Toilet roll insert seed sowing pots.

If you’re anything like me you love sowing seeds. It’s a true gardeners delight to raise a plant from a seemingly lifeless husk right through to the point where it blooms, becomes edible or produces fruit. This is what horticulture is all about, whether raising summer bedding for your colourful designs or perhaps growing vegetables to yourself and your family.

To get a head start on the outdoor growing season, I will often start my seeds indoors on windowsills or upon a table pulled close to a window. Although my living areas can become chock-a-block with seed trays and small pots, I don’t care, as this method makes up for my current lack of a green house.

The downsides.
Now as good as starting seeds in a green house or on a warm windowsill is, I always have two little problems with the task. They are use of plastic pots and the occasional seedling lost to transplant shock.

With plastic pots and trays it’s always one of two options, dump after use or else reuse. Now if the containers were strong enough I would always reuse in an effort to keep plastic out of our landfills. This means that they must be washed thoroughly in preparation for sowing.

Particles of previous year’s compost can harbour disease and mould spores. To ensure a clean environment for growing, you must wash the heavier covering of old compost off with a hose.

Follow this by plunging the containers into water containing a disinfectant such as ‘Jeyes fluid’. Then scrub off any stubborn compost with a scrubbing brush whilst still in the disinfectant. Rinse the containers well under running water and leave them to dry.

This cleaning is a necessary evil. But to be quite honest with you, I find it a bore, especially if I am itching to get some seed sown.

The other problem I have with starting seeds indoors is the occasional failures I experience when transplanting from tray to pot or from pot to open ground. Plants have a tendency to become stunted or die altogether if their roots are disturbed beyond a certain point.
You can also forget about growing tap-rooted vegetables such as carrots or parsnips if you have to transplant them. Transplanting causes the roots to fork or fang instead of growing long and straight.

I have a solution to these little quibbles though, and it’s practical, efficient, and most of all… cheap. For this fix you will require toilet roll inserts and a scissors.

Step by step for your homemade pots, photo / pic / image. Clicking enlarges in new window.

Step by step for your homemade pots, photo / pic / image.

How to make your pots.
Make four cuts at one end of the toilet roll, 1 to 1.5 inch deep and reasonably evenly spaced apart. Fold these cut sections inwards toward the centre of your roll. These flaps will help retain your seed compost.

Fill your homemade pot with moist compost and sow with whichever seed takes your fancy (carrots or parsnips even). For ease of watering you can place your pots on a tray, then simply water into the tray.

Your paper pots will wick up as much water as they need to keep your seedlings alive. Otherwise you should maintain them as you would any seeds sown indoors, regarding feeding, hardening off etc.
So, free seed starter pots created by re-using those toilet roll inserts that usually end up in the bin. A great idea, but can it get any better? Well, yes it can.

With this method when you want to transfer your seedlings into your garden soil there is no risk of transplant shock. That’s because you can simply use your trowel to create a toilet-roll-insert sized hole in the soil, and then plant your seedling, pot and all into the hole.

In a short time your seedling roots will burst out through the dampened paper into the soil. Whilst your new plant goes from strength to strength the insert will naturally rot down in the soil.
Like I said earlier, these pots are practical and efficient. Give them a try this seed sowing season. Let me know how you get on.

More debate about this topic on our forum, click The Irish gardeners forum.

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4 Responses to “Toilet roll insert seed sowing pots.”

  1. Sylvana Says:

    I actually saved a whole bunch of rolls over the fall and winter months for this very purpose. I hadn’t realized that other people were doing it too! I am starting my seeds right now (as we still have about a 4-6 weeks worth of possible frost). Crossing my fingers that this will work.

  2. Den Says:


    I managed to get 48 pots out of and old copy of a broadsheet newspaper to do the same trick.

  3. martin Says:

    I sowed some peas in these but fungus grew on the outside of the damp inserts. Any ideas how to prevent this please?

  4. Etsy Labs | Stekjes Picknick 7 mei – Amsterdam – Dutch Handmade Says:

    [...] je je af hoe je ze mee moet nemen? Neem een stuk of 10-15 plantjes mee in de binnenkant van een toiletrol of kranten die tot kleine bakjes zijn gevouwen en schrijf er op wat er in het bakje zit. Het is ook [...]

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