Making seed pots from toilet paper tubes, two ways

While I have purchased pots that can be planted directly into the soil when it’s time to transplant seedlings, the sheer number of such pots we will need makes buying enough for all of them bad for the budget. In particular, I want to start the kulli corn in biodegradable pots, for as little root disturbance as possible.

After last year’s attempt to use toilet paper tubes failed dramatically, largely due to using peat as a growing medium (it simply would not absorb moisture all the way through!), we’re going to try things a bit different this time.

There are a lot of web pages and videos on how to make pots from toilet paper tubes. This one is the best one I’ve seen so far. There’s the added bonus of it showing the pots made into squares, which was what I was thinking of doing already.

It’s pretty basic, really.

We knew we’d need a lot of tubes, so we’ve been saving them for many months. Last year, I had a fairly large box that we would drop the tubes in, and when we ran out of room I’d transfer them to a storage bin, to make more space.

Which was really silly, now that I think about it. It only matters if you want to keep the tubes round, and there is no need for that at all.

This little box has two layers of tubes in it. After flattening a tube, I’d drag it across the edge of the bathroom counter, to crease the fold even more.

It’s amazing how many tubes can be fit into such a small box this way!

Today, I snagged some of them to make pots for the tree seeds. I don’t know if there are any roots starting to show in the little baggies of soil. I am thinking it would be much less disruptive on the roots to “transplant” them now – when there may not even be any roots yet – into little pots, compared to trying to move them out of the baggies when the roots are actually visible.

So I grabbed a dozen tubes for the paw paw seeds, first. The different brands all have different tubes. The ones I grabbed were the tallest, with the thickest carboard.

This first batch was done like in the video.

The first thing that needed to be done was give them all a second crease for the square, keeping the sides even by lining up the first creases with each other. The carboard was way too thick to fold them like he does in the video.

Then, just because I prefer sharp creases, I ran the tubes over the edge of the desk I was working on. You can tell the difference it made in the photo above. The tube I am holding is not being squeezed in any way. For the other one, I’d laid the tube flat on the desk and pulled my metal ruler over it to sharpen the crease. Which it did, but not as much as using the edge of the desk.

The creases were about 1 1/2 inches apart, so that is the distance than needed to be marked from the edge.

Since I had the cutting mat and a metal ruler, I only needed to mark one tube out of six. After lining them up along the bottom edge of the cutting mat, I could line the end of the ruler up to the side edge and the long edge with the mark on the first tube, across all the tubes.

Using the ruler to hold the tubes in place, I could mark them all at once, then repeat for the next batch. This way, it only took two lines to mark all 12 tubes.

The next step was to cut slits at the creases, up to the marked line, to create flaps.

Then the flaps were all folded inwards to create a bottom.

Once they were all folded under, I set up the storage container I got for them, and some water.

All the bottoms got dipped in water, then tucked into the storage box.

With these tubes, four of them fit snugly across a short side, so they’re not going to flop around. This was an important consideration when I went looking for bins to use for this. When we used the toilet paper tubes last year, the tubes came apart completely once they got wet, even as the peat in the middles remained bone dry. I wanted straight sided bins that were fairly small, to hold them all tightly. If the tubes were still round, they would have taken up more space, but there would be gaps between them, and I didn’t want those gaps, either.

These now will be left to dry, and we’ll fill them tomorrow.

For the next batch, more tubes were needed. We have 26 tulip tree seeds to transfer.

After grabbing a bunch of tubes, I found a couple of shorter ones. There is a surprising amount of variance between brands! I switched out the shorter ones for taller ones.

Height is why I wanted to change how the bottoms were done for this batch. With how the first ones were done, each flap completely covers the bottom, making a 4 layer thick base. There’s no need for that.

So for these ones, instead of cutting flaps that were half the width of each side, I went for a quarter of the width.

That worked out to be 3/4s of an inch. Each square in the grid on the cutting mat is 1/4 inch, so the tubes were all lined up to the base line of the grid…

…then the ruler was lined up with the 3/4 inch line, on each side of the row of tubes.

Which was a bit of a pain, when it came to using the ruler to hold the tubes in place while marking the line, since there was a space under the ruler.

It was much easier to do it from the middle instead of the ends. 😀

Then the tubes all got slits cut along the creases, up to the line.

When folded in, this allowed for them to overlap and be locked into position.

These tubes were slightly shorter than the ones used in the previous batch, but by doing it this way, the pots ended up taller, as you can see in the comparison above.

Since the flaps could hold themselves in place, I could have skipped the water part if I wanted to, but I chose not to. They got dipped.

This brand’s tubes were not only a different length, but also a slightly different width. Just enough that they did not fit snugly across the short side. However, 8 tubes did fit snugly along the long side.

Tomorrow, these two sets of pots will be filled and planted with tree seeds. The tree seedlings will remain in pots for 2 years before being transplanted to their permanent locations outdoors. Starting them in these will allow us to “pot up” the seedlings into large pots as they get bigger, without disturbing the long tap roots they are expected to develop.

After these are done, we’ll start prepping tubes for the kulli corn. As with the tree seeds, it will be one seed per tube, so we will need 100 of these. I was able to find slightly larger versions of these bins, and one should be able to fit all 100 of these pots. The bins also have lids of the same transparency as the bins, which will allow us to use them as cat-proof greenhouses, if necessary.

I think I might have to pick up more of them. They’ll make moving seedlings outside to harden off much easier, too! They also happen to be pretty inexpensive, too. After much searching when doing shopping trips in the city, I found them at a local Red Apple store, which was just an added bonus. I’d actually found some at the local dollar store I was going to settle for, but the sides weren’t quite as straight, and the lids were opaque. I’m glad I decided at the last minute, to try another store.

The dollar store bins will instead be used to hold the little odd balls of yarn and small crochet projects on the go by my desktop, that the cats keep managing to steal away, so matter how diligently I bag them up!

The Re-Farmer

3 thoughts on “Making seed pots from toilet paper tubes, two ways

  1. Pingback: Tree seeds and using the toilet tube pots | The Re-Farmer

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