Newspaper Seed Starter Pots

In years past when I wanted to start seeds, I would use the peat pots found at home improvement stores.  Those pots have a couple of downsides.  First, they cost money, and if I want to plant a lot of seeds then I will have to buy many pots.  Second, they never seem to rot away like I want.  I have found a number of plants that went root bound with the pot still around the roots.

This year I want to try something else.  I saw pots made out of newspaper on many blogs and other places.  I wanted to try out the pots myself before I posted about them.  So far the pots seem to be working well.  I was afraid they would fall apart quickly once water was put on them.  Instead the paper seems to hold up well for the time it takes a seed to begin to grow.  I haven’t seen yet how they rot once in the ground, but they are soft and seem like they will rot nicely as the plant grows.

I saw different ways to make the pots, anywhere from fancy folding to just using tape.  I decided to use tape myself because I want to make many pots quickly.  It is easy enough to remove the tape before putting the pot in the ground.

I tried to use only the pages of the paper that had no colored ink.  This was difficult since the San Diego Union-Tribune loves colored ads.  Some days I could only find a few pages to use.


I ripped the double sided pages in half down the seam.

tearing newpaper

For the first pot I made I just folded the half sheet in half.  It made a pot that was to tall for the basting pans I am using as mini greenhouses.  To make the pots shorter, I folded the page in half then folded the bottom of the page halfway to the fold mark.  Eventually, I got to the point where I could tell where I needed to fold without folding the sheet in half first.

After that quarter fold, I folded the bottom to the top of the page.


I used a water bottle to roll the page. It seemed like the perfect size for what I was doing.  A can from canned food might be a good size too.

Once I got the page rolled all the way up I used a piece of masking tape to hold the end.  Masking tape isn’t very sticky so it is easy to remove.

taping the edge

Next, I stood the bottle on its cap to fold the bottom of the pot. I used another piece of tape on the bottom of the pot to hold it together.

The finished pot is about half the size of a water bottle, and it is easy to make many of them quickly.

I used the pots to start some of my Tom Thumb Peas.  All 11 of the seeds I planted have sprouted and seem to be doing well.  They have gotten big enough that I feel comfortable moving them into their larger pots.  Before I did that, I tore the top rim off of the paper pots at the level of the dirt and removed the tape.  Roots were already starting to go through the bottom of the paper pot so I carefully opened the bottom to allow the roots access to the dirt.



As I said before, the pots are very easy to make.  I told my two oldest children that I would give them 25 cents for each two pots they make.  My oldest is the only one that has made pots so far.  I think he has made about 30 after he finished school for the day. They are a bit uneven and sort of random in size, but they are pretty close to what I showed him how to make.  I think this is a good project for kids because it is easy, and it helps them to be involved in the gardening and growing process.



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Inexpensive seed starter “greenhouses”

I bought these disposable basting trays at the Dollar Store. I am going to use them to start my seeds. The lid should help keep water inside the pot, and function as a little greenhouse. I have always been bad at keeping seed starts wet, and I am hoping this will help me do better. 

Saturday Ramblings: Washer, Raised Bed, Seeds

Repairing the Washing Machine

We have a Kenmore 110 series washer.

Over the last week and a half I have been working at fixing our washing machine.  It came with the house and I believe it to be around 8 years old.  It is a small machine and not very nice, but I hoped to save money by repairing the machine rather than replacing it at this time.

For about a week before the machine broke, it had been acting up.  A couple of times it didn’t drain fully, but I was able to unplug the machine to reset it and cause it to drain.  On the day it stopped working, it seemed to have been trying to drain all night.  Since the washer was full of water, I deduced that the drain pump must be broken.  I attempted to take the whole thing apart, which was rather difficult due to some corrosion on the spanner nut holding the drum in place.  I ended up having to tip the washer on its back and then I was able to easily remove the pump.  There is a plastic piece in the pump that moves water and it had broken off of its mounting.  I ordered a new pump off of Amazon for around $26.

Two days later when the pump arrived, I immediately put it into the washer.  However, this didn’t fix my washer.  In fact, I started to have another problem.  I could hear a whirring sound, but I wasn’t sure where it was coming from.  I had heard a sound when the pump was broken, but that was different because that plastic piece was bouncing around everywhere.  My dad kindly came over to help me take the washer apart the rest of the way.  Removing the spanner nut from the drum was impossible by myself.  There was rust and gunk that caused it to seize up.  I had to hold the drum still while my dad used a hammer and chisel to bang on the nut to loosen it.

Eventually, we found the pump was still attempting to pump even though there was no water in the machine, and it had been unplugged for days.  I ended up realizing that the control card for the washer had failed.  It seems that the integrated pressure switch failed and the control card thought there was water in the washer and was constantly telling the pump to run.  Since the pump was constantly running that is why it broke, so the broken pump was a symptom of the real issue.  My dad found a refurbished control card online for $88 that I ordered.  I had to wait 4 days for the card to arrive, but it fixed my issues.  My parents and in-laws were kind enough to let us use their washing machines for the week and a half we didn’t have one.  It is great to live by family when you have problems with things.

For $114 and several hours of anger and frustration, I was able to fix my washing machine.

While taking apart my washer, I found that it was filthy.  We had been having clothes get black streaks on them while in the washer.  I think they had been getting under the agitator and there was nasty black stuff under the agitator.  Another dirty spot was the outside of the drum.  The drum is the place where you put the clothes in the washer.  That rests inside of an outer drum.  Between those two drums must stay damp on a constant basis because there was mold on the drum.  I cleaned the entire washer really well while I had it apart.

