Toilet Roll Seed Starters And Easy DIY And Part Of The Best And Worst Seed Starting Containers To Make

Seed Starting Containers: The Real Dirt – Part 1

The weather may be warming a bit and it’s been many months since we had our green thumbs in the soil, so it’s no surprise that folks are just itching to get seeds started.  I’m hearing about or seeing a lot of different seed starting blog posts floating around the web, from rookies who picked up a kit at the local hardware store to seasoned pros with pretty sophisticated grow ops (no, not that kind).  I’d like to share my experiences with all those super-adorable containers you can make at home (Part 1) as well as some thoughts on the store bought stuff (Part 2).  So here goes, the good, the bad, and the ugly of seed starting containers.DIY Seed starting containers - what works best, and what you should never use!

Note: for more information on the whole process of seed starting, check out Seed Starting 101 for the basics.  The following is more in depth on only one of the topics covered briefly in that post.This is the perfect guide for beginners! Start seeds successfully and grow your own organic garden

You absolutely, positively, do not need to BUY anything to be successful at seed starting.  Well, besides your seeds (if you haven’t saved your own) and some great sterilized seed starting mix, you can find most of what you need around the house.  Not every oh-so-cute Pinterest-worthy repurposed container gives your seeds the best start though.  And some are just plain time consuming.  Here are the facts so you can choose what is right for you.

Newspaper PotsMaking newspaper pots is simple, thirfy and fun. Lots more ideas for the best and worst seed starting containers to make as well

These wildly popular little containers can be easily made but cutting strips of newspaper and rolling it around a can, glass, or a fancy-dancy pot maker (get one here) to make cheap little starters.  Make sure the paper you choose uses a non-toxic soy based ink, especially when growing veggies starts.  Newspaper is biodegradable so you can plant your seedling out in the garden in the newspaper pot and it’ll break down naturally from the bacteria and other organisms in the soil.

Pros: cheap, readily available, plantable pot breaks down easily

Cons: can be flimsy when wet, can’t bottom-water delicate seedlings, time consuming to make many


Toilet Tissue Roll PotsToilet roll seed starters - and easy DIY and part of the best and worst seed starting containers to make

These pots are a bit sturdier than the newspaper pots and again readily available. To make, cut tissue roll in half, then cut four ½” long slits on the bottom of one end, equally spaced to make 4 flaps you will fold over like closing a box.  In theory, the cardboard will break down in the soil so they can be planted out like the newspaper pots, BUT not all soil is equal.  If your soil doesn’t have the necessary elements to break down this cardboard quickly the roots will not be able to spread and the plant will suffer.  If you do plant them in the ground, be sure to plant the whole container, because if the lip stays above soil it can wick moisture away from the roots.

Pros: cheap, readily available, sturdy, hole in the bottom for drainage

Cons: time consuming to make many, too small to be useful for most seedlings, will likely need to be removed when planting.


Egg Shells and/or Egg Cartons

Is starting seeds in eggshells really the best way to start your plants - find out in this post

These are so adorable aren’t they?  Using a cardboard egg carton filled with soil, giving 12 little cells to start seeds then you just rip up and plant in the garden like the toilet tubes.  And the egg shells couldn’t be more precious.  HOWEVER…I won’t even do a pros and cons list on them because that’s it for pros (cute) and never mind that you’ll have to remove the seedling from that shell and crush it before it hits the soil, they are just too darn small.  For both the carton and the shell you will have to delicately extract that little seedling before it has its true leaves and plant it in a bigger, deeper container.  I say, why not just start with a bigger container and save the seedling the stress?

Yogurt ContainersDIY Seed starting containers from recycled yogurt cups - lots of ideas for the best and worst seed starting containers to make

They don’t have to be yogurt (shown here are cream cheese containers) but you get the picture. This is the equivalent of the plastic nursery pots.  Just punch a few drainage holes in the bottom and Bob’s your uncle.  My only suggestion is to check your plastic for food safety to make sure it isn’t toxic to yourself or your plants.

Pros: cheap, readily available, sturdy, drainage holes for bottom watering

Cons: Unless you are fairly new to gardening, you probably have more nursery pots than yogurt containers, not all plastic is safe to reuse

Plastic Salad Containers

Plastic salad containers for starting seeds.

The box that you buy pre-washed baby greens in will make a lovely container.  As will a chicken dome, or a cake tray.  Anything that has a bit of a bottom on it and a wonderful clear plastic lid will create a mini greenhouse akin to what you can buy in retail.  Cut a few holes in the lid for ventilation and check it often to make sure seedlings don’t succumb to the dreaded “dampening off,” a fungal infection that kills the seedling.  You can either set all your little homemade containers in these or line the bottom with soil and plant directly.

