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How to Make Seedling Pots from Cardboard Tubes

Updated on August 25, 2012

Recycle Cardboard Tubes to Make Seed Pots

Use leftover toilet paper rolls to make seed pots that can be transplanted directly into the garden.
Use leftover toilet paper rolls to make seed pots that can be transplanted directly into the garden. | Source

Save Money in the Garden

In late winter, home improvement stores fill their gardening aisles with materials to start seedlings indoors. Seedling pots (also called seed pellets or peat pots) are wonderful for starting seeds before the prime growing season. These little pellets are not very expensive, but the need for many packages will increase the cost of getting a head start in the garden.

Save money and the environment by using leftover cardboard tubes as seedling pots. Turning a cardboard tube into a pot is an extremely easy task, and prevents cardboard from toilet paper tubes and paper towel tubes from ending up in the landfill.

Some plants do not cope well with transplantation (watermelon, e.g.), but the use of these tiny containers helps eliminate transplant stress. As the seedlings do not have to be removed from the biodegradable cardboard before planting, the tiny seedling may avoid the shock of being planted in the garden. Use a soil appropriate to the plant type - many seeds prefer to grow in peat moss, which helps to develop a healthy root system.

Creating the Seed Pots

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Flatten a cardboard tube in both directions to create a square shape. This step is optional, as the pots may be kept round, if desired.Cut along each corner about 1/4 up the length of the tube to create four flaps.Fold the flaps into the cardboard tube and then push them back down in an overlapping manner. This creates the bottom of the seedling pot.Place potting soil or peat moss into the tube and plant your seeds or seedlings.
Flatten a cardboard tube in both directions to create a square shape. This step is optional, as the pots may be kept round, if desired.
Flatten a cardboard tube in both directions to create a square shape. This step is optional, as the pots may be kept round, if desired. | Source
Cut along each corner about 1/4 up the length of the tube to create four flaps.
Cut along each corner about 1/4 up the length of the tube to create four flaps. | Source
Fold the flaps into the cardboard tube and then push them back down in an overlapping manner. This creates the bottom of the seedling pot.
Fold the flaps into the cardboard tube and then push them back down in an overlapping manner. This creates the bottom of the seedling pot. | Source
Place potting soil or peat moss into the tube and plant your seeds or seedlings.
Place potting soil or peat moss into the tube and plant your seeds or seedlings. | Source

How to Make Seedling Pots

The only materials needed for seedling pots are cardboard tubes and a pair of scissors. Cardboard tubes may be obtained from toilet paper rolls, paper towels, or wrapping paper. If a longer tube is used, it will need to be cut into 4"-6" lengths for use as seed pots.

  1. Flatten the cardboard tube with your hand. Open the tube and flatten the tube in the other direction, to form a square shape. This step may be omitted, as the pots may be round.The flaps are easier to fold in if the pots have sides.
  2. Use a pair of scissors and cut the tube 1/4 of the way up the side at each corner. This will create four flaps.
  3. Tuck each flap completely into the tube, so that the flaps rest along the inside walls of the tube.
  4. Reach inside the tube and gently push the flaps down until they are overlapping. This will form the bottom of the seedling pot.
  5. Add the desired substrate (potting soil or peat moss).
  6. Plant your seed or seedling into the tube.
  7. Transplant the seed pot into the garden. There is no need to remove the seedling from the cardboard pot, as the pot will biodegrade over time.

What is "Hardening Off?"

Hardening off is acclimating sheltered seedlings to a less frequent watering cycle, strong sun, and cooler temperatures.

Advantages of Starting Seeds in Pots

Gardeners living in cold weather zones appreciate getting a jump on the growing season. Many people in the northern hemisphere cannot plant seedlings outside until after Memorial Day, which means flowers and vegetables may start to bloom or produce fruit just before the first frost!

The use of seed pots allows gardeners to plant seedlings indoors in February or March, and transplant developed seedlings directly into the ground at the end of May. These plants already have a healthy, developed root system.

Transplanted seedlings should be "hardened off" for the first week or so in the great outdoors. As these plants have been sheltered from temperature changes,

Grow Seeds Indoors

Jump Start 2' T5 Grow Light System (Stand, Fixture & Tube)
Jump Start 2' T5 Grow Light System (Stand, Fixture & Tube)

Grow lights provide the right amount of light for young plants. These lights are great for houseplants and for young seedlings.

 

How to Harden Off Seedlings

Plants grown indoors are not used to environmental changes in temperature or strong sunlight. On the first mild day of spring, take the seedlings out for a few hours to expose them to the sun. During the first week of hardening off, water less frequently to allow the plants to get used to the amount of moisture they will receive in the garden.

After a week or so, begin placing the seedlings outside full-time, but bring them in when the temperature drops. A cold frame may be necessary for chilly days. Do not plant the seedlings into the garden until the nighttime temperatures are consistently above freezing. Some tender plants may require nighttime temperatures to remain above 60°F before transplant.

Once the seedlings are transplanted into the garden, use a mild NPK (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) fertilizer to encourage growth and to prevent the plants from wilting. Some seedlings may experience transplant shock, and the use of fertilizer and the hardening off process will help avoid plant injury or death.