If you have the time and any mechanical abilities, I would recommend at least taking the top off of your washer to see how dirty it is.  You might be suprised at the dirt lurking in your washer.


Raised Garden Bed

On Saturday I built my fourth raised garden bed out of cement blocks.  This time I bought the smaller 6x8x16 blocks.  They are 11 cents less per block and a fair bit lighter.  It was easier for me to move them around and made my back hurt much less.  My last bed kind of sagged, but this one was much more level.  Unfortunately, I ended up with some large gaps between the bricks somehow.  I am not happy with how it turned out so I didn’t take any pictures.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

On a better note, my Baker Creek seeds arrived today.  So while I have an ugly garden bed, at least I will have some nice seeds to put into them.


These are a large portion of the things I plan to plant this year.

Atomic Red Carrots

I bought these merely for the looks.  I think they will be fun to grow, and the reviews say they taste good.  I enjoy growing plants that are outside of the norm, especially when it comes to color.

Nasturtium Dwarf Jewel Mix

My yard needs color in the worst way.  There is so much brown dirt everywhere.  Nasturtiums grow fast and do not need good soil.  As a plus the flowers and leaves are edible.

Tomatillo Purple

Tomatillos make a great addition to hot sauce and salsas.  This year I want to make purple hot sauce and purple salsa.

Bean Red Swan

Last year I grew purple beans and they did very well.  To mix things up I decided to go with red.  The pictures I saw looked more of a dusky pink than red, but I am sure they will look great growing and should make some good pictures.

Wagner blue green tomato

I had to have these after I saw the picture in the catalog.  The color is striking, and I cannot wait to see what they look like.  Bluish tomatoes with bright green flesh will be striking in salads and cut up on my plate.

Squash Desi

I need a squash that I can put in a raised bed.  Since these are bush squash, I am hoping that I will be able to grow them in a raised bed.  I know I won’t be able to get many plants in, but it will at least be something.

Green Copia Tomato

Another tomato bought just for the looks.  I almost rarely grow normal red tomatoes.  I can buy those in the store; I want to grow something more striking and visually interesting.

Black Hungarian Pepper

These were the genesis for the purple salsa idea.  They are supposed to be a mild pepper like a jalapeno.  I am looking forward to the purple salsa.  I wonder if I will be able to find anybody who will eat it outside of Lynn and I.

Tom Thumb Garden Pea

These are small plants that I can put in pots around my yard.  I think I can also grow them in the cement blocks that make up my raised beds.  These are an experiment to see where I can get them to grow well.

I still have a few packs of seeds on the way.  Now I have to control myself and be patient for a bit longer before planting all of them.  I don’t want to be too early and have nothing grow.


The First of My Seeds Has Arrived

One of the plants I am planning on growing this year is the Nasturtium.  I want to grow it because the flowers and leaves are edible.  It is also a rapid grower in poor soils with pretty flowers.  While researching nasturtiums, I discovered that people use the seeds as “poor man’s capers” by pickling them.  This lead me to do some further research into real capers and where they grow.  I found that they grow in Mediterranean climates where there is dry heat with little rainfall.  There are few places on earth with that Mediterranean climate.  Obviously much of the Mediterranean falls into that category, luckily for me most of San Diego County has the same climate.

The Caper plant seems to be a great addition to my yard.  It should grow where I live and we enjoy eating capers.  The next step was to find a place to get seeds, and learn how to grow them.  I found a great website called Seeds from Italy that had the caper seeds among many other things.  I placed and order for the caper seeds, and a minute later Lynn asked if they had Marzano tomatoes.  There is a type of canned tomatoes she likes that uses them.  I checked the website and they did have the seeds so I placed and order for them.  That was two separate orders with two shipping fees.  The nice people at Seeds from Italy sent me an email within minutes confirming my orders and since I was shipping to the same place they combined the orders under one shipping fee and gave me a refund for the other.  That type of customer service and kindness is rare and I will definitely buy from them again.

Today my seed packs came in the mail.


Capers are supposed to be difficult to get to sprout.  Here are the instructions from Seeds from Italy.

How to grow capers

Mature caper bushes can grow three feet high and spread four or five feet. They require dry heat and intense sunlight to flourish. They will be killed by temperatures below 20 degrees F. In the north, bring the plants inside during the winter or just grow them in pots in a greenhouse. Seeds are dormant and notoriously difficult to germinate. You can just try starting the seeds, but the following technique will give the best success (40-50%).

Soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours. Put seeds in a wet towel, seal in a plastic bag and leave in the refrigerator for 6-8 weeks. Remove, soak again in warm water for 24 hours. Plant seeds 3/8 inch deep (lcm) in a mixture of potting soil/perlite/sand (50/25/25%). Use 4-6″ pots and put 4-5 seeds per pot. Seeds should germinate in 3-4 weeks. Grow until 3-5″ tall.  Save the best plant; cut the rest with a scissors(don ‘t just pull them out). When transplanting, disturb the root as little as possible. For northem gardeners, when transplanting, protect plant from elements until it has taken (cover with plastic bag for the first 3-4 days, then cut top of the bag to admit some of the elements and leave a week, then remove entire bag) or use row covers. While not the easiest plant to grow, it is worth the effort to harvest and make your own capers. 

I have my seeds in warm water as I write this, and will write more about the caper in a few months.

If you are looking for seeds, Seeds from Italy is a place I would check out.  They are a family owned company distributing seeds from a family owned company in Italy.  The Italian family has been selling seeds for 229 years.  That is the kind of history and story that I enjoy reading about and supporting.