Toilet paper roll seed starters. That's a glamorous title if I ever read one! In case you have no idea what I'm talking about or why I've started saving up all my toilet paper rolls to aid in my hippie earth-loving endeavors, go read our post about how we're going to plant a spring garden at our spacious new rural home. I'm SO stoked to finally have room to spread my plants out and actually grow a decent-sized harvest to help sustain my family.
How to Make Toilet Paper Roll Seed Starters
So…back to this toilet paper roll seed starter business. You'll need a bunch of toilet paper rolls and some quality germinating mix (use a mix made specifically for seed-starting, NOT soil-based potting mix meant for pre-started plants!). I use Organic Jiffy Seed Starting Mix that I pick up at Home Depot. Add warm water to your mix, combine well, and let it sit for several hours to soak up completely. You want it to be wet enough that it sticks together, but not soupy. Note: If you live in an area with highly-chlorinated water, I suggest dechlorinating it first by letting it sit in a wide-mouth container overnight to off-gas. Then, simply heat it up slightly over the stove before combining it with your germinating mix.
Flatten your toilet paper roll horizontally and then open it up and flatten it again horizontally so that you have four creases equally distributed along the sides of your toilet paper roll.
Cut about an inch up on all four of those creases (I just eyeball it and cut up to the first toilet paper glue line).
Overlap the four cut flaps as shown…
…and push them in to form the base for your toilet paper roll seed starter.
Then, fill your toilet paper roll seed starter with germinating mix up to about 1/2″ from the top. Pack the soil down slightly.
Use your pinky to create three indentations close together in the soil about 1/4″ deep. Put one seed in each hole, and cover them back up with mix, patting the mix down to ensure it stays covered. You'll thin out the weaker of the plants later, but we always use three seeds to ensure that at least one of the grows (third time's a charm, they say, so I figure one out of three is bound to sprout!).
Kracken was sulking in the background because he likes to dig the old toilet paper rolls out of the trash can and chew on them. I've deprived him of that pleasure.
The toilet paper rolls soak up the water pretty quickly, so you want to continue to use a spray bottle to mist your toilet paper roll seed starters daily (don't use a watering can or hose…we're not trying to drown the little suckers!). I write the name of each plant on popsicle sticks to mark the seed in each toilet paper roll seed starter. The best part about this is that the toilet paper roll seed starters are totally biodegradable, so you can plant them directly in the ground when it's time.
I have my seed starting container (our old snake cage…any old Rubbermaid storage tub will work as well) set up near a south-facing window where it will get plenty of daylight, and I have a shop light set up above the plants to supplement that light in case they need a little extra to get going. Ideally, the seeds should be directly in the window to maximize daylight, but the guest bed's kind of in the way right now and this is the warmest room in our new home, so I think it'll suffice.
I'm using a 100 watt equivalent CFL daylight bulb for the added light. I really should be using a couple of those long tube lights for even distribution of light to all of the seedlings, but I didn't have one (and this 100 watt CFL daylight bulbs is perfect for a photography lightbox I'm planning, so I ‘m attempting to kill two birds with one stone here). I'll upgrade the lights for the plants later, if need be. Seeds like their soil to be about 80 degrees F for optimum production before they sprout. You can check your soil temperature with a regular old thermometer if you're feeling uneasy about it. I hear that it's helpful to put a heating pad under the seed starting container to warm up the soil and get stubborn seeds to sprout, but be sure to take the heating pad away after they sprout, or the seeds may wind up weak and leggy with too much stem. Starting plants from seeds is a lot of trial and error and finding the method that works best for you. Just remember: if your seeds fail to sprout, you can always head to the store and pick up some pre-started plants later!
You'll want to slowly adjust your seeds to the outdoors (this is called “hardening” them) by bringing your seed-starting container outside in a protected area and slowly exposing them over a period of two weeks before planting them in the ground.