04 May 2009

Want some pot?

Oops. I mean pots. Pots. You know, for planting seeds. One of the conference session was making seed pots from used paper. We made four Dixie cup sized pots in the session, but only three made it home (one got kind of smooshed).

Aside for the tomato saga:
We planted tomato seeds in March to get ready for the garden. We used the store-bought peat pods and had them in the kitchen. They went from seeds to seedlings with two leaves about two inches tall quite rapidly, but then just stayed there. They were also pretty pale, so the problem seemed to be not enough light. So after we harvested seeds from our FastPlants last week, I immediately re-purposed the bottle-pots and light box for tomotoes. I decided to start from scratch rather than further abuse the spindly little seedling. By the time we got home from Oshkosh, many of the seeds had sprouted and are a bright, healthy-looking green, so they will need to be separated soon so we don't end up with one big mass of roots! So we need pots. Back to the actual blog entry...
So, as I said, we need pots. So last night I decided that we could make some more paper pots. The session leader did a brief explanation and then we got to observe parts of the process (not necessarily in order), so what follows is my take on making paper seed pots.

Last night I pulled some shredded paper from the recycle bin under the paper shredder and and covered it with water and left it to soak. The very elegant bucket is a repurposed empty kitty litter bucket.

This morning I started the pots. First, I drained the water off the (now mushy) shredded paper. Then I added some water to the blender container and added a lump of mushy paper shreds (it's a technical term...deal with it). I had to experiment a bit with how much water and how much mush. Too much of both and it slops up the sides and leaks out around the lid. Too much mush and the blades make an air bubble and whir around in nothing so you have to stop and start to get it smooth. I found I could get a bit more in the blender if I started at a slow speed and then jumped to faster speeds.

Blended pulp. Mmmm...yummy!

I poured it into a strainer and shook and tapped it to get as much water out as I could. I also squeezed a little more water out with my hands. If there is too much water it doesn't hold its shape and takes forever to dry. If I squeezed out too much water, it didn't want to mold nicely. So I left it fairly wet and squeezed more water out as I pressed it into the "mold." For the conference session, we used Dixie cups. Today I used yogurt containers rescued from the recycle bin. The bottom of a milk carton or jug would work, too, for bigger pots.

I just kept smooshing in more pulp like play dough until the inside was covered evenly. Then I smooshed out as much water as I could and put them out in the sun to dry. The Dixie cup ones from Saturday weren't completely dry, but they were dry enough to pop out of the cups and I think they will finish drying in the sun quickly. I'll leave the new ones until enough water has drained/evaporated so they aren't mushy and then pop them out of the cups to finish drying.

Here is one of the cups from Saturday. I think the last bit of dampness will be gone after being in the sun today and it will be ready for seeds or seedlings! Then when it's time to go out in the garden, the cup can just be planted directly into the soil, where it will degrade as the plant grows. For this reason, it's not a bad idea to think about how the donor paper has been treated. Newspaper made from post-consumer waste with soy ink is probably better than those shiny, multi-colored sale flyers and coupons, if ya know what I mean.

This has also gotten me thinking about trying out some paper-making with the kids. Yeah, I'm definitely an "ooo, shiny" kinda gal.

I'm also thinking that this will make a great dead-of-winter, no-sign-of-spring-in-sight project. We can start thinking about what seeds we'll want to plant and the resident artist can draw pictures on the pots so we'll remember what to plant where when the time comes.

The best part of the project is, for my cheapskate self, total project cost: $0


Namma said...

What neat little plant-starting pots. And the idea of drawing or painting pictures on the pots is a great one...not only can you plan for the kinds of seeds to plant, but you can also identify the little plants after they're potted! It might also be fun to decorate/draw on corresponding popsicle sticks to put as markers in the garden after the pots are buried.

MollyBeees said...

This is sooooo coool! And just enought ick factor to keep the kids interested! How much mush do you have all over your kitchen? Does the ink from the shredded paper interfere with the plants at all?

Trisha said...

What a great idea!

26tim said...


i'm doing this for a school project, but can't get the pots out of the (glass) moulds. I wonder if it is not dry enough yet. Did you use yoghurt pots? How did you get the made pots out?

Thanks for any help,

26tim (London, UK)

Kitty Mommy said...

@26tim: We used plastic containers, so once they were dry enough I could squeeze gently in different direction to loosen it. For a solid container, it might go more smoothly if the container was lined with plastic wrap first...dunno...