How to Make Biodegradable Seed-Starter Pots


I miss flowers! I’m always eager to start seeds indoors so I can get flowers in my pots on the porch as soon as possible. And not just flowers, I like to start herbs and vegetables inside for a head-start, too, and my favorite way to do it is with the little biodegradable seed pots you can buy then later pop right into your pots or garden without any mess, so when I came across this idea for making your own biodegradable seed-starter pots using empty rolls of toliet paper, I was thrilled! FREE seed-starter pots!!!! And with four of us in this household, we have plenty of empty toilet papers rolls! Note: I found this tip in Mother Earth News. I thought the directions left something to be desired, so I’m here, to fill in the gaps with step-by-step pictures.

The directions in the magazine said to take an empty toilet paper roll and cut it in half. Cut it in half which way? I know! You’re all thinking, Suzanne, how stupid are you?! But just in case anyone else is as easily flummoxed as I am……

THIS is the right way to cut it in half.

By the way, I am thinking one of these empty toilet paper roll photos is surely my winning ticket to beat that slice of cornbread in next year’s Black Walnut Festival photography competition, don’t you?

Not that I’m not totally over that or anything.

Now cut four half-inch to three-quarter-inch slices at the bottom of each half to create four equal-size flaps. I’ve never been a well-coordinated box flap weaver, but I managed to tuck the little flaps together to make a tidy bottom to the pot.

And there you have two little seed-starter pots out of one empty roll of toilet paper. Is that cute or what?! I was so proud, you’d think I’d given birth to them! I filled the little pots up with soil, popped in a few seeds, and set them out in the light of the big windows in the cellar porch. Around here, it’ll take no time to come up with enough additional empty rolls to get this tray filled up. Empty paper towel rolls will work, too, to make several pots. No more wasted empty paper towel or toilet paper rolls! Free seed-starter pots for everyone! This would also make a fun project to do with kids. And when it’s time to plant outdoors, the pots can either be peeled off and thrown out or left on (my preferred method) to degrade over time.

Isn’t that fun?


  1. Margery says:

    Great idea, Suzanne! It’s not time to plant here yet, but if I start now, with the amount of TP we go through in this house, I’ll have lots of little pots with time to spare.

  2. kacey says:

    Hm, too bad I just bought a couple of trays of seed starter pots with the plastic lid to fit over the tray. Doggoneit!

  3. Kim A. says:

    This is a *great* idea, Suzanne! Not that I’ll be doing this since (a) my windows face north and don’t get sunshine and (b) my windows also don’t have sills. But one of my co-worker’s plants a garden every year and I’m going to pass this on to her; she was talking about starting seeds the other day.

    -Kim :wave:

  4. Cheryl S. says:

    Wow! Great idea! I think even with my absence of a green thumb, I can do this.

  5. MARY says:

    :treehugger: Excellent idea!!! Mother Earth News is an awesome magazine. I read it all my life until my dad went out of the magazine business. LOL! I’ll be gathering up toilet paper rolls!!! Have a great day! :butterfly:

  6. Robin G. says:

    Oh, God, seed starters. Every spring around this time I start thinking it would be a great idea to grow some seeds (ignoring the fact that I have no garden) and every spring, they die before I can transfer them outside.

    At least if I did it this way, I’d waste less money…

  7. Becky says:

    How neat! Thanks for sharing this. I have some seeds to start, and we definitely go through the TP with 6 people in the house!

    I am still floored about the “slice of cornbread.” The color was even bad — it looked like it was taken with old film.


  8. lintys says:

    reduce, reuse, recyle! great idea! paper towel rolls work too. since you can get even more starter pots out of each empty paper towel roll, you can get more starter pots in a shorter amount of time. especially at our house cuz dh uses a lot of paper towels. (i try to use mostly rags in an effort to create less waste.) paper towel rolls are made from slightly heavier cardboard, but they still break down after planting in the ground.

  9. becki says:

    Happy new-house-move-in-date setting!

    Now imagine getting a gift basket from me…

    Inside you find…
    …a box of salt (so your life will always know flavor)
    …a loaf of bread (so you shall never know hunger)
    …a bottle of wine (so you shall never thirst)

    Strive to be happy. Each day is a new beginning.

