I saw a link to making toilet roll pots for seedlings a little while ago, and I thought it was brilliant. You plant the seed in a toilet roll with the bottom folded up like the bottom of a box, and then when you plant the seedling you never have to take it out - you just place it in the dirt and the paper rots away without disturbing the roots of the plant.
Not only was it something I hadn't thought of at all - and I just love using objects for not-their-intended purpose - the tutorial had a really great sustainable recipe for making your own seed raising mix. More sustainable, in that it used coir instead of peat to prevent damping off.
Peat bogs are ancient, and they store carbon. Peat may store twice as much carbon as forests globally. Digging up peat releases the stored carbon. Go here to read a BBC News article on the importance of preserving peat bogs.Coir was pretty new to me - so that was two great new ideas. One, make your own, free "jiffy pots" for planting seeds, and the other was the coolness of coir which I discovered when I used it. It's a lovely red fluffy fibrous substance that gives the soil lightness, or you can place it around trees in your garden for that forest floor feel.
I will provide the recipes and my experience below, but if you want to go to the source I got it all from this post by Colleen Vanderlinden on treehugger.com, Savvy Alternatives to Peat-Based Products for Starting Seeds Indoors.
toilet roll seed pots (with no disruption to soil as pot rots away)
girlingearstudio/CC BY 2.0
The one thing I realized I did wrong was to not cut the toilet roll in half. I think a half size pot (like above photo) would have been better - for waste of the mix, and the seedling doesn't need that tall of a pot! (And many veggies prefer to be directly sown, like carrots and onions - so check first if it's an advantage.)
To make the pot: cut the bottom of the empty roll in four places. You will have created four flaps. Fold them up against each other - as you do the top of a box, each flap holds the next one down.
Then fill with excellent coir-based seed-raising mix below!
peat free (sustainably sourced) seed growing mix
- 1 part coir
- 1 part vermicompost
- 1 part perlite
I got my block of coir for only $5 from the local garden centre - and it yielded a huge amount of fibre when it was wet and broken apart. For my seed-raising mix, I only needed a chunk off the corner, which I then soaked in water.
I got my "perlite" from a local brewing shop. It was like popcorn rock - the kids loved breaking it into dust. According to Colleen Vanderlinden... "the coir provides water retention and bulk. The vermicompost provides nutrients to the seedlings, but, perhaps even more importantly, protects seedlings from diseases like damping off. And the perlite (light volcanic rock) provides lightness and helps the mix drain well."