Recycled paper pots for growing seeds

I am flattered to have been asked to be the School of Thrift’s resident gardening expert. However, I think it would be more than a bit untruthful to describe myself as an expert. I would suggest ‘enthusiast’ is probably a better description. So, in the name of enthusiasm, here is a little post about a thrifty way to grow seeds.

Have you ever seen one of these?

IMG_9408The wooden pieces on the right are a little device used to make paper pots for seeds. I like the idea of starting seeds off in individual pots but I don’t like the idea of transplanting them. I’m not sure that the seedlings like it much either. It can’t be nice, having their delicate roots disturbed. Lots of gardening gurus recommend using small coir pots (made of coconut husks) that simply decompose when the seedling is eventually planted into the ground. These little paper pots do the same thing but you can make them for free and recycle your newspaper at the same time. Unfortunately I can’t tell you how effective they are because this is the first time I’ve tried them.

paperpotsYou simply roll a strip of newspaper around the cylinder part (not too tight) then starting at the seam, fold the bottom over. I found that three folds were enough to neatly close the gap. Next you press the bottom of your pot into the other part of the wooden former and twist. Finally, remove the pot from the wooden cylinder (this is sometimes a bit tricky and requires a bit of wriggling) and hey presto, you have a pot. Call me sad but I found making these little pots really addictive.

IMG_9511The next problem is how to store the pots once you have planted them up. Their very nature means that they are a bit floppy, especially after they have been watered. They also become slightly mouldy after a while, which is probably a good thing and all part of the decomposing process. I hunted around our shed for a suitable tray to put them in but all the proper seed trays had holes in the bottom. Not ideal for keeping leaky pots on a clean windowsill. Fortunately for me we had several old ice cream tubs out in our garage, waiting to be re-used. They turned out to be the perfect size for 12 little paper pots. Very satisfying.

My mind also skipped back to an image I had seen on Pinterest (you can take a look at my gardening board here) of a drinks carton being used as a plant pot. Rooting around in the recycling bag I found two empty cartons and chopped off one of the larger sides of each.

IMG_9510Bingo – just the right size for 8 little pots and the cartons themselves sit together on a windowsill or greenhouse shelf in a pleasingly snug sort of way.

So far I have sown sunflowers, leeks, sweetcorn, sweet peas, oregano and rosemary in these little pots and they are all germinating (well, except the rosemary, but that takes a notoriously long time).

Have you noticed my plant labels? I have been making these for a long time. I cut up old plastic containers, anything from margarine tubs to milk cartons and use them. They are probably not as durable as shop bought ones but they are free and I *think* the plastic in milk cartons is biodegradable.

Now, what I’d really like to see is someone ingenious enough to create a paper pot maker from recycled materials. Surely all you would need is a pipe to wrap the paper around and, erm, hmm, something to form the base. And that is where my creativity ends. Happy seed sowing everyone.

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School of Thrift

Blogging is a great way to be more mindful. In the same way that writing a diary makes you reflect on your life, writing a blog gives you a nudge to think just that little bit more about what is important to you and recently, I have been nudged into thinking about the word thrift.

This all started when I noticed that the organisers of the Festival of Thrift in Darlington were looking for bloggers to join their ‘School of Thrift’. I had heard from a friend (thank you Susie Cottonsocks) that last year’s inaugural festival was a fabulous event so I was keen to get involved. But then I wondered about my lifestyle. Could I call myself thrifty? I had to look up a definition of the word to check. This is what my computer’s dictionary had to say on the matter.

Thrift: the quality of using money and other resources carefully and not wastefully.

That seemed reasonable to me. As a family we do try not to waste things. I still wondered if I could qualify as thrifty while owning a new iPhone and a car that is less than two years old. Perhaps it’s because I associate thrift with my Grandparents era of rationing and post-war austerity that I’m finding it hard to unpick exactly what thrift means to me. These days, when we choose to be thrifty, we are perhaps thinking more about separating ourselves from mass-production and our throw-away, disposable culture than our Grandparents, whose thriftiness was an essential skill rather than a lifestyle choice.

My computer also tells me that the opposite of thrift is extravagance and I don’t think that is a word that could be used in connection with my family.  After all, the sofa I am sitting on is over 20 years old and next to it are two chairs that belonged to our grandparents. I have no desire to replace any of them yet because they are good quality and comfortable.  So I think thrift is fairly integral to the way I make my purchases and live my life. Maybe it’s just that thrift is such an everyday occurrence in my household that it doesn’t feel like anything special.

So, this year, I will be contributing to the School of Thrift by adding as many thrifty posts as I can and I will be looking back over my previous posts to flag up any that I think qualify with a ‘thrift’ tag. Look out for recipes, gardening and crafty ideas. There will be lots of other thrifty goings on at the main School of Thrift pages over at Google+ (which is a whole new world for me) so head over there if you want to find out more.

Happy Thrifting!