DIY Planting Cups – Sustainable and Free!

Young plants, like kids and puppies, want to grow. They need lots of cuddling and TLC. Like all youngins’, seedlings like a sense of permanence. For these babes, the least amount of transplanting, the better.

After a few trips back and forth to my local nursery, plastic seedling containers began it pile up in the back of the car. We generally bring the containers back to the nursery since our recycling center will not accept these plastic plant palettes. This led me searching for an eco-friendly way to nurture seedlings until they are ready to plant.

I came across a project that I had done with school children a few years ago. We created seed planting cups from newspaper. Why newspaper? While researching for the recent posts about the economics of kitchen gardens, and growing sustainable food within a limited space, I read about the champion of plant growing – composting. To learn more about using newspaper as a composting matter, I reread the chapter from the book, Fresh Food From Small Spaces. “Plants grow well in soil that has healthy amounts of organic matter mixed in…Compost can be made from any plant matter, including lawn clippings, tree leaves, food scraps, newspaper, and/or manure from animals that have eaten plants (such as cows, horses, sheep, rabbits, and worms).”

These DIY planting cups allow for easy transplanting. The soy-based ink newspaper becomes biodegradable compost. One website about soy  explained why it’s used in today’s newspaper industry. “Today, one-third of America’s nearly 10,000 newspaper printers use it. More than 90% of the nation’s daily newspapers are printed with color soy ink. Most newspapers use soy ink for color printing because its price is comparable with that of conventional color ink and it has many advantages: its superior performance, its environmental friendliness and its vibrant colors. Black soy ink is about 25% more expensive than petroleum based inks but some printers report that they need less ink for more papers.”

What you need to make four planting cups:

• Seeds or seedlings
• Natural soil from your garden or organic soil  appropriate for starting plants
• 16 pages of soy-ink newspaper
• stapler or an eco-friendly stapleless stapler

What to do:

1. Cut four sheets of newspaper into a 7” square. I used the NY Times which uses soy-based inks.

2. Fold in thirds, then turn and fold in thirds to make 9 square folds.

3. Angle-fold the corners on each side.

4. Staple the corner points to the side of the box. I tried both a stapleless stapler and regular staples. Both stapled through the layers of newspaper.

5. When the seedlings are ready to plant, insert the whole cup into the ground. The newspaper cups will break down without disturbing the plant’s roots.

Don’t forget to give your seedlings these key natural elements:

• Soil
• Sunlight
• Water
• Air
• Room to grow

Learn more about why composting is the natural recycling option for gardens here . I like the handy inexpensive Green Guides, from Chelsea Green Publishing  for easy reference. The Composting Green Guide  shares a link to the U.S. Composting Council with new ideas about organic recycling and composting.


Angela I.
Angela I6 years ago


Deb Lewis
debbie Lewis6 years ago


Linda J.
Linda J7 years ago


Sharon Matthews
Sharon Matthews8 years ago

Love the idea! And budget friendly too!

Robot V.
Past Member 8 years ago

I think it says lots of resources and also helpful for the nature so if we use this, it ultimately helps us....

robot vacuum cleaner

Dominict Tt
Past Member 8 years ago

That's an excellent way of recycling, kudos to your idea.

Dominict Tt
Past Member 8 years ago

That's an excellent way of recycling, kudos to your idea.

Facelift Gude
Past Member 8 years ago

Hi nice trick in the time of reason because it saves money and so please post such more idea to save money...

facelift guide

Crafty T.
Past Member 8 years ago

Nice making man, its really very interesting blog, i like this blog..

Internet TV

Anita B.
Anita B8 years ago

If you enjoy house plants, use your empty 'Plastic Bottles' cut them in 'Half' wash and dry them; using the 'BOTTOM' part only to cover any CUTTING from other plant, you'll have your own MINI GREENHOUSE.