Burpee Pot Maker Using Newspaper

Hebron, KY

Hi everyone,

I was thinking using this to start seeds outside and wondered if anyone has used it and used it outside to start seeds.


I've never used it and wanted to start seeds this Spring on my North-East exposure covered front porch.

Any and all help is greatly appreciated!



Columbus, OH

It works well, but you can also use a small juice glass or a 6" long piece of PVC of whatever width you would like the pots to be. I use 2", 1" was too fiddly for me, but whatever you prefer is fine. If you use PVC, slip a test cap over the bottom so that the end is closed off, and you have something to push against when you form the bottom.

To make 2" pots, I cut newspaper into 6" wide strips. You'll want the folded side to be the top side of your finished pot. When you wrap the newspaper around the pot, pull on it slightly so that it wraps tightly and neatly around the form, with about 1.5" of the loose edges (not the folded edges) extending beyond the edge of the form. Fold the loose edges in towards the middle, forming the bottom of the pot. Pull the pot off the form, and I glue the sides just a bit (picking tape out of the soil when the pot decomposes was tiresome), and paper clip them till the glue dries. You can also staple them.

I know the fancy ones sold by seed companies say you don't need to tape or glue, but my mother bought one of these, and I found they did need a drop of glue, staple, or something to hold them together. So...a fifty cent piece of PVC solved all my problems.

This is an awesome project for kids.

Hebron, KY

Thanks for all the info Celene!

I really appreciate it!

No kids here, it will just be a great project for myself! If kids can do it, then I should be able to do it! :-))

I'll give it a try!


Columbus, OH

I don't have kids either, I am fortunate that my friend's kids love to make paper pots and wash flowerpots. How excellent is that?

If you have questions about forming them, plmk and I'll take pictures. It takes a couple of pots to get the hang of it, but after that you can knock out enough to fill a couple flats while you're watching a TV show.

Hebron, KY

Nothing like good old free help (with the making and cleaning) Celene! :-))

Amazing! You can make them while watching tv?! (after having the hang of doing them)

I'm not going to try and do them now. I'll wait a couple of months (maybe March).


Columbus, OH

Once you get the hang of it, very easy to watch TV while you're making them.

Summerville, SC

What a great idea, especially for shoe string gardeners. Norcar a re-jioned old member

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Agreed. You don't need to spend $20 on a potmaker. You have an assortment of them in your kitchen. I used a pineapple juice can for the smaller ones and a cornstarch can for the larger ones.

One thing that I did do different was to fold the tops in as well. So say that you expect to fill your pots with growing medium within about a quarter of an inch of the top of the pot --you'd fold the top half-inch of newspaper inward. It helps stabilize the pot, and the growing medium holds it down so that it doesn't flip back up.

Thumbnail by dividedsky
Edmond, OK(Zone 7a)

Do you use just one layer of newspaper......cut into strips and then it's wrapped around your "mold"? At first I was wondering how many layers of newspapers are used for each one, but in reality it would be how many times are you wrapping the strip around the mold to make a stable pot?

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Celene, would you say 1-2 strips?

I'd say, go with what feels right. If you use with too many layers, you'll know because it will be hard to fold the bottom under.

Columbus, OH

I use one layer of paper, folded double, then rolled the whole width of two pages. That'll be plenty stable to last for even plants that stay in the pot/flat for 3-4 months.

The last batch of pots I made, I stapled. I think I'm happier with stapling. Instant gratification.

Edmond, OK(Zone 7a)

Thank you both! Will be trying this for sure. Celene is your "two page" width using the Dispatch? That will give me an idea of how long you are using. ^_^ We just moved down here from Dublin, OH. Our papers down here are not that big.

Columbus, OH

Hahaha...exactly!! I need to make more pots soon, does anyone want me to take photos? It's hard to describe, given how simple it is to do.

Hebron, KY

Quote from Celene :
Hahaha...exactly!! I need to make more pots soon, does anyone want me to take photos? It's hard to describe, given how simple it is to do.

Please do! I look forward to seeing them!


You can also used aluminum soda or beer cans as a "mold". I usually use one strip of newspaper, cut vertically from the pages. By the time I go around a few times on the mold, it's pretty sturdy. Then I fold the paper under on the bottom (and I have been known to use scotch tape). If it still looks a bit tall, I fold it over at the top, making a little cuff. This also makes it sturdier. Too much paper and it won't degrade very fast.

