Paper Pulp Starter Pots

This week I definitely have had gardening on the brain: I wrapped up a month long series on garden planning, priced out a new seed starting set up for the basement (soo excited about this!), arrived at near-final plans for each of my gardens, and completed my seed orders.  Oh, and I made my first batch of starter pots, too.  Bring on spring!

Last year I made newspaper starter pots for all of my seedlings.  I loved that they were easy to make and were the perfect size so I had to do very little up-potting as the seedlings grew.  That they didn’t require the consumption of molded plastic cells was icing on the cake.  I was sold!  But then, I started to see links to to another method of making paper starter pots that piqued my interest.

The paper pulp starter pots looked like they wouldn’t be any more time consuming than the newspaper pots (perhaps a little messier, but who doesn’t like making a good mess every now and then?), but the advantage I saw in this idea was that the starter pots might be more likely to break down quickly when transferred into the garden (something some of my newspaper pots did not do very quickly last year).  So I decided to throw a few of these paper pulp starter pots into the mix this year and see how they compare.

Pinterest told enchanting tales of an easy-peasy project: stuff your blender full of newspaper bits, add water, whirl, and voila!, cute little paper pulp starter pots.  But I found the process to be lacking a few details and tricks that definitely made the process easier, so I did a little trial and error, adapted, and came up with a process that worked quite well for me, and in recreating it a day latter with lessons learned, it really was the easy-peasy weekend project I was hoping it would be.

Step 1: Shred the Paper
You need about 2 packed cups of shredded paper to make 12 starter pots  (any non-glossy paper will work).  Tear up the paper into thin strips and then small pieces, or grab a few handfuls from the paper shredder.  The smaller the pieces of paper, the easier the blending will be.

Step 2: Blend
Start with 2 cups of warm water in a blender.  Turn it on and slowly add the paper pieces through the opening in the cover while the blender is running.  I found this infinitely easier than starting with the paper already in the blender, as the newspaper has a tendency to form one big lump when the water is added to it.  By adding the paper to the water a little at the time, the whole process goes much more smoothly.  Stop the blender occasionally to scrape down the sides until all the paper has been incorporated.

Step 3: Form the Starter Pots
Using a muffin pan, divide the paper pulp into the 12 wells and press the pulp into an even layer that covers the bottom and sides of each muffin well.  My first instinct was to first squeeze out some of the excess water, but I found that if the pulp was too dry, it was more difficult to form, so I didn’t drain or otherwise remove the extra moisture until the starter pots had been formed.  Once I was happy with the shape, I gently pressed a dry dishcloth into each starter pot to soak up the excess moisture.

Step 4: Dry
Set aside the muffin pan and allow to air dry in a warm, dry location, if possible.  Dry time will vary, depending on how much moisture is still left in the pulp and drying conditions   I placed the pan on top of the cast iron radiator in the dinning room on a very cold day and it was completely dry in about 18 hours.  You can also place the pan in the oven at the lowest setting to speed things up at bit.  The starter pots are ready to be removed from the pan when they are completely dry.

Step 5: Start Some Seeds
All that’s left to do is place the starter pots in a flat tray, fill them with soil, thoroughly water, and plant a few seeds.  When it comes time to transplant the seedlings, the entire pot can go right into the ground.

And that’s all there is to it!  I’ll be planting heirloom broccoli and a variety of heirloom peppers in these babies at the end of the month  I cannot wait to start seeing little green seedlings again!

8 thoughts on “Paper Pulp Starter Pots

  • February 4, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    These are such a great idea! I used altered paper towel tubes for seed-starting pots last year, but I think it would be great to be able to make the exact size you want with whatever muffin tin works the best.

    • February 6, 2013 at 3:15 pm

      Yes, the flexibility of this method is great!

  • February 21, 2013 at 9:25 am

    You know, I make paper this way with my science class every year, and never thought to make plant pots out of it! Great plan!

    • February 22, 2013 at 11:26 am

      Thanks! So far my little pepper seedlings are doing very well in them! The muffin tin size is really nice, especially if you are using a heat mat to promote germination (lots of bottom surface contact and not as much soil for the heat to work through). Happy planting!

  • March 13, 2013 at 10:01 am

    This is a very useful recycling project! I think that this is a great way to reuse paper because it serves a bigger purpose. I hope that your broccoli and pepper seedlings grow well in your paper starter pots.

    Ruby Badcoe

    • March 14, 2013 at 7:25 am

      All seedlings are growing like crazy! Thanks for stopping by!

  • May 8, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Hello! I just stumbled upon your blog entry. This is a great idea! I am a total newbie when it comes to gardening but I decided to try out with pepper seedlings (bell peppers and hot peppers). My question is, were you able to put enough soil into the paper pots? It looks like the pots can’t really hold too much soil and water – or maybe that’s just me?


    • May 8, 2014 at 10:45 am

      Hi Chelsea! Your instinct is correct; these starter pots do not hold a lot of soil and that is definitely one of their shortfalls – at least if you would like to have your seedlings in the same pot for a longer haul. I grew peppers and broccoli in these pots and while the broccoli eventually needed to be potted up, the peppers grew slowly enough that they did quite well in paper pots.

      You might also try this same method with another, deeper item to mold the paper pulp. I made a batch last year using plastic wine glasses (I think they are 4 or 5 oz cups) that held more soil. I have a little more info on these starter pots here:

      Good luck!


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