Starting Your Tomato Plants

by Michael Nolan on 5 May 2008 · 12 comments

Starting from Seed

Starting tomato plants from seed is the most cost effective method, but it does require extra effort on your part. It also means that your gardening work starts about 6-8 weeks earlier since you have to start your tomato seeds about 1 1/2 – 2 months before the last frost of winter.

The easiest way to start tomato seeds is by using peat pellets. In the past I have used this Seed Starter Kit from Ferry Morse, also available at many garden centers. Since my personal focus has become that of sustainability, you might have correctly guessed that I was going to offer you another option. You’re right, I am.

My favorite method is to make my own seed starter pots from newspaper.

A truly simple and free seed starter pot can be made in no time with old newspaper. Not only does this method cost you absolutely nothing, the newspaper itself is biodegradable and will simply dissolve back into the earth. In other words, it is worth a few minutes of your time and a few pages of old newspaper to make free seed starter pots.

DIY TIP- Step-By-Step Newspaper Seed Start Pots

What you need:

  • a sheet of newspaper (black & white only, and no glossy pages)
  • a small can, cut open on both ends

    Step By Step

  • Start by cutting the newspaper lengthwise into long strips.
  • Wrap it around the end of a small can (or jar) with the paste facing outward. Be sure to leave an overhang of paper approximately 1" wide.
  • Fold the open ends inward and flatten by reaching into the opposite end.
  • Slide the paper pot loose from the can and fold the exposed edge down about an inch to hold it in place.

    Here’s a video that will guide you through the basic steps:

    Dave’s process is a bit more clumsy than the steps listed above, but it will give you a good general feel for how it works. It really is just that simple and don’t forget – it’s free! Once you have finished making your starter pots, you will want to fill them with a good quality seed starting mix.

  • { 8 comments… read them below or add one }

    Beth jones October 10, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Another good point to make (maybe?)… for those of us who don’t have a good place to start seeds inside. This past year I tried wintersowing and by gum, it WORKED WELL. I would’ve had great luck if I knew better how to treat the seedlings AND we had a calmer spring weather wise. Once they got their true leaves, I potted up in newspaper pots, then they went in the ground a bit later. (wintersown.org has great info on wintersowing)

    Sue March 13, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Does the ink from the newspaper contaminate the soil in any way?

    Thank you,
    Sue

    Michael Nolan March 14, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Any contamination that might occur would be so negligible that I’m not concerned with it. There are so many other opportunities for contamination that this doesn’t even register on the radar.

    Rob March 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    @Sue- The inks used in newspapers are now soy based to make them more biodegradable. Just to be safe I would stick to black ink only like they do in the video by using the classifieds and you are good to go!
    Rob

    Sue March 16, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Thank you both very much. It is going to be great to make my own seed pots.

    Kenny January 13, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Soy ink costs twice as much as oil based ink so I really doubt many newspapers use it unless it is required. I know the paper I work for doesn’t use soy ink for any newspaper runs. My question is how do you water the seedlings? Newsprint does not hold water.

    Michael Nolan January 13, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    The paper doesn’t hold water, but the soil will. You simply water them as you would anything else. I water them by pouring water into the container that holds the seedlings. They wick the water up.

    leo g king February 22, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    had a few thoughts about doing this for quite some time and now i am going to do it ,thanks for an easy formula.

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