Pros: cheap, readily available, sturdy, is a built-in greenhouse

Cons: not all plastic is safe to reuse, you must keep an eye on greenhouse domes and vent regularly to avoid dampening off, need to prick out and transplant germinated seedlings one by one which will inevitably cause some loss


Shredded Paper Pots

Sheedded paper pots

Now these brilliant little things I just saw today on Pinterest, but they are the same concept as the plantable seed paper I made for Valentine’s Day cards.  For instructions on how to make them please visit the tutorial at 365 Days of DIY.  I think these would make amazing pots to give plants as gifts using different colored paper to tint the pot. I’m so inspired!

I haven’t used them personally so my pros and cons are based on experience with the plantable paper.  Chime in if you try them and want to share your experiences.

Pros: cheap, readily available, sturdy, breaks down easily in soil

Cons: time consuming to make, takes a long time to dry


That’s my list.  Are there more?  Please comment if there are others out there that you have used and loved or hated.  What it really comes down to is personal preference.

Pin it here: The best seed starting containers you can make at home (and the worst)I’ve tried many ways and I have my favorite, trusted, old standby seed-starting methodology, but you will find that in Part 2 of this series. Check out Seed Starting Containers: The Real Dirt – Part 2 where I write up the pros and cons on the store-bought seed starters out there: peat pellets, fiber pots, and more.

About the Author : Stephanie Rose

A city girl who learned to garden and it changed everything. Author, artist, Master Gardener. Better living through plants.

View all posts by Stephanie Rose

  1. Daphne
    DaphneMarch 4,12

    I bottom water my newspaper pots with no issues at all, and the ones I make don’t have a bottom on them (they hold together because I compress the soil at the bottom).

    Are soil blocks considered a homemade container? It is what I use for most of my transplants. I do love them, but there is a learning curve to making them.

    I hadn’t seen the shredded paper pots before. So cute.

    • Stevie
      StevieMarch 4,12

      Daphne, could you share a bit more on the soil blocks? I’d love to include them here. Any photos, etc would be appreciated. Email me at Stevie at gardentherapy dot ca.

  2. Chris
    ChrisMarch 4,12

    Hey Stevie, you did a great job with this post! You’ve gathered together some great ideas.

    As the paper pulp cup originator, I’d say you are definitely right on the time-consuming bit. Prefect for making on a cold rainy day in front of the TV! Drying does take at least 24 hours, plus some time in the oven, but once they are out of the oven they are good to go! The other con is I’m not sure that I’ll be able to stick the little guys directly in the ground, the paper is a bit thick, and I’m not sure it will breakdown before the roots need to get through. They’re also kind of shallow, but I think they’ll work out until I get them in the ground.

    Otherwise these cups are working out wonderfully, and who can argue with free?

    • Stevie
      StevieMarch 4,12

      Hi Chris, thank you for sharing your thoughts, and your very creative seed pot idea! I’m so happy I found you. Gotta love Pinterest.

      I think that they will break down in the soils faster than the cardboard ones as the paper is already partially broken down in the making on these pots. But that’s just my hypothesis given how fast and easy my seed paper breaks down. It’s likely got then same issue as the cardboard in that or really depends on your soil, how thick you make them, etc.

      Please update us will you? Once you get you seedlings growing, please come back and comment or write a follow up on your wonderful site.


  3. jenn
    jennMarch 4,12

    I’ve had great luck with using egg carton for peas. Peas and small shoots usually disappear (transported or eaten by critters) in my community garden plot. I’ve started peas in the cartons and when roots show sign that it’s about to poke out at the bottom, it’s time to transplant! Last time I dug a trench, lined bottom with compost or slow release fertilizer (ended up with similar results), put the egg carton in place and buried it. The peas didn’t seem to get transplant shock and I had neat, perfectly spaced peas!

    The cartons completely disappeared by the time peas are finished and ready to be composted. Really!

  4. Stevie @ Garden Therapy
    Stevie @ Garden TherapyMarch 4,12

    Jenn, thanks so much for sharing your experiences with peas – I think that would be a great idea for peas, and particularly at a community garden.

    I really appreciate the feedback as it only helps to created better information – we must all learn from each other!


  5. Tamara {Delish Mag}
    Tamara {Delish Mag}March 4,12

    Stevie, this is a fantastic resource! I am afraid I have nothing to contribute as this will only be my second growing/starting from seeds season, but I will be visiting your blog on a very very regular basis!!

  6. Becca
    BeccaMarch 4,12

    What a clever idea! I wish I did these planting type things more, so I could use all your awesome ideas. Maybe this will be the year? ;-)

  7. carlee
    carleeMarch 5,12

    What wonderful ideas, I can not WAIT to get started on planting! Our growing season does not start until the end of may though… BOO! I showed this post off this morning!


    • Stevie
      StevieMarch 5,12

      thanks, Carlee, That’s wonderful!