Harrisburg, PA(Zone 7a)

Folks, I'm really new at this seed stuff. I tried seeds several years ago in peat pots - most everything got a fungus or something white-ish on the pots so I tossed everything. Couple years later, I tried those green plastic pots with six or eight on a strip. I had better luck and actually got to plant a few things outside which, much to my surprise, grew. But about 90% of the plants either fell over or didn't take well to my transplanting outside. Yes - I did try to harden them off.

Anyway - I'm trying those Cow Pots this year AND I bought a newspaper pot-maker (before I read this forum). I have seed heating mats, trays and covers. Should I put the paper pots in a tray and cover all over a heat mat? Once I have a true set of leaves, do you just leave the plant in the paper pot or do you move it to a larger pot - like the 4" Cow Pots I bought? I know I've probably spent more than I needed to spend but I was determined to give it one last try this year. We recently had a four seasons room built so I have a place with a lot of light and I also have grow lights to hang over the trays. One more thing, do you water them from the bottom? I would think the paper pot would just get soaked and fall apart. Thanks for any help.

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

The key to seed starting: everything must be sterile. Here's a great article on that: http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/277/

"Should I put the paper pots in a tray and cover all over a heat mat?"


"Once I have a true set of leaves, do you just leave the plant in the paper pot"


"do you water them from the bottom?"

Some people recommend that, no matter what type of container you use. I didn't know that last year and watered from the top. The newspaper held up just fine.

The newspaper will get wet no matter if you water from the top or the bottom. It may even sprout some interesting flora as well. Can't very well sterilize paper pots or can you? I tend to use them primarily for stuff that doesn't like to have roots disturbed during transplanting. Depending on your seed, indianaguy, once sprouted you may want to take them off the heat and grow a little cooler. I tend to water seedlings from the bottom unless I get incredibly lazy. Also helps keep the top surface a little drier.

Columbus, OH

I think even if you gas sterilized newspaper, once you put dirt and water in it and expose it to air, it's no longer sterile anyhow, so I quit sterilizing soil. I just use Promix right out of the bag, and it works just fine.

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

That's so awesome that you guys have mastered the seed starting.

Even after sterilizing regular mixes, I failed - many times. I went to coir and even nuked it. That's what worked and I'm sticking to it!

I did notice some discoloration on parts of the newspaper pots. Could've been mold - couldn't tell. But it didn't hurt the seedlings.

Columbus, OH

I would never say I've mastered it, I'm not ready for my "The Germinator" t-shirt, but I've gotten better, with a lot of help from folks here, I might add.

Personally, I've tried store-bought seed starting mixes and used with mixed results. The one that works for me every time is from Gardeners Supply. Don't have to worry about sterilizing it. Yep, newspaper pots will get mildew-y. I wonder if spraying them with a peroxide and water mix will keep that to a minimum.

Columbus, OH

I water mine occasionally with the water/peroxide mix, and they still get a little moldy. Doesn't seem to hurt anything, so I don't worry about it.

Maybe mildew's a good sign since I'd want the paper pots to break down once they're planted in the ground.

Columbus, OH

They break down better than anything I've tried. I now use staples to hold them together, they disintegrate super-fast, too.

Staples disintegrate?
I agree with you on how quickly they break down. I've tried the Jiffy things and peat pots and I can still pull them out of the soil virtually intact a year or two after I've planted them.

Harrisburg, PA(Zone 7a)

Thank you all for your input. I finished assembling the plastic shelves; built a wooden structure for the top shelf so there was something from which to hang the plant lights; and, got everything in place and ready for the first seeds - this Saturday I'll be sowing the first Petunia seeds - Easywave Hybrid Starfish. In the next several weeks they will be followed by various kinds of Zinnia's, Cosmo's, Gazania;s, Rudbeckia Cherry Brandy, Sweet Peas, a really beautiful Morning Glory -Picotee Blue and I'm going to try some Autumn Major Colchicum (looks a bit complicated starting them warm then putting them into the fridge for 6 weeks (wife doesn't know that yet !) then outside in the Fall. Notice, no veggies - I bought mail-order tomatoes and peppers for the Earth Boxes which I used for the first time last year. Thanks again everyone !

Columbus, OH

Indianaguy, if you can get your wife on board, I cold stratify seeds in the frig by mixing them in a snack size ziplock bag with a moistened paper towel, and I tape the ziplock to the vertical inside of the door, in back of items on the bottom shelf. I write the date they should be removed on the bag with sharpie marker. It's not incredibly attractive, but it works and they're out of the way.

