DIY Garden Projects

Create Your Own Transplant Pots Out of Newspaper

After your seeds have started, these easy-to-make newspaper pots are perfect for transplanting your new seedlings.

Forget pricey plastic sets and excess pots—-all you need is some extra newspaper and a small cup or mason jar and you are on your way.

Since the newspaper will decompose naturally, you can then plant these right into the garden.

Here’s how to make your own newspaper pots in 6 easy steps:

Step 1.

Cut sheets of black and white newspaper in half or thirds, depending on the size of pot you want to make. Make sure not to use pages with color, since this will be going directly into your garden. (Color newspapers may contain heavy metals that are unsafe).

Step 2.

Align your mason jar or cup with the newspaper so that a few inches of paper are above the opening of the cup. Roll the newspaper so it circles the cup.

Step 3.

Push the sides of the paper that are above the cup opening inside, so they are wrapped around the lip of the cup.

Step 4.

Remove the cup gently, while still keeping the pot’s shape.

Step 5.

Use the bottom of the cup to reinforce the pot’s bottom by inserting it inside the newspaper pot. Tamp down the inverted ends, so it seals the bottom.

Here’s what it should look like after it’s done:

Step 6.

Add soil  and transplant or start your seedlings.

When they reach the size for transplanting outside, they can be placed directly into your garden. This will also alleviate root disruption for healthy, happy seedlings!

Make a Rain Barrel on the Cheap

By Sara Elliott

Save water, save time, and save money by making your own rain barrel this year.

Even though the practice of harvesting rainwater has been going on for well over 4,000 years at last count, adding a rain barrel may be a novel idea in your neighborhood.  Water shortages, aging water treatment facilities and the growing cost of water across the U.S. are making the humble rain barrel an old idea that’s an enlightened solution for today’s resourceful gardeners.

No need to shell out hundreds for a rain barrel—you can buy all the materials from the hardware store to make one  on the cheap.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 55 plastic gallon barrel with an opening and stable base
  • Downspout extender
  • ¾” faucet
  • Roll of teflon tape
  • Caulk
  • Garden hose

To construct your barrel:

Prep your downspout. Once you’ve decided which downspout you’d like to place your rain barrel near, cut the downspout and add the extender. This will then go directly into your barrel.

Cut a hole in the top of the barrel that is large enough for the downspout extender to fit inside.

Drill a 1″ hole towards the bottom of your barrel with a hole saw or drill bit where you want your spigot, just off the bottom of the container.

Add your spigot. To attach your ¾” faucet, wrap the threads in tape, caulk the taped thread and insert into the drilled hole. Once it’s where you want it, caulk the area inside and outside the spigot well to reduce leakage and let set. If you want to skip this caulking step, get a spigot like this one, that just fits right in the 1″ hole.

Place your new rain barrel under your downspout extender and wait for rain!

That’s really all there is to it.  If you’re an old hand at DIY projects, you can probably make your rain barrel in an afternoon.  Check with your local utility company to see if there are rebates or other incentives that could defray the cost of installing a rain barrel on your property.

This video covers it pretty well:

The Advantages of Rain Water

Rain barrel are a great way to harvest some impressive amounts of clean, neutral water with almost no effort.  After that, the way you use it is up to you.

Collecting rainwater is good for the environment too. Rainwater washing into storm drains is often routed directly into rivers and lakes together with any oil and chemicals it picks up along the way.  Before suburban sprawl took over, rainwater reached aquifers and rivers by moving through the soil, a natural filtering system.  When you divert some of that water into your rain barrel, you help reduce the overflow and keep surrounding ecosystems cleaner.

How Much Water Can You Collect?

Most rain barrel systems capture the water that washes off your roof by redirecting it from your downspout.  In order to do this effectively, the spout is usually shortened and an extension is added to divert the flow into an opening in the barrel.

Let’s do the math.  To harvest about 300 gallons of rainwater (1,135 liters), all you’d need would be a half-inch of rain falling on a typical 1,000 square foot roof (93 square meters).  Even if you have a weighted diverter on the system to bypass the first few minutes of rainfall and allow kinetic energy to scrub particulates out of the air and off your roof before you start collecting, you could easily harvest a 50 gallon barrel full of water in less than fifteen minutes.  With the cost of water rising, and drought conditions in many areas imposing limits on when and how water can be used outdoors, this is very good news.

Types of Rain Barrels

From a functional standpoint, size and convenience are big factors when it comes to rain barrels.  Beyond the diverter mechanism we mentioned above, rain barrel systems are available with elaborate filters, anti-bacterial lights and even pumps to make distributing the water from your catchment system easier.  Any rain barrel you decide to use should be constructed from food grade and rust resistant material, like plastic, especially if you’ll be using the water on edible flowers, vegetables or herbs.  For a long, reliable life it should also be UV protected, especially if it will be situated in direct sunlight for part of the day.

Building a Cold Frame

coldframeAn easy, diy coldframe made out of extra wood and old windows

I heart my coldframe these days, and have been enjoying fresh salads from my front yard for the past few weeks already. It’s amazing how much the coldframe really took off in the last month. Although it looked bleak for a bit, I’ve successfully managed to overwinter Red Russian Kale, Ho Mi Z mustard greens, Winter Bibb lettuce, Ruben’s Red Romaine, and Space spinach. I planted them in late October, here’s what they looked like in early February:

The coldframe during winter—a little bleak
Coldframe on March 29–ensalada city!

Coldframes are also a great place to harden off seedlings, and start early interplanted crops. In between my lettuces, I sowed Easter Egg radishes, Scarlet Nantes carrots and Chiogga beets that have already sprouted, and will hopefully be ready to harvest after the spinach and lettuces bolt in May.

To make a coldframe, you just need some extra lumber, and old windows. Cedar or locust is best, because it’s the most durable, but spruce or pine are good if treated with an outdoor organic wood preservative. Some people paint their cold frames, but I think that kind of defeats the purpose of growing organically, since you’ll have paint leaching into your garden. Natural is the way to go.

If you really want to make an easy cold frame, try this one using four straw bales of hay.

Or, see the video below to construct one out of wood.

DIY Mini Greenhouse and Seed Starter

DIY Seed Starting

Here’s another, do-it-yourself seed starting setup that self waters, creates a cozy greenhouse to start seedlings, and is super easy to make. All you need is one of those ridiculously overplasticized Eggland’s Best egg cartons (I will never understand why they use three layers of plastic for their cartons, but for starting seeds, it’s perfect).

eggland's best overplasticized carton

To make this mini greenhouse, cut the top off the egg carton and save. Then, take a safety pin, and poke a hole out of each of the 12 egg shapes (this is where the water will go up to the roots). Put the top underneath the egg carton, and fill with soil and seeds. Then, water, and use the old top (now on the bottom) as a reserve. The perfect egg carton greenhouse!

The plastic water reserve on the bottom of the carton keeps roots growing down, making for happier transplants when it’s time to head outside.

seed starting egg


5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mary Beth  |  May 31, 2010 at 1:40 am

    love this!

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