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problem with pots?

Pulaski, GA

When I potted up my tomato seedlings, I put some of them in 8 oz. plastic cups with slit cut in the bottom and I put some in homemade newspaper pots. The seedlings in the plastic cups are growing and looking okay. The ones I put in the newspaper pots don't seem to be growing and are purple. I have watered and fertilized them all the same and they are all sitting together in the same place. What's going on?

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Are they different tomatoes? (do they have different names?)

Arlington, TX

Ink from newsprint?

Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)

All the newsprint cups I've seen are pretty small. How do yours compare to the 8 oz cups? If they are a lot smaller, they may not be holding heat in the soil as well as the cups. Also, moisture evaporating from the newsprint could be cooling the roots. Purple in tomato seedlings usually mean they are a little bit cool. Normally they will grow out of it when they warm up.


Pulaski, GA

I went ahead and set out all the tomato plants. The ones that were in the plastic cups are coming along nicely. The ones that were in newspaper pots, I set the whole pot down in the ground. They are all dying.

Here's my question now: I had lined the newspaper pots with coffee filters to keep the soil from falling out the bottom. I'm wondering if the coffee filters had been bleached or have some other chemical in them that is killing the tomato seedlings. The scary thing is, if you drink coffee that was made with this kind of filter, you're ingesting whatever those chemicals are!

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

If the ink smears (and most eventually do) when wet it picks up glue frome the paper base, that glue is often times poison,it seals or burns the plant roots. Coffee filters are made to aireate the coffee as it brews,the fiber patterns that there made from, paper or not, interferes with plant root aireation. I don't exactly know why that is only that it is. Modern economics mean different dyes or thinners in the inks and the same with paper. Many of those are poison to plant roots when there developing.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I have a feeling the roots cannot break through the coffee filters and are root bond. That will kill the plant. Even with the peat pots you have to break the bottoms out or the same thing will happen. Those coffee filters are really tough. I use the unbleached kind but have been putting them and the grounds in my gardens for years, no problems. Did the directions call for the coffee filters?

I highly doubt if it's any chemical or chemical residue probably trapped roots. Newspaper breaks down coffee filters take a long time.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

I've used newspaper pots in the past with no problems.

I think Lisa is correct, the coffee filters are not breaking down and are holding the roots within a confined space.

Poke some holes in the filters, or remove them if possible.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I've seen many posts about the paper pots but never any problems. The coffee filters that I dump in my garden take forever to break down. I'm wondering why you used the coffee filters. I never used the paper pots but I haven't heard of problems with dirt falling out the bottom.

Can you dig them up and do like Bee suggested?

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I put coffee filters and grounds into my small (cool) compost heap. I would say that they break down in 4-6 weeks, but then I think that lots of worms are attracted to the coffee grounds, and eat the filter paper while buzzed on caffioene. (Or something like that.)

I think that keeping the compost heap constantly moist helps them break down, and the worms help.
Perhaps it helps that that heap is relatively "nitrogen rich" and "carbon poor". If worms and microbes really do need a balanced diet, they may be driven to eat the filter paper to get their daily minimum carbon.

Pulaski, GA

I have begun digging up the tomato plants that are still alive, newspaper pot and all. Then I remove the newspaper and coffee filter, and set the tomato seedling back down in the hole by itself. I had 25 seedlings in newspaper pots and probably 8 to 10 have died.

Here's the reason this whole thing mystifies me: I put my tomato seedlings in newspaper pots lined with coffee filters last year and they did fine! That's what made me wonder if there was something "different" about the coffee filters I used this year.

Well, the moral of the story is: From now on I'm using plastic cups.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

milesdt -

From now on I'm using plastic cups

That's what I use, too. The newspaper pots took too much time to make, so I went back to using 3oz plastic Solo cups. Although, I found if I left the top of the newspaper pots sticking out of the ground, the collar protected seedlings from cutworms.

Lake Charles, LA(Zone 9a)

I used to that with clear Solo cups using lima beans back when I was a youngun.

When I planted my Citranella plant, I left the top part of the peat cup it was in about 3/4 inches sticking out.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

synsfun -

I left the top part of the peat cup it was in about 3/4 inches sticking out.

One problem with setting peat cups this way is that the peat can wick moisture out of the ground. I found with newspaper pots, the paper disintergrated very quickly underground (where it was damp) but left a dry collar (which could not wick) above ground. Once the plants had thick enough stems to resist cutworms, I removed the paper collars.

Lake Charles, LA(Zone 9a)

oh I plan on removing the top portion before any mold gets too settled in. Besides, I figure i leave the cup there in case the plant gets thirsty.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Milesdt ~ when you are digging them up and unwrapping them, what does the root system look like?