  8. Jennifer Hutchinson
    Jennifer HutchinsonMarch 5,12

    I am so blessed to find your blog thru Ladybird Ln. I have a black thumb but I desire now to turn that green!! My 3yr old daughter asked if we could have a garden… Yikes- way out of my comfort zone but I think with your blog I will give the toilet paper pots a try:)
    New Linky Follower!
    ~jen @ F5

  9. Amanda @ Burlap & Denim
    Amanda @ Burlap & DenimMarch 5,12

    Such fantastic info! I’m following you and I’m ready to start sprouting now! I’d love you to share this with my readers at my first link party:

  10. Miriam@BeBookBound
    [email protected]March 5,12

    These are great ideas! I am SO on the salad container idea. Thanks a bunch!

  11. May
    MayMarch 6,12

    Last year I did the newspaper pots with varying degrees of success. But the price was certainly right!

  12. Aubrey
    AubreyMarch 6,12

    How do I know if my newspaper uses safe ink?? I called them and the secretary did not know. Is there a way to tell?

  13. Stevie @ Garden Therapy
    Stevie @ Garden TherapyMarch 6,12

    Hi Aubrey, I would call back and ask for someone else, or send them some e-mails – go higher up than the reception. I don’t know how to tell without going to the source. It’s surprising and unfortunate that the newspaper you called was unhelpful.

  14. Jennifer Juniper
    Jennifer JuniperMarch 7,12

    For some reason I am terrible at starting seeds! I always get them to sprout and soon they turn spindly and the stems break – I’m going back to read your 101 tutorial to see if I can come up with some solutions!

  15. Stevie @ Garden Therapy
    Stevie @ Garden TherapyMarch 7,12

    Jennifer – yes, definitely read that post. My guess if that you need to transplant your seedlings to a nutritious soil mix and add some more light. Seedlings get leggy looking for a light source and in the winter the says aren’t long enough, so you may need to run a light for 12 hours/day. It also depends on what you start your seeds in soil-wise. Answers are in the 101 post and I’ll be writing more about lighting very soon.

  16. Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co.
    Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co.March 11,12

    Great tips! Can’t wait to get things growing!

  17. mary
    maryMarch 12,12

    Great round up of all the types of pots. They are all so much cuter than those plastic tray seed starters they sell in stores. Thanks for linking up to Share the Love Wednesday!

  18. Pinkoddy
    PinkoddyMarch 19,12

    Found you through pinterest and wanted to say thanks for a great post. Have made some of the toilet roll holder pots.

    • Stevie
      StevieMarch 19,12

      Hi Pinkoddy, thanks so much! Glad that you found some useful tips.

  19. Babka
    BabkaMarch 20,12

    Would the egg cartons work for cauliflower seeds I’m planning to plant this (Australian) autumn? Do I just fill up the 12 pots with soil, stick in the seeds and keep them inside? First time planter here, thanks for the ideas.

    • Stevie
      StevieMarch 20,12

      Babka, check out what I wrote above (in the article) about egg cartons, I do not suggest using egg cartons at all as I think they are too small to reasonably start most seeds. Now another reader suggested that she grows peas in egg cartons and since they are smaller seedlings, I might just try that myself! For your cauliflower, which a huge plant (the full grown plat can be 2-3ft tall and wide), you will need something much larger if they must be started indoors. I’m not sure of the climate in your area, but if it is warm enough, I would suggest you would be better off starting them directly in the garden. Please visit your local nursery where you plan to buy the seeds and ask the experts in your area for specifics. Please also note that cauliflower is a moderately difficult vegetable to grow that takes a very long time to mature (many months), so if you are a beginner, you may want to start with easier veggies like tomatoes or lettuce to get started.

      Also, I will be posting up “part 2” of this series in a week or so, which will cover my favourite seed starting method for indoor veggie starts.

      I hope that this answers your questions. Thanks for visiting,

  20. Amber
    AmberMarch 20,12

    Thank you for the advice here. I’ve seen the egg shells and what-not on Pinterest. And have even been thinking about trying them this Spring. So I do appreciate hearing about them rather than just seeing the pics! I’ll be bookmarking your page and looking forward to more input.

  21. Babka
    BabkaMarch 20,12

    Thanks Stevie, it does. We were given the cauliflower seeds for free and I thought I’d give it a go. The package says to plant them in autumn, but I shall investigate further. Shame about the egg carton, it does look very cute.

  22. Writings After Sunset
    Writings After SunsetJune 16,12

    Excellent post, Steve. Thanks for sharing the information. I was considering a few of these myself, it’s nice to have the feedback on different methods. I just wrote about my own experiences/mistakes starting seedlings this year and linked to this article.


  23. Writings After Sunset
    Writings After SunsetJune 16,12

    I apologize, I meant Stevie!