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    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      Kris, newspaper seedling pots are another great "upcycling" project. I like the ease of the cardboard tubes, since it only takes a couple of snips and folds. I have to go and collect marigold seeds soon, so that I can re-start our border for next year.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks, HouseBuyersUS. It is a very simple project - even my six year old helps to make them!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks, TycoonSam - we start ours in late March or early April, and it gives a real jump on the season!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      Peggy, we used to live in Southern California and never needed to start anything indoors. It was a definite shock to the system to move to the land of ice and snow! We have 9 weeks of summer, and we try to make the most of every single week. Frost and deer make gardening difficult in our area, so we like to get a jump on the season!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana

      Wow, quick and easy - I like that! I've seen people around here use newspaper to make biodegradable seedlings pots but this is the first I've seen cardboard tubes being used. Great hub!

    • TycoonSam profile image

      TycoonSam 4 years ago from Washington, MI

      I live in the mid west and this is an excellent idea! Thank you for your instructional video.

      Voted up and useful

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      There is little need to start seedlings indoors in the Houston climate. I generally put the seeds directly into the ground. But for more northern climates such as where you live, this is such a good idea to make use of the cardboard tubes for seedlings to get a jump on the planting season. We do recycle our cardboard so at least it is not wasted. Excellent hub. Up votes and sharing.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      This is a great way to recycle those tubes, Emma! It is really simple - even my six year old can do it. All you need is a pair of scissors and some potting soil (and a seed or seedling, of course)!

    • Emma Harvey profile image

      Emma Harvey 4 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      What a great hub, I just love your video. It was great to watch and the idea is simple yet so effective.

      I will definitely give this a go next year so will start saving my cardboard tubes! Voting up and useful :)

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      Definitely give it a try, krsharp05! I really enjoy gardening, though I know it isn't everyone's cup of tea. There is something so relaxing about sitting outside among all the flowers and greenery. Summer is very short in my neck of the woods, so I soak it up before the snow starts flying!

    • krsharp05 profile image

      krsharp05 4 years ago from 18th and Vine

      Excellent video and hub. Your hubs are always great to read - informative and thorough. I would love to keep a garden. We have a perfect plot of land. I think net spring I will get my act together and give it a shot! I can't fail, I've got my team's hubs to guide me :) Voted awesome and up. -K

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      This would make a great classroom project, teaches12345 - and the teachers wouldn't have to spend any of their own money for the pots. The kids could plant a sunflower seed in each tube, let it sprout, and make it a Mother's Day present, etc.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Enjoyed your video instruction on the cardboard tube planters. The biodegradable fact is one that is interesting. I can see how this project would make for a great school project also. Voted up.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      I'm glad this hub was helpful (and timely) for you, Thelma! I love using these cardboard pots because I can just plant the seeds directly into them and never bother the seedling when I plant it in the garden.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 4 years ago from Germany

      Wow! This comes very handy to me now as I am going to transfer my seedlings into small pots this afternoon. So I´ll just use these toilet paper cardboards that I have in the bin. Thanks for sharing this very useful hub. Voted up and awesome! Great video as well;-)

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks, Riverfish - I thought a video would be better than written text for this one.

    • Riverfish24 profile image

      Riverfish24 4 years ago from United States

      Oh wow, what a great hub!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      The fact that you can leave the seedlings in the pots and simply plant the entire tube in the ground is wonderful for fragile plants, Daughter of Maat. The tubes simply biodegrade after a few weeks in damp soil!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      They break down very easily in the soil, Natashalh. I planted several and by the time the seedlings were established in the bed, the cardboard tubes had completely disappeared to become part of the surrounding soil!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      It really is an easy, fantastic way to reuse cardboard tubes, randomcreative! Much better than throwing them into the garbage!

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image

      Melissa Flagg 4 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      What a great hub! This is brilliant! I usually just burn my toilet paper rolls, but this makes replanting SO much easier!! I had to share this, and I bookmarked for future reference! Well Done!!

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Free, easy, and biodegradable - awesome! Thanks for sharing this idea.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      What an easy, simple idea! Thanks for sharing this.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks, lindacee! It is a really easy way to start seeds indoors, and SO easy to transplant in the outdoor beds!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      I wish you had a garden, Om - it is so relaxing to work outside in the flower (or vegetable) beds!

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 4 years ago from Arizona

      I absolutely love your videos, Leah! Makes me long to have a plot of ground to try this one out! Well done -- voted up useful and interesting!

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago

      Your seedling pots seem easy to make and very practical. A++++++ on the video. Now I just wish I had a garden. :)

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      I don't think I'm headed for a DIY show, but I do love to garden! I far prefer using the leftover toilet paper rolls in the garden than chucking them in the garbage. Thanks for the compliments, StephanieBCrosby - I hope you get to try them out soon!

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 4 years ago from New Jersey

      This was really awesome. It was also useful and interesting. I have always wondered what I could with all my cardboard tube besides make shakers for my kids. This is a perfect idea for me as I expand my garden to include more herbs. Great video. You are a natural. When is your DIY show coming out :)?

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks, snakeslane! I like getting a head start on the growing season. We live in Zone 5 and can't typically plant seeds outside until Memorial Day weekend - so starting seeds indoors is always beneficial!

    • snakeslane profile image

      snakeslane 4 years ago from Canada

      Nice clip leahlefler, good idea, well presented, big vote up. Regards, snakeslane