How do you all feel about starting seeds in newspaper pots?

littlelizzy123January 9, 2014

I am looking for a new pot medium this year. I really disliked the cow pots. They dried out very quickly. They were also hard to transplant from. The pots I did put right in the ground did not do well at all. Has anyone used newspaper pots before? They seem quick, easy and cheap if not free. I have a free newspaper source (our hometown hippie paper) that is "garden safe" and uses soy ink. I am also thinking about plastic pots, as I could use over again every year. What do you all think?

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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

I don't know what others will think about them, Lizzy, but I don't recommend using any sort of permeable pots out here with our low humidity. Watering for some plants can be hard enough, and when the moisture can evaporate up, down, and every-which-way-possible, keeping the plants wet enough without overwatering can be very difficult. I even stopped using clay pots a long time ago because watering was too hard when I was using them. At one of our swaps a couple years ago somebody (have no idea who it was) brought some seedlings in paper pots, they were very small (don’t know when they had been seeded), and, to me they looked like they were really struggling to grow . I noticed that the paper looked like it was mostly dry, but when somebody picked one up and looked closely at it they commented that the soil was saturated. I wasn’t interested in the particular plants in the pots, so I didn’t look at them any more closely, but based on the appearance of the plants I didn’t think it looked like a good idea. A few years ago at a swap I gave away what I had left of some VERY old peat pots and pellets I had. They just don’t work out here in my opinion, and I gave fair warning to the person who took them. I don’t know what happened with them after that!

I recommend (and use) plastic pots. Square ones are the most “efficient” since they fit closely together , and if you get the right size to fit into the “segmented flats” like the ones used at garden centers, it will make using, growing, and moving your plants around very easy. The flats have holes in the bottom so water retention is no problem. With plastic the soil will dry from the top down (rather than from "all sides") so you can help promote good root growth by letting the soil dry deeper and deeper in the pot before watering them again. Long ago I used to always wash my pots before reusing them, and then I soaked them in a mild bleach solution to be sure they were all the way clean. Then I ran out of time and started just reusing them “as is,” and, having never had any sort of a major disease problem, I never noticed any problems with doing that. I do still occasionally wash a few for a “special project” if there’s something I want to be absolutely sure about, but I find myself doing that less and less often too now--VERY few things get a “clean” pot with me! (I do still use clean pots if I'm rooting cuttings I think I might have a problem with.)

I don’t now what “cow pots” are (made out of cow pies???) but I’m thinkin’ they’re something very close to peat/paper pots. If you do decide to try the paper pots, be sure you remove as much of the pot as possible before putting your plants in the ground or I’m pretty sure you’ll continue to have the same problems you did with the “cow pots.” I’ve always kind of wondered how well the peat--and similar--pots decompose even when they’re planted in the Midwest or some other humid place, but out here it just doesn’t work. Any “pot” left above the soil line will just wick moisture away from the roots, and even “pot” left in the ground will interfere with moisture moving from in or out of “the pot” to the surrounding soil.

There was a thread about paper pots around here a couple years ago, and if you go to the search box on the BOTTOM of the main RMG page (by “birthdays”) you can search just this forum to look for it if you want to. Don’t really remember what all was said!

If you do decide to try some of them, come back and give us a report after you’ve had time to decide what you think of them.


This post was edited by skybird on Thu, Jan 9, 14 at 15:23

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 3:13PM
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Thank you so much skybird! I might try a few with some old herb seeds I have, but I don't think I'm going to trust my whole bunch with them. I'll report back on how they did. I think you have a point about the permeability. Those peat pots/cow pots dried out so quickly! They were Jiffy peat pots. I was watering almost everyday! I took out the bottom of the pots when I planted them, but they didn't really get going, so I dug them back up and took the plants all the way out. They did a little better after that. I suppose the newspaper would be as bad, if not worse. I will look at the plastic pots. I like the square ones, and I like the way I can use them over again. :)

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 6:11PM
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david52 Zone 6

I use plastic. The deep, narrow pots are my favorite, although one does go through more potting soil. I get them with their trays, so they're easy to move around.

