How to Make Zero Waste DIY Newspaper Pots

I’m all for small and low cost (or free!) solutions, particularly when they mean zero waste. We’re in the midst of sowing our autumn and winter seeds for our vegetable garden right now, which means we need lots of seedling pots. (Sowing seeds directly into the ground tends to mean the little seedlings get munched by pests before they have the chance to grow big.)

I don’t want to buy new. I’ve learned (the hard way) that reusing the tiny plastic cells from the garden centre (the ones they sell punnets of seedlings in) doesn’t work too well. They are too small and they dry out too fast. We don’t have enough of the bigger plastic pots to use those…plus they take up a lot more space.

Instead, I’m making my own zero waste seedling pots out of newspaper.

You don’t need any fancy gadgets for this. Even the pair of scissors is optional. You just need two hands, and a bit of patience.

Even though I can make these without thinking now, I’ll admit that when my friend (who is a very good teacher) first showed me how to make these, I had a full-on tantrum! (How embarrassing.) If you get frustrated the first few times, just remember it’s only newspaper, and no-one has died. You’ll grasp it soon enough!

If you don’t read the newspaper, I guarantee that your neighbour does, or someone at work, or a family member. Maybe  a local cafe will have a mangled, well-read one.

The other great thing with these is that newspaper breaks down easily, so they can be planted directly into garden beds. No need to disturb the plant roots by removing from the paper. You can always tear the base before planting if you’re worried it will restrict growth.

How to Make DIY Zero Waste Seedling Pots (With Pictures)

Start with a single sheet of newspaper. For seedling pots, I cut a double sheet like this in half.

All you need to start with: a sheet of newspaper, and some scissors. Although you could do without the scissors, if you can tear neatly ;)

Cut the newspaper sheet in half along the fold. Put the sheet to the left to one side. We will only be working with one sheet at a time.

Turn the sheet of paper so that the longest side is horizontal.

Fold the newspaper in half from left to right (the fold is on the left hand side).

Fold the sheet again from bottom to top (the new fold is on the bottom).

Fold the newspaper one more time from left to right.

The paper in front of you will be folded a bit like a book, and each flap has a front and a back. You want to take the right-hand corner of the front flap, and fold it towards you, pulling it open as you do so to make a triangle shape along the “spine” of the “book”.

You can see (marked by the blue spot) that the bottom right hand corner has moved to where the spine was, and is opened to form a triangle.

Now that you’ve folded this side, turn the newspaper over (180°) and do the same on the other side. It will be mirrored, so the corner will be on the left hand side.

Once both sides have been folded, your newspaper will look like this. There will be a triangle-shaped pocket on the front and the back, and a gap in the centre seam above the two triangles.  Now turn the right hand side of the paper, like the page of a book, to the left (180°) so that you can see one continuous triangle.

Flip the newspaper over and repeat with the other side so that both sides now look like this.

If it is correct, the paper will look like this from above.

Lay the paper down flat, and fold each of the front flaps into the centre fold.

Fold these two flaps in half again, into the centre fold. (Don’t worry if it’s very flappy when you remove your fingers, that is absolutely fine.)

Now flip the newspaper over, and do repeat on the other side.

Fold the flaps into the centre…

And then fold these flaps inwards again…

Your newspaper now looks like this. Fold the top flap down towards you along the newspaper line.

Repeat on the other side.

Now you can gently pull the two flaps outwards and open your pot!

Push your fingers inside to straighten out (and flatten out the bottom).

Ta-da! A zero waste newspaper seedling pot.

The flaps can be useful for lifting the pots, or labelling what you’ve planted inside the pot. If you don’t like them you can fold them inside. Once the pot of filled with soil they won’t flap about. I wouldn’t recommend cutting them off as the folding is what keeps it all in place.

Next step… to go forth and plant things!

Now I’ love to hear from you! Have you ever made these before? Do you have a different method? Are you feeling inspired to grow stuff? Do you want to make some and then share a photo with me so I can admire your handiwork? (Answer – yes you do!) Anything else you’d like to add? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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How to Make Zero Waste DIY Newspaper Pots
26 replies
  1. emmer
    emmer says:

    never made these square guys, but i do a lower tech roll a strip of paper around a drinking glass with the paper hanging off the bottom of the glass. i roll the paper around the glass several times and then push the loose edges towards the middle of the glass bottom. slide all off the glass. it holds together rather well filled with soil and set on a tray. not as pretty as yours. :-) also, 4 toilet paper rolls held together with a rubber band can be set onto 2 or 3 thicknesses of newspaper. the edges can be brought up the sides of the tp rolls and secured with another rubber band. these work well to start pants and when planting out, i remove the newspaper and rubber bands, leaving the tp roll to decompose in the soil. if the seedling is one that slugs might munch, i wrap a strip of aluminum foil around the tp roll to deter them.