  10. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Thank you, Becki!!! :elephant:

    It’s snowing. AGAIN. The counter guy was supposed to deliver the kitchen counter today and the drywall people were supposed to finish today, so I’m thinking I jinxed myself already by scheduling moving day!

  11. Cyndi Lewis says:

    How awesome is this! :shimmy: We are a family of six. I buy my toilet paper in bulk at Costco! I am always throwing out those stupid things. I have also been starting to get spring fever and have wanted to start some seeds but didn’t want to have to purchase any pots. Problem solved! Thanks so much! Oh… and I did need the “how to cut it” pictures. Common sense… not my thing.

  12. Jill says:

    I would love to make these and plant them outside eventually, IF IT EVER STOPS SNOWING. For the love of God, Mother Nature needs to take a Xanex.

  13. Alice Audrey says:

    These look easy! Great post, Suzanne

  14. kaye says:

    This is a great idea! I might even be able to do it. But I’ve never started seeds. I think I will try this year. What do I have to lose? A bunch of paper towl rolls…

  15. kaye says:

    …paper towel rolls– spell it right! Sorry about that, lol. And I’m sorry so many are sick with the flu. Hope you are all getting better by now.

  16. NANCY says:

    I tried this last year and it worked great.Just make sure when you plant them to open the bottom of the pots so the roots have an easier time to grow.

  17. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Nancy, that’s a great point! Thanks!

  18. Renna says:

    No-brainer instructions for most people tend to also easily flummox me (what a strange sounding word, flummox!), so I appreciate the visual instructions you’ve offered.

    I’m glad to read Nancy’s comment before doing this, too. :thumbsup:

  19. Jen(aside) says:

    That is a wonderful idea. I’ve been using empty yogurt cups, cutting some holes in the bottom, and then recycling the yogurt cups when I’m done (either using them next year or actually recycling them). I’m going to stop eating yogurt though, so if I need more pots, this is an easy way to do it. Thanks!

  20. Brandy says:

    I am a HUGE recycler, so this is an awesome project to do with the kids (we homeschool). THANKS for the idea!

  21. Shirley says:

    This is a wonderful idea, and the extra tips are great too. I’ve known there just had to be a use for those tp and pt rolls, just never knew what it was.

    And if you’ve saved any of those store bought cake pans with the clear plastic lids, you could use them for mini hot houses.

    And it never looks like you’ll make move in day, but it’ll all come together. I just know it will. BTW, we’ll want pics of everything when you get in.

  22. Tori Lennox says:

    This is a brilliant idea! I immediately shared it with my mom who’s the gardener in the family. ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Noble Pig says:

    Hey that’s cool. This is why my mother saved everything!

  24. Estella says:

    What a clever idea!

  25. catslady says:

    Hey, Suzanne, did you ever think of writing a book :rotfl: Seriously though, all these fantastical ideas that you give us for free would make a wonderful book. In fact you have enough ideas for more than one.

    I’m very big on recycling and I wish I could use this idea (although I am going to pass it on) but besides having a full covered porch on one side of my house and permanent awnings on the other, my cats would get to anything planted that I don’t have hanging out of their reach (sigh).

  26. Marilyn says:


    Very smart idea! I emptied and tossed two rolls yesterday. Ugh! I’ll begin working on my porch plants, too.

  27. Joann says:

    :biggrin: i was going to to you about the paper towel rolls, but as usual I’m to late…great ideas..

  28. Marianne says:

    OMG… I am SO GLAD I didn’t take my cardboard to the recycler yet. I almost did today… and I have FOUR toilet paper rolls in there. That’s EIGHT POTS! :bananadance:

    Seriously… I’m tickled to death. Seed starting will commence at the first new moon in March. With my very nifty new seed starter pots. :shimmy:

    Thanks! :thumbsup:

  29. Louise says:

    Fabulous idea!!
    I save up the cardboard egg cartons for the same reason too – they make great little ‘trays’ of pots, but I definitely get a lot more toilet paper and paper towel rolls around here than egg cartons, so this will certainly help me in the greenhouse, thanks. :o)

  30. Deb says:

    Hi! Thanks for the great idea! I’d like to look around some more, so I’ll be back. :yes:

  31. Rosa Veldkamp says:

    What a great idea! We too go through plenty of toilet paper, so by the time I’m ready to start my last round of seeds(nasturtiums ect.) I should have pleanty of pots.
    I just found your site. I’m looking forward to reading all your previous posts. :wave:

  32. Emily says:

    Another way to do this is to use cardboard egg cartons. My mom used to do that with us when we were little – lots of fun!

