Paper Pots for Quicker Production and Maximum Capacity




About: I've been a market gardener for 17 years now. Besides growing flowers for flower bouquets & veggies for my family, I enjoy crafts. One of my favorite is sun printing. I sell on etsy too under WildcreekGardens.

I know there are a lot of paper pot how-to's but I wanted to show a quicker way. Afterall, who wants to spend more time potting up seedlings?

Step 1: Items Needed

Tin can (about 15 oz. size)

Can opener (preferable the old-fashioned type that cuts the inside of the can)

Plastic canning funnel

Duct tape


Tools to cut the newspaper

Step 2: Assemble Pot Maker

Before you cut your can open, take a look at the bottom. You need to open both ends and the one on the left I could not open. The one on the right is the type you need. I prefer the old-fashioned can opener so that there are not sharp edges left on the can. However, you should not be handling it on the inside so don't worry if the newer kind that cuts the outside of the lid is all you have.

After you have emptied the can, cut off both the top & bottom lids, and cleaned it, all you need to do is tape it to the canning funnel.

Step 3: Prepare Newspaper

My newspaper is 11" wide by 24" long. First, tear it on the fold and create a large pile. I use a cutting mat, a knife and a ruler to cut the pile in three 8" x 11" strips. Just keep making strokes with the knife until you cut through the whole pile. It doesn't have to be perfect. My local newspaper used to be wider and it worked better but 22" is too long and we're going for maximum efficiency so I make do.

Step 4: Wrap the Newspaper and Make the Pot

Wrap the strip of the newspaper around the bottom of the can about 4" - 5" up. Twist the extra on the bottom and push it in. Dip the pot maker into a container of potting soil and shake down. Slide the paper pot off and set into your tray.

This is much quicker than flattening out the bottom and trying to fill with dirt after you have them in a tray.

Step 5: Fill Tray

The typical plastic tray is 11" x 22". I can fit 4 pots by 8 pots across for a total of 32 pots. When I used to use yogurt containers I could only fit about half as much for the same amount of room for the seedling to grow! I also had to punch holes in any containers for drainage and they would fall over easily. I do use trays with no holes because I don't want them to leak on my plant stand. I have learned with experience how much to water. If you have the ability to use trays with drainage holes, go ahead.

I tore one paper pot open so that you can see the nice root growth. I use masking tape and a black permanent marker on the outside of the tray to list what plants I have from left to right. For example: Lemon Basil 8, Cinnamon Basil 8, Lime Basil 4, Regular Basil 12. The one disadvantage is it's not easy to move the seedlings to another tray after they have been growing for a while. However, they are separable which isn't always the case if you have all the plants in one container because the roots will tangle. I will slide the whole paper pot and seedling into a container if I want to sell it or give it to somebody. A big advantage is that when I plant the seedlings in the garden, I can leave the paper on or tear it off and let it rot right there. No large amounts of containers to pick up and wash if you want to use them for next year.

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    10 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Great instructable, faster than the origami version.

    Newspaper does not contain heavy metals, the ink is soy based. Done.

    The newspaper will hold together well enough because it is wrapped around itself, but it will eventually decompose. Watering from the bottom is fine. When you take them out to transplant you can plant thepaper pot as well, it will break down faster than the peat and the paper won't wick away the moisture as bad as peat pots can which can kill a new transplant.


    5 years ago on Step 5

    Great way of doing the pots! Not as expensive as the peat pots. Thanks! I'm wondering about the watering process and the breakdown of the newspaper since I usually water from beneath. Won't the pots become too water saturated by the time the plants are big enough to transplant?

    6 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Newspaper ink has heavy metals. In practise mos of the times it will be almost impossible to separate the dirt from the paper by the time plants are big enough to transplant


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    No, newspaper ink, even the color ink, is vegetable based. The ink you are thinking about is that used on glossy inserts, not the newspaper itself.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I don't believe that the newspapers I use are toxic. Although you can never be sure, this is what I found:

    "Though newspaper ink has notoriously been known to be toxic in past years, Newspaper Association of America (NAA) regulations have required newspapers to switch to natural ink make of soy products. According to the NAA, over 95 percent of newspapers use this new, more environmentally friendly ink as of 2010, but the remaining 5 percent or so may still contain toxic materials. Toxic ink can cause repercussions if recycled since recycled newsprint usually goes into other materials such as cardboard or other widely used materials. Old newsprint is also used as animal bedding and could cause harm to animals."

    There are also how-to's to figure out if your newspaper has toxic materials.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    your newspaper is not even decomposed, it doesn't seem to leach much into the compost. hope it hasn't heavy metals. i live in europe, I don't know about the regualtions but newspaper has bad reputation in terms of toxicity of the ink


    I do water from the top but I have kept my plants up to 2 months in the paper pots and they stay separate from each other. There's no way you could take the plant out and replant another seedling because of it breaking down though. Plus I don't know if the plants would wick up the water like you want through the newspaper watering from the bottom.