Biodegradable pots are a good alternative to peat pots and plastic pots. Biodegradable pots naturally rot down in the soil when the plants are transplanted. Peat pots also rot down in the soil, however peat is an unsustainable resource and you should avoid buying it in order to protect Ireland’s peat bogs.
There are many advantages to using biodegradable pots. The first is that they are easier to use than plastic pots. When transplanting your plants you do not have to re-pot the plant, just pop it in the planting hole whilst still in its biodegradable pot.
The second advantage is that using biodegradable pots avoids disturbing the roots of the plants you are transplanting. The process of transplanting plants (moving them from a small pot into a larger one or straight into the ground) can damage and remove the delicate hairs on the plants’ roots. This prevents the roots from absorbing water from the soil or compost properly, so this can halt the plants’ growth for up to three weeks.
What’s more, many vegetable plants, such as peas, beans and sweetcorn do not like having their roots disturbed. If their roots are left undisturbed, the plants will generally grow bigger, healthier and produce bigger yields, so it is in your best interests to protect the plants’ roots as much as possible.
The best thing about biodegradable pots is that you can make them out of old newspapers, and also that they are free. They are easy to make and easy to source (your neighbours will be happy to donate old newspapers if you need more).
How to Make Your Biodegradable Pots
Making biodegradable newspaper pots is easy. You can make them using a few sheets from old newspapers and a mould, such as a rolling pin (for small plants) or a jam jar.
Initially, you may also find that sellotape or staples are useful, but they are not that necessary. Once the soil and the plant are in the pot and they have been watered, the newspaper will bind together without the need for tape or staples.
To start with, decide how tall you want your pots to be. If you are growing peas, beans and sweetcorn you should aim to make tall pots, around 15cm tall, as these plants have long roots. However, if you are growing lettuces you will only need pots that are around 6cm tall.
Tear or cut strips of newspaper, from the top of the newspaper to the bottom. The width you choose to cut the newspaper will determine the height of your pots, for example if you want your pot to be 10cm tall, you should cut strips 10cm wide. Wrap each strip of newspaper around your jam jar or rolling pin, and tie them together with string or fix them with sellotape or staples (alternatively, you could tuck one end of the newspaper into the other).
You can choose to make your pots with bases or without them, by folding the newspaper around one end to form a base, or simply wrapping it in a cylindrical shape for pots without bases.
Once you have made your pots, gently part-fill them with compost or soil and then sow your seeds as directed on the seed packet. When the plants grow, you will not need to prick them out or transplant them, simply harden them off in the pots and, when the time is right, dig a planting hole outside (or in a larger pot) and place the plant and pot, in the soil.