At the link is an example -

Here is a link that might be useful: deep pots

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 10:31AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

I never heard of that place, David, so I checked it out and their prices are pretty good on some things, but they don't seem to carry 2.5" pots. I was surprised, so I looked and looked to be sure. I generally don't use the deep pots, partly for the reason you said, too much soil, but also because mostly the stuff I'm growing in pots is veggies or perennials that I'm gonna plant outside as soon as they have a good root system, and you don't need to go that deep to get adequate roots to put outside. (But I know you do all kinds of Fancy Stuff, so I'm not trying to dis you here!)

After a couple tries I decided I didn't like using "plug trays" where the individual cells are inseparable, it was too hard to get the seedlings out of just some of the cells without messing with the ones that weren't ready yet, so I prefer individual pots so I can handle the plants separately and decide when they're ready to pot up to a bigger size--or whatever. So, just an FYI for you, Lizzy, since you might be in the market to buy some pots! When you're starting seeds, be sure you don't use too large a pot or the soil will stay too wet when the plants are still very small and you could wind up with problems (a/k/a dead plants) from the wet soil. For seed starting I prefer to use 2.5" pots (32 in a tray), and then when they're rooted to the bottom I pot them up to a standard 3.5"--and hopefully the weather is good that they can go outside by the time they root into that.

This place is the best I've found for variety of sizes and quantities--and good prices, but I haven't ordered from them yet because I have questions about their shipping rates. They have 800 2.5" pots for $51.90 (6.5 cents per pot), and they also have something they call a "hobby pack" with 32 2.5" for $2.80. When I put a full case in the cart the shipping was shown as $10.18, which seems pretty reasonable for a case of pots! But when I added (and removed) other things, the increase in shipping didn't seem logical! (Adding just 100 plant tags added almost $9!) It's an "estimate" so that might be the problem, but I won't be ordering anything till I get around to calling first so I know for real what I'll be paying! (They do have some of the best plant tag prices I've found, 1,000 5" for just $26!) The 3.5" pots, 18 in a flat, are the size I pot up to from the 2.5" ones.

I'm linking the full case of 2.5" below--actually all the sizes are on this page, there's an option to choose. Their site is pretty easy to navigate and the "hobby packs" are listed under the "plant containers" section.

But mostly I'm posting just to say be sure you don't try to start seeds in anything with TOO much soil in it, Lizzy, doing that will just make your life, and your plants, miserable! :-)

Getting anxious to start some things, but resolved to not do it too early this year!


Here is a link that might be useful: Black form pots - case lots

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 2:38PM
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Thanks guys! I'm going to try a little experiment. I am going to plant some in newspaper and some in plastic. Start with 2.5 in pots and then pot them up to 3.5 or 4, depending on the plant. I do like the recycle aspect of both methods, but I can always use that newspaper for my new vermicomposting project this spring! I don't have a ton of room for a proper compost pile, so I like the idea of a more compact method. That and my husband is a big fisherman, so extra worms are always welcome!

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 7:32PM
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david52 Zone 6

Thanks, Skybird, for the link.

I have a few hundred of those deep pots with trays, a hold-over from the days I grew tomato plants for sale. They keep going and going and going….

I still try to get plants that are a foot high by the time I transplant them, those pots give a balanced root mass.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 11:23AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

David, I SO envy you for all the indoor growing space you have! I wish I had somewhere where I could grow bigger--and MORE plants, and where I could be in Green Heaven even in winter! I keep trying to imagine in my head where I could possibly put in even a small greenhouse, but my yard is so small, and the only place that would have enough sun is where the veggie garden is, so I'd be losing precious space there if I put one there. Guess I'll need to just keep dreaming. Really glad you have so much space to Play In! I'd love to have a chance to tour your Estate again sometime. Am hopin' to be back down that way in May and might be staying at the place in Dolores again. When I was down there this past fall I found a place just south of Cortez that was perfect since it was close to the Ute Mountain Tribal Park, my favorite place to visit, but that place is being sold and might not be for rent anymore, so I guess I'll need to revert to the Cozy Cottage at Dolores! If our schedules work out this time I'd love to stop by for an hour for a quick Howdy!


P.S. Digit, I envy you all your indoor growin' space too!

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 2:09PM
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Interesting idea with the newspaper. I am going to use old plastic pots this year. I just saved a bunch from shopping at garden centers last year - we'll see how they do.

Thanks for the info about the amount of soil, Skybird. I didn't know that.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 3:54PM
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