Saturday, April 16, 2011

Forget Peat Pots: Making Them Old School

My house in 2010. It became rather unmanageable- and dinner was eaten in the living room.
This is the time when our house decor models that of a jungle. It's a disorganized, poorly lit greenhouse, without enough surface space to manage all the growing (soon to be leggy!) seedlings. This year I have stayed true to my goal of control in the planting stage: I planted 2 butternut squash, not a flat, just 8 tomatoes, not 3 flats. My problem is that in my anticipation for all things warm, green and delicious, I forget that seeds will grow into seedlings which will require transplanting which will require FOUR times the space of the initial planting cells.

If you are wondering about my pots in the above picture- they are newspaper pots. I first got the idea of make my own transplant pots (instead of buying peat or coir) while browsing the Lee Valley Catalogue. For about $30 you could buy a wooden mold "for newspaper pots"! Thankfully I resisted buying the mold and rummaged for a plastic cup in my kitchen. It proved to work fantastically.

Rolling each pot adds about 8 seconds to my transplanting time per seedling. In return, I save about 10-15 cents a plant and reuse materials that are renewable (peat is a non-renewable resource so why use it when not necessary?). I also find that the newspaper pots decompose way faster than coir or peat pots when transplanted out in the garden...

For me, it's been worth the extra time. Here's how I do it:

Cut a 4-6" section of newsprint or a large newsletter (like below). 

With two layers, roll the strips around a plastic cup or mold that's 3- 5" tall

Place top-end down and fold the bottom like the ends of a present- I usually begin folding the loose edge.

Squash the boom flat with the mold or cup.

Add soil immediately (which helps to weight down the folded bottom).

Then add your seedling.

I place mine on cookie trays, with slightly raised edges, so that the seedlings have a firm AND waterproof base. This means no cookies in our home for the month of April (a month when I don't particularly need cookies on my lips or hips!)

Water the tops gently and I add water to the bottom so the pots soak water from the base. Snuggled together like this, the pots hold their shape well.

In past years, I've usually placed tomatoes in the bottom half of pop bottles. This year, I simply transplanted them into a roasting pan (no turkeys will be cooked this month either!). I ran out of dirt but will fill this pan to 1" from the top.

I always plant my tomatoes as deep as I can. New roots will grow from whatever part of the stem is under soil. You can even plant leggy tomatoes sideways in the garden, leaving only the top couple leaves showing. New plants will grow up from the roots where leaves once grew.
If you have yet to start basil and parsley, these can be yours to baby. I have no room for these little gaffers. Email me if you want them.


RootAndTwig said...

This is the way I've been doing it for the last couple years, and it's great! I haven't planted the paper into the garden because I wasn't sure it would decompose very fast, but from now on I will!
I also saw (but haven't tried yet) that you can use the cardboard toilet-paper tubes, saved up from the year, cut and folded. But I'll bet they won't biodegrade quite as quickly.

Mrs. Nepper said...

What a great idea! I just saw that in the Lee Valley catalog and was aghast at the price. So I'm glad to see such a cheap alternative!

An Avenue Homesteader said...

Nice idea for the toilet roll ends, Ashley! They may not decompose completely, but I bet roots would have a pretty easy time breaking through the moist cardboard. I'm going to try that with my cucumber seedlings in a couple weeks.

Holly- so expensive! But something about the clever, efficient gadgetry of that catalogue just makes me want to buy buy buy (everything but the pot roller!)

kerry said...

Ok, so I am now addicted to your blog - thanks for the great ideas, tips and inspiration!

In the past few years I have found LOTS of different seedling homes at the Edmonton reuse center. Absolutely terrific selection - and if you collect for a few projects when you go the $5 cost is really quite reasonable (I haven't purchased gift wrap, or baskets since the reuse center opened).

Thanks for sharing the tip!

An Avenue Homesteader said...

Great mention, Kerry. Here are the deets for those who haven't gone to the ReUse Centre in Edmonton:
10004 103A Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5J 3T9
(780) 442-4380

My only beef with that place is I come home with a lot more than I planned, then take most of it back because I didn't find the time to turn 12 large coffee tins into a percussion station for the kids (etc.etc.)

Anonymous said...

Love your gardening centre last year! I am afraid I have done the same thing you have, with less and less room as seedlings grow up and need to be transplanted... This is my first year at giving this a try, and I have planted way too much!