Homemade Biodegradable Pots From Toilet Paper Tubes

Our household generates plenty of toilet paper rolls. We’ve switched to cloth on just about everything else, but I’m not ready to make our house a TP-free Zone just yet (sorry, No Impact Man).  
I save up toilet paper rolls (by the simple means of not emptying the powder room garbage nearly as often as I should) until I have a good dozen or so, and then convert them into biodegradable pots. If you currently pay good money for small peat pots, I encourage you to give this DIY-equivelent a try. The size of these makes them excellent for soft herbs and salad greens like parsley, basil, lettuce or chard.
Start with your rolls, emptied of paper, of course.
Cut in half.
Stand the rolls on end, cut-side-up so they rest more evenly, on a baking sheet or tray that can hold water.
One by one, fill your tubes with potting mix. Don’t worry about the open bottom. As long as your potting mix is adequately moist and you compress it a bit, everything should all hold together just fine. Think of these as a soil block with a girdle on.
Your homemade biodegradable pots are ready to plant! Follow standard seed-sowing practices
Water from the bottom and you can watch the cardboard wick up the moisture. Keeping the cardboard relatively moist will encourage it to fall apart sooner. In the case of a short-lived bio-pot, that’s a good thing.
All ready to plant out, tube and all. Because these pots don’t have a bottom, root growth won’t be constricted as it can be with peat pots. You do have to be a bit careful to support the bottom of the pot when you move it to prevent the potting mix from breaking away and falling out. And remember to bury the pot fully so that nice wicking action doesn’t act in reverse and draw moisture away from the plant roots once it’s in the ground. 
What do you do to reduce waste or repurpose garbage into something useful?


  1. says

    I use paper egg cartons as little seed-starting cups for greens. they have the same wicking features as the tp rolls. root binding is probably a possibility, though, since I don't cut out the bottoms of the cups.

    I also use plastic cookie trays — e.g. from a package of sandwich cookies, with 2 rows — to hold the cups & water.

  2. says

    Interesting use for them. I've used them for rings to protect from cutworms or whatever eats my broccoli seedlings, but never pots. Currently we give them to the preschool gerbil so that's recycling, right?

    My brother uses newspaper pots that do a pretty good job breaking down. I think cardboard would break down too slow for veggies to spread their roots, though again I've never tried it. I love my home made soil block maker. I plant up the same as you, but I have no pots to deal with, just soil blocks.

  3. says

    Thanks Antone! I'm ready for more diversity in my fresh food too, but happy the winter greens are growing again!
    Bill – good idea to protect squash vines!
    Sinfonian-definitely recycling, especially if the gerbil pays you back in poop. :) One thing I like about the bottomless TP pot is that the roots can still go down while the tube is breaking down. Do you have a post on how you made you soil blocker? I'd love to read it.

  4. says

    I love this version much better. I was show how to cut bottoms and fold in to make it more like a "pot" but will be trying this. I've got my wife saving these and her yogurt cups.


  5. Saskia says

    Great idea! After I read your post last month, I tried this with my chard seedlings. It's worked well so far, but I also noticed white fuzz growing on the outside of the rolls, so I upped the amount of time my fan is on inside. I'm planning to use a spatula to transfer them from the plate they're on out to the garden, to minimize soil loss out of the bottom of the rolls.

  6. marci says

    I cut 4 slits in the bottom and fold them in like a boxtop… then it has a bottom… I open up that bottom when I plant them…. This cutting and folding is a great job for grandkids, by the way :) lol !


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