Did you also dig up those that died and look at their roots? Kristi

LANEXA, VA(Zone 7a)

I tried homemade newspaper pots for the first time this year. I stacked them neatly close together to help support each other in a plant tray. I thought that would be a good thing. I assumed that the newspaper would possible start to droop down after a while of being wet, so I figured they needed something to help hold their shape. Turns out, that was not a good idea. Mold grew all over the the sides. I peeled the moldy newspaper off and repotted them in plastic containers with holes in the bottom. I was really disappointed that it did not work out. I see where some people that have success with newspaper pots when they have airflow gaps between the pots and even set fans that blow across them. Anyone here successfully using newspaper pots? Am I wasting my time trying to salvage the soil, seeds, and seedlings that were in the moldy pots?

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Too many unknowns in newspaper , glue , ink print effect , the paper composition itself , I used paper like that for pot years ago for a few years , and gave up on it after that . too many unknowns for me.
Mineral oil the print is made from for one example , the oil activate other mineral particals in the soil , you never know what activation is going to have what effect and so on ..

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I use and re-use trusty, "old-fashioned" plastic pots, cells, plug trays and Dixie cups!

This year I'm experimenting with cut-up soda bottles.

Home Depot and Lowes give them away at the end of the season. If I could climb into their dumpsters, I would probably also bring "dead" plants home.

Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA
Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

That looks good there , Let's see , My plastic pots say things like yogurt , cottage cheese, processed liver .
from styrofoam to pepsi botles thi year Not anywhere near your numbers with al those plants though. ,

LANEXA, VA(Zone 7a)

I don't know if I'll attempt the newspaper pot thing again. Besides the stuff that's in the Jiffy cells, everything else is in cottage cheese or margarine containers now after eliminating the newspaper pots. What a mess that was to deal with! I think that I have things in a better situation now.

I would like to find a Lowes or Home Depot that gives pots/containers away and find out when they do that, too. I checked end of season last year and did not find too much left, other than some clearance items. I didn't ask, so maybe I will next time.

RickCorey_WA: What size soda bottles? Nice pics!

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Thank you!

I start haunting the garden section , trying for twice per week, in Fall when they start reducing the number of plants on display.

I'm usually too cheap to buy even clearance plants, unless they have a more-specific-than-usual name tag. But once they put out the big cart with stacks of discarded pots, I make any deferred purchases like concrete paving stones, to justify filling the cart the rest of the way with discarded pots.

>> I checked end of season last year and did not find too much left,

If you had lived near me in WA, I would have had to apologize "of course you didn't find any give-away pots ... I got there first!

Like the "Grounds for Gardeners" at Starbucks. When a shop FIRST starts putting out grounds, I can pick up 1-2 5 pound bags per week. Then other gardeners discover it and I'm out of luck. The early bird gets the worm!

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Thank you!

Now I have a lot of square 3.5" pots and use those in preference to Dixie cups, because they pack tighter and are less tipsy.

Often I can go directly from a 50-cell-plug-tray or 72-cell tray of 6-packs directly into the soil. I found some extra-deep 50-cell-plug-trays and I'm a happy camper.

Until year-before-last, my standard "bigger" pot was a yogurt quart.

Then someone gave away quite a few big round pots that look like almost a gallon, and I would pot some things up into those and never put them in the ground (but I have to remember to fertilize!)

Over this last winter, I've collected and cut up many 2-liter soda bottles and 20-ounce Sobe juice bottles. But I have to avoid Coc a-Cola bottles - they have a "wasp-waist" that would prevent the bottom 2/3 of the rootball from coming out.

The Sobe have ridges, so I'll have to slice the walls before giving those away or planting out. Also, I plan to drop the inverted "bottler cap" in the Sobe bottle before filling it with bark-and-peat potting mix. That plus a pencil or dowel will make a kind of 'plunger' to push the rootball out past the ridges.

I plan to make a "mini-Earth-Borttle" out of the 2 liter bottles, making a small air-and-water reservoir in the bottom by inverting the rounded bottom cut from a smaller soda bottle, and piercing that with many holes. My intent is that it should act like the inverted colander in a 5-gallon bucket of more traditional EarthBucket designs. I'll burn the drainage holes around 2" up the sides of the 2 liter bottle, to make the water reservoir.

LANEXA, VA(Zone 7a)

Thanks, RickCorey_WA, for the haunting suggestion! Would that be sometime around September? I think the added purchase item in the cart is a good idea, too. Not finding too much end of season may be explained by someone else around here beating me to it! I'll have to make a point to visit the store more often. I do have some yogurt and cottage cheese containers coming soon from a neighbor. The neighbor and I will kind of "co-op garden" a portion of my garden space since her yard is very wooded and shady. I offered. Have never done that before, but I'm hoping for the best.

Do you put the coffee grounds in your compost pile? How do you use those?

I have collected some 1.5 and 2 liter straight sided soda bottles. I wasn't quite decided on how I wanted to use those. I know that you can cut the ends off and have a plant collar to put around newly planted seedlings to protect them from cutworms and such.

I'm not familiar with the Earth Bottle idea. I'll have to research that.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I think first there was a commercial product called something like "EarthBox".
Then some people wrote thread discussing how they modified 5 gallons buckets with reservoirs.