  33. Ann Addison says:

    What a great idea! Now I will feel less guilty for trying to save money by starting seeds… growing seedlings which I manage to kill before it is time to plant. Now I’ll only waste money on the seeds!

  34. Mary ~ 4boys4me says:

    Awesome idea! I’m totally doing that this year! Thanks!

  35. Lisa K says:

    :rockon: I just bought some cheap peat pots to start some seeds in but I don’t have nearly enough for all the plants. These I have tons of, I’ll just start collecting them now! Thanks for the great MFS tip!

  36. Kari says:

    This is a great idea, I use this all the time. The rest of the year I make woodstove/fireplace starters with my toilet paper rolls, I save my dryer lint, stuff inside the roll and it’s done. They light and burn quickly and are perfect! It’s a great way to reuse household items !

  37. Alison says:
    :yes:Fantastic post! I just bought a pre-made plastic tray to start some tomatoes and peppers; however, I will be returning it to try this out. My husband should be thrilled that I have found a solution to the millions of toilet paper roles that I’ve been collecting for recycling. I’ll post the results on my blog in a few weeks (closer to growing season in my area) and let you know how it goes. Thank you!!!!

  38. Kimmi says:

    i love this idea also. You can also take empty rolls and stuff lint from the dryer into them. When you go camping they are good fire starters. Another idea…. :snoopy:

  39. german sheperd says:

    I also start flowers inside but would always hav e that fuss white stuff of top of the soil and it killed the plant. solution: use 2 T. of 18% peroxide withine qt water and mist the soil.

  40. Toni Anderson says:

    I love those ๐Ÿ™‚ Must try ๐Ÿ™‚

  41. Donna says:

    How neat is THAT…even I could do THAT!!!! What a great idea!

  42. Fern says:

    Suzanna, I need to try your idea…I have pansy seeds I plan to start indoors and the toilet paper rolls are a great idea…Gee!, why waste them by throwing them away when they can be used for something as uselful as gardening. And as for the chickens, well, watch your step later down the road…nothing like the smell of fresh :chicken: #@$* on the those nice boots of yours :rotfl: Been there and do that when!

  43. Fern says:

    Suzanna, is it also possible to use paper towel rolls for seed starting? Please let me know, I want to start my pansy’s real soon. Lake Erie’s almost in my back yard so it’s still cool here, planting time’s around the last of May here for most flowers so I think I still have time to start the pansy’s indoors. Also have you ever thought about building your own little green house? My mom and dad use to make the framing for one with a roof then add plastic around the rest…dad would even make a door frame, add the plastic to it as well. It made a great little green house. They had healthy and very nice plants to plant by spring. It’s simple but it works.
    Thank’s :guitar:

  44. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Fern, yes, I use paper towel rolls for this, too. I cut them in thirds to make the pots. I’ve thought about having a greenhouse! It’s a future project.

  45. Fern says:

    Suzanna, Think I’ll use the paper towel rolls as well, sure cuts down on cost. My husband and I will be starting our little veggie garden soon. Can’t wait! Did you receive the email where I told you how my husband and I met? He’s such a wonderful man… sure hope your 52’s a lot like my Jim. If so you’ll be happy the rest of your life…I know that I sure am. Plan to read your new book soon, sounds so interesting. Take care and keep safe and enjoy living in my home state… Fern

  46. Rebekah says:

    :friday: WWWWOOOOWWW! This is so neat to come across this idea. I am a new home gardner, and I am always searching for new & inexpensive ways to start my seedlings. I have used cardboard/paper egg catons, and those work well too. But I am so excited to learn this. I like that they are individual cups and no muss! No fuss! Thanks for the great idea.

