ByMegan Winkler

May 17, 2014

Spring is in the air! It’s time to start getting some seeds sprouted and in the ground. One of our Facebook followers posed a question about using the cardboard rolls from toilet paper to start seeds for the garden. Jolie suggested it as a great activity to do with kids and I could not agree more.

Not only is this a simple project, but you can also use it as a teaching tool with your kiddos. It requires a short list of supplies to construct the seed-starters, but you’ll need a few weeks to prepare depending on how much toilet paper your family goes through on a weekly basis. I’m sure you can also cut paper towel rolls in half to achieve the same effect, so keep that in mind too. Once you’ve collected all of your cardboard rolls, grab a pair of scissors and get started.

Use the scissors to cut one to two-inch slits at one end of each cardboard tube. Some bloggers have stated that four cuts are best, while others suggest six. I think this depends on who’s involved in the project. If you use four cuts, fold them together in an alternating fashion so that the last fourth tucks into the first. This will form a bottom for the seed starter. If you use six smaller cuts, simply fold them in toward the center so that it looks almost like a fan. The second method is certainly easier for small children, but don’t be afraid to experiment a little bit.

Now your seed-starters are ready for planting. Place them—opening end up—in another container. I’d suggest either a plastic shoebox-sized box or a terra cotta planter. Bear in mind you’ll be watering the seedlings in their tubes for a couple of weeks, so you should store them in something that won’t get soggy. Otherwise, you’ll just end up with a mushy cardboard mess!

Fill each tube with moist seed-starting mix until only the top half-inch is left open. Look for potting mix that is either labeled “container mix” or “seed-starting.” These have the right nutrients for baby seeds to grow in. Then simply sow one seed into each tube.

In about two to four weeks, your seeds will be ready to plant. The best part is, as long as you don’t use tape to keep the tubes together; you can plant the seed-starters right into the soil. The cardboard will degrade in the ground and the strengthening roots will push through the sides as it breaks down.

Thanks for posing the question to us, Jolie! I’m excited to try this eco-friendly—and money-saving—way to start my plants off right.

By Megan Winkler

Eco-nerd, solar power enthusiast, DIY diva and professional coffee drinker, Megan has written everything from courses in healthcare and psychology to interior design and cooking advice. She has a master’s degree in military history, owns two chainsaws, is a collector of strange trivia and a world renowned Pinterest pro. She is constantly looking for better ways to do things.