Once they refined the method, one or more people wrote an article or shorter thread somewhere ...

Yeah, gessieviolet posted 6 DIY photos and text to this thread,
date = July 8, 2009
post # 6792900 and the next 5 posts.

Direct links to those posts:

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Earthbox is a trademark of a company and a product,, stiil around ,,

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

This might be where the idea of e-buckets came from originally:

LANEXA, VA(Zone 7a)

Thanks, RickCorey_WA. Interesting. Don't know if I want to try that myself. I'd be interested to hear about your mini-Earth bottle project, if you do that.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Thanks, I will be posting about whether it does well or badly. Assuming I find time to start enough seedlings to NEED extra pots!!

I wonder how much of the advantage comes from the steady water supply, and how much comes from the air space created near the bottom of the bucket?

This message was edited Mar 25, 2013 1:31 PM

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

IF you have put Coffee grounds into the paper pots and NONE in the plastic pot's, then there lies the answer, I feer the coffee grounds are harming the little seedlings.
If you have put the same coffee grounds into the plastic pots also, then one has to assume that the coffee grounds are allowing faster drainage from the plastic pots which have specific designed drainage holes to meet the size of pot and amount of soil contained within.

I have been gardening for over 50 years now and have never, ever fed or added anything to the seed compost other than either Vermiculite or perilite depending on the type of plant seed I'm using for germinating seeds, or after first or second re-potting.
When tomatoes start to produce flowers is plenty time to begin a feeding regime, allowing that we all do things differently, this includes feeding plants ect, BUT, the basics are still the same and each seedling has by nature, everything in requires to germinate, begin to grow, flower, fruit and then either rest or die, therefore feeding at such an early stage is like washing your feed down the sink, IF we do begin to over molly coddle too early, we either burn the roots, over stimulate the amount of foliage to the cost of fruit or help the plant produce stems, leaf, roots or fruit too tender to be able to cope with changing conditions like light, temp, watering variations or even diseases.

The disease called Leaf mould starts to show up producing yellowing blotches on the upper-most part of the leaf and a purple, brown colouring on the undersides, I'm not saying that's what you have but the likes of this is something to look up,

I think you have took the right course pf action by re-potting the plants into the same type of container that gave you the results you had using plastic pots,
As we gain experience it's great to experiment AND try to re-cycle as much as we can but as everyone has mentioned, there is too many differences between News paper (like ink, dyes used for colour pictures ect, the paper it'self and then add to that the coffee grounds, I would use fine grit / gravel from the garden store for a few dollars as a means of helping drainage IF it's required but not in the first pot used for germination, I'd maybe use that for after or 1st potting on. but to be honest, germinated seeds are not usually left in the same pot after the 1st / 2nd set of leaved have grown as these are used for handling the plant when potting into a larger pot but not too large.

If you use pots too big, then you need much too much soil that when wet, this floods the roots, makes the soil stay too cold for too long and this also has an affect on the way /conditions the seedlings have to try grow on. Also try to water the seedling from the bottom as I find IF watering residue stays on the foliage it can help cause mould of various types. Tomato plants have fine little hairs on the whole plant, leaf and stem and these hairs hold onto the excess water and can cause rot.

I'm only giving hints as to what to try avoid and what to try as improving the germination stage for you, and we all have our different methods I feel sure you will learn from your last experience probably better that you realise, that's what gardening is all about.

Good luck and have a great gardening year. WeeNel.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Fine grit (around 2-3 mm) would improve the drainage and aeration of most peat-based seed-start-mixes.

I like to use screened bark from 2-5 mm for5 the same purpose. I drowned and rotted too many seeds by over-watering peat mixes.

>> Do you put the coffee grounds in your compost pile?

Yes, or turned directly into soil, or even just scratched into the top few inches of soil. I would say that you could make a compost heap from 1/3 coffee grounds and 2/3 "browns" ... as long as the browns were coarse enoguh to let air into the pile. Otherwise you would have to turn it daily to let air in, or make the "pile" more of a "sheet" or ridge. Coffee grounds can be as fine as silt and pack into a dense, aerobic pudding.

Most coffee grounds that I get are very fine and tend to clog up soil like silt. Hence I avoid adding too much to soil at once (15%? 20%?) and I avoid leaving an unmixed layer on the surface. I would expect it to bloc k air away from the soil, or maybe even get crusty or moldy. I mix it in with the soil so it acts more like humus than like clay.

LANEXA, VA(Zone 7a)

>>Coffee grounds can be as fine as silt and pack into a dense, aerobic pudding.

Yeah, I can see how the finer ground coffee would pack more densely, like silt, so it would depend on the grind of the coffee as to how to use it for gardening purposes. Thanks.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> so it would depend on the grind

I totally agree. But you can always compost them, and they seem to serve as bait for worms. Worms like coffee grounds as much as slugs like beer.

I get a few whole beans mixed in to my bags from Starbucks, and I figure they serve as extra-coarse Perlite until they break down.

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