Making Newspaper Pots

  1. To make a newspaper pot, first cut a strip of non-glossy newspaper to 3.5” x 14”.
  2. Roll the strip tightly and evenly around the PotMaker press. Fold the overhanging paper under the end of the press.
  3. Firmly press the PotMaker into its base. Carefully slide the newspaper pot from the PotMaker.

Starting Seeds

  1. Prepare your potting mix in a large bucket or sink: Add water to it until it feels like a damp sponge. There should be enough water that it clumps together when squeezed but not so much that it drips.
  2. Fill your container to the top with the damp potting mix. Drop it onto your hand a few times to settle the mix, then top it off with a bit more mix. The container should be full to its rim.
  3. Use your finger to poke a shallow hole in the potting mix. The depth of the hole should be twice the diameter of the seed. Insert one to two seeds and cover with a fine layer of mix. Pat down gently to “tuck in the seed”.
  4. Place your containers on a tray without any holes in it. Before watering, use masking tape to label the tray. With a water-resistant marker, such as a Sharpie, record the variety of plant you are starting and the date.
  5. Water thoroughly with a fine-misting sprayer. Then, cover the tray with a sheet of clear plastic. This will keep the potting mix in the containers evenly moist.
  6. Place seed trays in a warm, draft free area while they germinate. Once seeds germinate, remove the plastic cover and relocate the trays to a sunny, south-facing window. Or place them under grow lights. Grow lights should hang 2” from the seedlings and be set on a timer for 16 hrs. of light per day.

Notes on Seedling Care:

  • As a seed sprouts, the first two leaves to form are called cotyledons. The cotyledons are different in shape than the plant’s normal or “true” leaves, which develop later. As seedlings form their first true leaves, water less. Allow the soil surface to dry between waterings in order to discourage diseases that thrive in moist soil.
  • When you first notice the true leaves forming, it’s time to thin. If there is more than one plant per container, take a pair of scissors and cut down all the plants except one—the one that looks most healthy and has the thickest stem.
  • About a week before you transplant your seedlings into the garden, you will need to harden them off. This involves watering them less, exposing them to direct sunlight for part of the day, and exposing them to gentle breezes. For more information see the “Transplanting” section.

Surface Sowing

Some seeds are both very tiny and require light to germinate. To plant these seeds, use a method called “surface sowing.” Instead of creating a hole for the seeds, just sprinkle a few on the level soil surface. Pat them down gently so that they are not washed away when you water them, but do not cover them with soil. These seeds are especially delicate and need to be covered with a plastic sheet. Be sure the sheet is clear and will let light through. Here are a few seeds that need to be surface sown:

  • Amaranth
  • Sweet Alyssum
  • Johnny Jump Ups
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • English Lavender
  • Salvia
  • Stock
  • Strawflower

Download a printable PDF: Seed Starting