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Ah, I am all too familiar with the low-tech option ;) That is what I always used to do until a friend showed me this, probably about 4 years ago! But at the time I didn’t have a garden so didn’t really need to make seedling pots

      I love all simple, low tech/no tech approaches. Anything that stops a trip to the garden centre/hardware store to buy brand new stuff is a win from me!

  2. GalyaB
    GalyaB says:

    No wonder you had a tantrum :) This is freaking origami level20!!!
    I make mine out of left over toilet paper rolls that I collect through the year.
    They are so much easier to make, although you do need a pair of scissors for that project.
    And of course storing the rolls off season is not my fav part – those babies are bulky.

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Hehe Gayla, it is actually not, although I definitely thought it was when I first tried it! Seriously, after a couple of tries, you can whip one up in a minute. Promise!

      Ah yep, we currently have a line of toilet rolls in our bathroom awaiting seedling planting. ;) But it is hard to go through that much loo roll!

  3. Nadine
    Nadine says:

    Oh, this is too cute. I will try this with my class. I have tried a bigger version as garbage bin liners. I used egg cartons for my seedlings; I’ve heard even eggshells work too but haven’t tried that!

  4. antvren
    antvren says:

    Those spare flaps on the outside are more stable folded into the pot.
    My paper pots to date have been:
    * fold the sheet in half lengthways
    * make two folds at right angles to that fold, dividing the length into appprox thirds (middle slightly bigger)
    * you’ve now two thirds overlapping each other: tuck one into the other
    * open out the other side at the top, with one layer of paper in front, 5 (including the tucks) on the other. Shape into a pot.

    There’s a similar process for seed envelopes, where I prefer to use better paper (eg junk mail, old A4)
    * the lengthways fold is off-centre: short side is to be the front, long side back
    * make the folds for tucking at the back, so work with long (back) side facing you
    * turn over and open out the (short) front single layer
    * insert seeds and fold the back forwards over the opening. If you’ve been canny, you’ll have worked this so that it’s blank for you to write on!

  5. Giulia Rodighiero
    Giulia Rodighiero says:

    Hi! Just out of curiosity: I don’t buy newspapers, but a couple of times a week they put in my mailbox a local free newspaper (even if I have a ‘no junk’ sticker). This newspaper is printed with very cheap and very transferable inks: would it be bad for the garden if I used this kind of paper?? Are the cheap inks a problem?? I use this newspaper as rubbish bin liner (we are not quite zero waste yet unfortunately) but I have lots of spare pages that could become seedling pots :)

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Hi Giulia! We use our free local newspaper. My husband likes to read it (we get it once a week) and all the neighbours get one too so there is plenty of paper. Someone told me that the ink used for newspaper is safe – I think it is the permenant, non-transferable inks that are more of a problem, chemical-wise, although I’ve never actually looked into it. It shouldn’t be a problem :)

  6. Lisa Flower
    Lisa Flower says:

    I once tried to make a newspaper carry bag…umm it turned out OK but not quite as professionally looking as the ones you get in Bali. I’ve never worked out why we don’t use recycled newspaper bags in Oz. Anyway I love your pots and will try making some. Thanks for your inspiration!

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      A friend of mine gave me one of those recently – she had no idea where it came from and was regifting. The newspaper was in Indonesian. It was very well done! I was most impressed. In fact, I kept it to try and replicate. Maybe I will have more luck than you Lisa?! ;)

  7. Veronica
    Veronica says:

    Thanks for this! I learned to fold this at school when i was 12 from a japanese teacher and have forgotten how to do this for many years. Been wanting to learn to do this again. Thank you!


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  1. […] way to make seedling pots is folding them, origami-style, using old newspaper (you can find DIY instructions for making seedling newspaper pots here). There’s no tape and no glue, no tools required and it takes less than a minute to make […]

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