  47. fay says:

    hi any tips on how i can grow vegatables without buying the seeds but by using the vegatable itself?

  48. Arlene says:

    Why didn’t I think of these?! So simple and in abundant supply. Good job!

  49. lu says:

    girl i have my toilet roll collection going. can’t wait to use them .

    Lu’s Farm
    from the Carolinas

  50. Pete says:

    Terrific idea! Will save a lot of effort, and put those silly rolls to good use.

    Somebody suggested the dryer lint in a tp roll as kindling. Another use for it is for bird nests. Simply collect the lint in a mesh vegetable bag and hang that somewhere that the birds can get to it in the Spring. They will remove what they want to put in their nests.

  51. Kay says:

    I don’t know much about starting seeds but i would like to try it this year. I get a decent amount of light during the day through my windows, but like an old house the windows are seriously drafty and won’t warm up until way past a good starting time… do you think that this is a big deal or what do you suggest?

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Kay, I have been in your same situation! Keep the seed trays away from drafts and as warm as possible. Even setting stuff around the seed trays will help. When I wrote this post, I was still living in the old farmhouse and I had seeds initially setting out in a cold cellar porch. You can cover them with plastic wrap when they’re just starting, and put them as far away as possible (or sheltered however you can) from drafts and they will still do all right!

  52. Cheryl - in Oklahoma says:

    Wow, I just dug out a TP roll and made two of these, how easy was that. SAVE, what a great idea. I have used them camping with the lint and some pariffin wax, but not in the garden. Thanks

  53. Chris says:

    Great idea! Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  54. Eldie VanKirk says:

    Finally!! Useful straight forward information! Thank you so much!

  55. Allie @ says:

    Thanks so much for this awesome idea. I used it and it’s working GREAT! Hubby looked at me a little strange though whenever I told him a few weeks ago that we need to start saving all of our t.p. rolls! Haha, they work perfectly and I don’t have to spend a dime on pots at the store.


    Wanted to let you know that I linked to you here in my pictures:
    And also here with another picture:

  56. N.B. says:

    Are we sure that TP rolls are biodegradable? Do you have to buy a certain brand to be sure there were no chemicals added? Or did you mean to say “recycled.”

  57. Natalie C. says:

    Great idea…love it ๐Ÿ™‚

  58. Kim says:

    This is probably the best use for recycling toilet/paper towel rolls I’ve come across in a long time! AND…just in time for my seed starting adventures. Thanks!

  59. Kaleigh says:

    that is a great idea, Suzanne! If you don’t have that many toilet paper rolls handy, another option would be to purchase a Pot Maker and make them out of old newspapers (everyone has those handy, right?). I found one of these nifty tools at Lehman’s Hardware, it was a GREAT investment and I absolutely love it. They even have available a demo video so you can see how they work! Here is a link to the webpage:

  60. Grammie Earth says:

    TP rolls! Great idea for seed starters. I have used egg cartons many times…but I poke holes in them so the roots dont have to fight their way out once they are planted. TP rolls will probably break down much faster and give less resistance to tender roots!

    My lil garden is now snow free, and I am contemplating some spinach and peas. I may be pushing it, but hey, they both love the cooler temps!

    Yes, in early March, in Nova Scotia, Canada! It’s just a few seeds, and I can hope for the best!

    Pam :happyfeet:

  61. Dawn Abercrombie says:

    I start seeds in used egg shells. Just crack the egg in half and you have 2 seed starter “pots”. It provides a natural fertilizer for the seed, a reuse for the shells and can just be crushed and planted right into the ground when it is time to transplant to the garden. You can keep them in open egg cartons until it is time to plant.

  62. Mark says:

    Great Idea. Really using the noggin to utilize waste.

    As much as I would like to go and do this, I am weary of the glues or chemicals they use to construct the roll. I know most of the chemicals get cleaned out, but does anyone know what type of glue they use and would it be harmful for the organic gardening?

  63. cygknit says:

    I successfully used these in a seed starting program the other night, with a group of 9-12 year olds. They had a blast making them and commented how these really felt like “their own.” Thanks for the tutorial!

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