an organic potting mix so as to give them more nutrients, as the coir is said to contain little to none. What a messy job THAT was!

These great little pots are free, of course, and another nice thing about them is that when the time comes to move your plants into the garden or large outdoor pots, you can simply plant the whole pot. It will soon break down and will not harm the plants at all.

And here I've just been using cardboard egg cartons. Now I don't have to wait until I run through a dozen eggs to have little pots. Simple origami. I'm such a goober! ;)

Creative but I'm not so sure I want to eat food saturated with the chemicals in newsprint. Nevermind the ink alone: I know what goes into turning pulp into newsprint.

Scary and not something you want to be ingesting

This instructable screams out for a video, I really like the idea.

1 reply

yep i'll be doing this. thank you.