Harrisburg, PA(Zone 7a)

Great idea, Celene. I think I can get my wife to buy that method. Thanks !

Columbus, OH

Indiana, if she thinks she'll hate it, I'll take a picture of mine. I've also put all of the baggies together in one gladware container or deli container, that way there's no worry of dirt in the frig.

Harrisburg, PA(Zone 7a)

Ok gardening friends. I planted the wave petunia seeds in 3" cow pots in a tray with a capillary mat under the pots. Made a wick out of a piece of the cap mat and stuck it in a small bowl of water - other end under the cap mat in the tray. Tray was on a seedling warmer pad which I set for 75 degrees. I covered the tray and pots with a clear plastic cover that came with the trays. This all happened last Saturday 2/20. Today I have very tiny green shoots with two very, very tiny leaves in about half of the twelve pots I planted (didn't realize that a packet of wave petunia seeds only contained 12 of the little buggers). Do I wait until I have greenery in all of the cow pots or do I remove the cover now? My, God, folks if these things actually grow...... wow !

Galesburg, IL

Indianaguy, They will grow just fine, in fact you'll be amazed at how fast they grow after a couple of weeks. Leave the top on for now until all have germinated. I usually leave the top on (propped up on one side) for a couple of weeks after germination. Those tiny little leaves have tiny little roots and need to be kept protected until you get one to two sets of true leaves. If you do vent the top some, be careful not to let the soil surface dry out until all of them have germinated.

As long as you have a little ventilation, you can probably leave the clear cover on for a few more days until the rest of the pots sprout. I usually just set the cover at a bit of an angle to let a little air in.

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Quote from indianaguy :
My, God, folks if these things actually grow...... wow !

lol! Fun, isn't it?

Bordentown, NJ(Zone 7a)

I remembered that there was once a video on this website showing how to make those newspaper pots from cans. It was hosted by Dave himself. It doesn't seem to be on the Daves Garden site anymore..but it made its way to YouTube!


Hope the above link works.


Usually once the seed of sprouted, you can turn off the heat mat as long they're growing in a room-temp space - say 65 to 70 degrees. A lot of seedlings are grown a little cooler after they're sprouted. I'm no help on the peroxide but it does make a lot of sense.

Harrisburg, PA(Zone 7a)

Hi folks - another question. The wave petunia seeds I started in cow pots set on a capillary mat, under lights and on a heat mat have sprouted nicely. I've now removed the cover but I wasn't sure when to turn off the heat mat. The seedlings have only one set of leaves and are about a 1/2" or so high so far. I find that I'm filling the bowl I have set beside the cap mat (with a piece of cap mat acting as a wick) once a day. The bowl holds about a pint give or take. Somewhere along the link someone mentioned putting a bit of peroxide (I think) in the water to help with bacteria or fungus or something. If I got it right, how much in that bowl I mentioned? Thank you all !!

Del Mar, CA

I started all my seeds this year in newspaper pots. I used a wooden pot maker because the bottom configuration pushes the folded newspaper up and into a concave shape that neatly holds it all together. Just a spot of non-toxic glue stick holds the top corner of each pot in place. I put the glue above the soil level just in case, but I doubt it would cause problems anyway. On my first try, I overwatered (from the bottom) and lost a lot of my seeds. The next time, I watered just twice (also from the bottom), and nearly everything had germinated by the end of the first week.

Re: heat mats - just heard a pod cast yesterday with Mike McGrath (You Bet Your Garden) about seed starting with heat mats. Says to turn off the heat mats as soon as the seeds germinate. Don't wait for true leaves. The heat is supposed to help the seed, not the resulting plant. Says you'll end up cooking the little plant. Grow lights are supposed to be about 1/2" away from the tops of the plants. I promptly unplugged my heat mats. Learn something new every day.

Central, TX(Zone 8b)

The PotMaker will last for years! I use them instead of peat pots cause the roots easily penetrate the newspaper making planting a breeze. Paper pots are good for those vegetables and herbs that don't like root disturbance. A plus is the PotMaker bottom puts a crease while sealing the bottom newspaper fold that holds the pot together without glue, tape or staples. Another plus - you get to bury "bad news"!!!

Thumbnail by Garden_Sass

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or register to post.

Upload Images to your reply

    You may upload up to 5 images