  24. John
    JohnFebruary 14,13

    I love the eggshells idea. Along with the salad containers, these look like the perfect vehicle for me. Starting my seeds is on the list for this week. Great article and resource. Thanks!

  25. Bibi
    BibiApril 10,13

    What about using Dixie Cups? Or clear plastic picnic cups?

  26. Stevie
    StevieApril 10,13

    Hi Bibi, those would work just like the yogurt cups. Great idea!

  27. JAMES R.
    JAMES R.November 10,13

    Q for whoever wishes to try & answer.

    I have lots of newspapers around here, & I also have a muffin pan that is rusty & nasty looking…I already bought 2 new stainless steel ones.

    ANYWAY, I was wondering if you think it’s possible to use the muffin pan to make seed starter ots from the newspaper I have?

    This is just another one of my “off the wall” ideas that crossed my mind, & I thought I’d ask you all about it before I try this.

    I have never made seed starter pots before, so I have no idea where I would get the mold/form/whatever it’s called to make one.

    Any advice will be humbly appreciated.

    • Danee Bramhall
      Danee BramhallFebruary 16,17

      James, I’ve been doing these about 5 years now and they work great! A drinking glass that has slightly flaring sides (the widest part at the top) works great for me and if using a totally straight sided thing like a can, if you don’t roll it too tightly, you can pull it off easier. I do 2 round the can actions and then fold the bottom, pull the paper off using the last bit that I folded of the bottom, sit it in the plastic tray, fill it immediatly with moist soil and on to the next one! Easy peasy and this year I’m streamlining the production by making my 19 year old son roll while I fill and plant!

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  29. Myrnie
    MyrnieFebruary 27,14

    Love this, thanks! I just ordered a newspaper pot maker and am excited to let my kids help with that! I plan on loading them into a tray and bottom watering… Hope it works :).

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  33. Leslie Little
    Leslie LittleApril 7,14

    Hi!I use egg cartons to start my seeds. I put soil in each individual egg holder and then the seed and top off with more soil. When it is time to plant in my garden bed, I cut each egg section apart and as I put it in the garden bed i rip a hole in the bottom for the roots to grow with out worry of the material restricting it. This has worked great for me and I use toilet paper holders cut in quarters as place markers for where I have planted seeds in the garden bed. I dont put a bottom on it. That way I know exactly where the seed was planted in the garden bed. :0)

  34. Live Love Bean
    Live Love BeanJuly 21,14

    Great ideas and they look so simple. Particularly when you can use things from around the home. Going to get started and try them out. Thanks heaps! We have such cold weather lately that plastic container suggestion might just be what I need.

  35. Emily Q
    Emily QFebruary 1,15

    I know this is an old thread but I wanted to mention milk jug greenhouses. Not sure if they should be re-used or not but I made them last year with success. Just a thought…

  36. Jesse
    JesseFebruary 3,15

    This is a great resource for any gardener newbis or vetrans.I have learned through my experience to use different pots for different crops. Herbs grow slow and papertowel rolls work well for slow growers, egg cartons are especially useful for peas and beans. I also like to use them for cucumbers because you can plant them out after seeding in just four weeks. I make flats out of cardboard boxes from non toxic materials, usually plain cardboard folded and duck taped. They work for as long as I need them, then they are turned into dry compost, this helps keep your compost moist and active while serving its intended purpose which was to start off early onions. However you garden, stretch your resources out by using these cheap pot tricks, spend your hard earned money on perrenials and heirloom seeds which will likely pay their way within a year or two. Enjoy! Eat, live and pin!

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  40. michelle
    michelleApril 2,15

    hey i’m using a smaller fish tank for planting and i was wondering since its hard plastic or glass i think. do i need to be able to drain the water when i water them? there’s no holes at the bottom and i don’t know how its gonna drain. if it doesn’t drain, will i ruin my seeds or plants? thank you so much.

  41. Stephanie
    StephanieApril 2,15

    Hi Michelle, you definitely need drainage. You could put down a layer of rocks and cover that with filter cloth. A fish tank is so big that it would be hard to lift to pour out excess water – so be very mindful of not over watering! Check out this article on the basics of seed starting for more info.

  42. Karla Augustine
    Karla AugustineJuly 9,15

    I love the idea of using egg shells, they’re sooo cute seed starters! This spring me and my daughter made our seed starters exactly this way and it was both beautiful and useful. Next year we’ll try something else. Thank you for the ideas!

  43. linda ramalho
    linda ramalhoDecember 20,16

    I like your info and the pros and cons but i would like to follow any more on the toilet papper ones thanks linda

  44. Carly Smith
    Carly SmithFebruary 27,17

    Stephanie! you brought up so many ideas of gardening one could never even think of. One needs to have some special abilities to bring up such like innovative ideas. I am pretty sure if you are given time to think you can even list down more of them.

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    Awesome idea!

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