Easily make simple seed starters using only newspaper and a stick. This process is so quick, there is really nothing fancy to it. No special tools, no saving toilet rolls for a year, just newspaper and something cylindrical like a stick.

It’s planting season and I wanted to get a few more seeds out but didn’t have the time, space or the money to go out and get another tray for seedlings. Most of the little pots that plants come in get saved but they are too big to start with. Especially since most of the seedlings live on my desk.

So, I searched pinterest for help and while the ideas are great most of them require months of forethought. Either you are saving toilet paper rolls, egg carton or empty egg shells for months to get enough or you are buying weird tools meant for the sole purpose of creating seed pots. Since this was a sudden need and not something I had prepped for, we were left to our own devices.

How to make newspaper seed starters?

  1. Cut or tear strips of newspaper making the width twice the overall height you want the finished product to be.
  2. Using a wide stick or other cylindrical object, place it on the news print leaving 2 cm on one side. This will make the bottom.
  3. Starting at one end begin rolling the stick up in the paper
  4. At the halfway point, fold in the end then continue to roll
  5. Fold in the rest of the bottom piece
  6. Gently pull the seed starter off the stick and fold in a cm or so of the top edge. Pinch well to make it sturdy.
  7. Fill with soil and place in a tray. Repeat!
  8. Plant your seeds and water well.

Some tips for making the seed starters work

Don’t worry about them being too perfect, they will all end up in the ground one way or another. This is, after all, supposed to relieve some stress, not create it!

Stopping half way and folding the bottom before rolling the rest of the way helps keep the bottom from being too bulky and not folding nicely. I recommend not skipping this step.

The last fold at the top keeps everything together and holds it in place. You could skip it but I found it saves a lot of headache just to do it.

Most of my pots wouldn’t stand up on their own until we got the soil in there. This isn’t a big deal, it just meant that filling them up as we went, was better than doing them all at the end.

Newspaper seed starters in a tray top down view

Getting the kids involved

Since it’s such a simple process its a good one to get the kids in on. I try to involve at least one of the kids in every task I do in the garden (anything to spend more time outside). My 3 year old helped with this one, he is a pro dirt filler and paper shredder. Getting dirty is rewarding in itself but planting quick germinating seeds makes it so much fun. We planted a series of different seeds, one in each row of the tray. Then we were able to watch as the different plants came up and how different each one looked from each other. Everything we planted is completely edible. Therefore, we were able to sample some of the seedlings like microgreens.

This project is great for hand-eye coordination and counting practice. We also ran some experiments testing to see how long it would take the same seeds to come up in different environments, with some seed starters on my desk, while others went straight in the garden.


The whole newspaper seed starter, paper, soil and plant can be planted all together. Although some of the more delicate plants I removed a portion of the paper so there weren’t so many layers. For other plants like the sunflowers I left the whole thing intact. I made sure to cover the whole thing in new soil and water it well. You could also remove it completely if you are concerned about the dyes in the paper or it taking to long to break down. Just carefully unroll it and compost the paper.

Seedlings going into the kids new driftwood planter just for them.

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pinnable image seed starter with seedling

4 thoughts on “How to make newspaper seed starters in a pinch

  1. Great idea!!! We have SO many plants that we start from seed each year, this is a great option instead of all of the plastic trays we use.

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