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Fold Your Own: Paper Pots

A tray full of folded paper pots will hold up long enough until seedlings are ready to be planted out. Photo by Kel Buckley

Folding your own pots is an inexpensive and sustainable way to raise your seedlings. Not only are you eliminating plastic from the process, but it’s better for your plants, too.

There are so many advantages to using paper seedling pots. In terms of the environment, you’re reusing a waste product that would otherwise be destined for the recycle bin or compost heap and you’re using it as an alternative that would otherwise be plastic. Of course the other advantage is you’re removing any risk of root damage or transplant shock to your lovingly raised seedlings because the pot itself can be planted straight into the ground.

Size And Shape

There are commercially available products that you can use to construct paper pots (see Tried & True, page 89) that are probably a bit quicker than folding your own using this method, but more often than not they produce a circular pot. What we like about this folded version is that it produces a square-shaped pot which, when many of them are packed neatly and tightly into a seedling tray, tend to support themselves much better than cylindrical paper pots do. This is especially true after a period of time of the paper being wet, which should be all of the time when you’re raising young plants.

Clockwise from top left Start by folding your paper in half twice; This is where you open up the last fold and centre it on the crease; Then locate the top layers and fold them in; Repeating the pricess will halve the width; A finished pot ready for filling, Photos by Kel Buckley

What You’ll Need

This is truly a single object project. All you need to make each pot is a single page of a standard-sized newspaper (so you’ll get two pots from a double-page spread) – don’t use glossy paper as it won’t let the roots grow through or break down as well as standard newsprint. And if you don’t buy newspapers, you should find that your local cafe or newsagent will be more than happy to give you their old ones.

Some tutorials will recommend you use a staple to hold the final folded-over flaps in place once finished, but not only is this step unnecessary, by doing so you’re making a product that isn’t 100 percent biodegradable. If you do opt to staple the flap in place, just be sure to remove it before planting the pot into your soil.

Folding Your Pot

With the sheet of paper sitting in front of you in a portrait orientation, take the bottom edge and fold the piece of paper in half so it meets the top edge, press to form a crease. Rotate the sheet 90 degrees so it’s again in a portrait orientation in front of you and fold in half, repeating the process. Turn the paper 90 degrees a third time and repeat the process, but this time you’re only folding it to make a crease down the centre of the paper, so now open that fold back up.

Put your hand inside the last fold you made and open it up so that the outside crease now sits in the centre, in line with the crease you just made and press down on the newly formed edges to make a triangular shape. Flip the whole thing over and repeat the process. Locate the top layer on the right-hand side of your project and fold it over so it meets the left-hand edge. Flip the whole thing over and repeat the process.

Now, take the right-hand edge again and fold into the centre, repeat this with the left-hand edge so they’re butting up against each other in the centre, before flipping over and folding both of those sides into the middle as well. Now you’re going to repeat those four steps once again, folding all four edges into the centre like you did before, effectively halving the width of your project as you do this.

Now, with the pointed edge facing you, take the top layer of the flat edge and fold towards you to form the top of your pot. Flip the whole thing over and repeat. These are the final folded-over flaps referred to earlier that some people will staple down – but don’t bother. Place your fingers inside the centre folds and open it up so that the pointy end forms the base of your seedling pot.

Folded pots are easy to store inside opened ones. Photo by Kel Buckley

Store And Customise

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find you’ll be able to reel off a tray or so of seedling pots in no time. If you don’t open them up to complete the final step and keep them folded, you’ll find that about 10 folded pots can be stored neatly in one of your opened-up paper pots until you’re ready to use them.

While you might be tempted to fold the flap inside the pot so it looks neater, you’ll find the pots have more strength if those two flaps remain on the outside. They’re actually a handy place to label and date the variety of seedling you’re growing, too. Also, avoid the temptation to use a double layer of newspaper in order to create a stronger result. This will take a lot longer to break down in the ground and it’ll be much harder for the roots of your growing plants to find their way out into the soil. Of course you can use a full-sized sheet to make a pot twice the size, these are great for raising cucurbits like pumpkin, zucchini and cucumber seed.


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