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It’s not too late to get started on your summer garden plans if you’d still like to give growing your own local food a try this year. With some basic materials you can plant beautiful flowers and vegetables, and more affordably than the major garden centers would have you believe. The kitchen partner and I started our marigolds and pansies in a new way this year, using our recycled toilet paper tubes.

I collect them all year in a gift bag in the linen closet where we store our extra toilet paper. When I get a new roll, I drop the empty toilet paper tube in the bag. When I’m ready for spring planting, I’ve saved 20-30 empty rolls. Here’s what you should know:

  • The tubes are biodegradable. When you’re ready to transplant them in the garden, the tubes have already started to break apart and when gently torn can be transplanted into the ground.
  • We don’t use rolled paper towels, but they work for this style of planting also.
  • The tubes replace the pre-formed peat pellets (usually sold with a tray, 25 for $5-6) and are much more affordable. A bag of organic seed starter mix ($6-8) could fill several hundred toilet paper tubes.
  • I wasn’t sure if the manufacturer of this particular brand of toilet paper uses food-safe adhesives so I only planted flowers. Many toilet paper tubes are made from dye and chemical free, biodegradable materials. Check your brand before planting vegetable seedlings.
  • It’s a win-win for the garden: you’re saving money on expensive seed starting pods and you’re repurposing a common household item.

How to start seeds in toilet paper tubes

What you’ll need: 10-20 empty toilet paper tubes, seed starting mix (available at most garden supply stores), an empty garden flat or tray for drainage, seeds

1. Cut each toilet paper tube in half. If using longer tubes like paper towel, cut them into 3″ lengths.

2. Fold one side in to form a bottom. It’s easiest to crunch in two sides with your thumbs, rotate the tube and push in the other two sides. It’s okay if a small hole is still in the bottom since the seed starting mixture will compact some when moistened. Very little falls into the tray.

3. Line the tubes in the empty garden flat.

4. Fill each tube completely full of seed starting mix. It will shrink some when moistened.

5. Add seeds and water.

6. Place in a sunny location or under a grow light and watch them grow!

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