January 18, 2013

Reuse for Dead Trees & Seedlings

In the last post I told you about our newly established tradition for cutting the spent Christmas tree into firewood to be used in the wood stove on the next winter solstice. But what about all the dropped needles? Excellent smelling fire starters, if you please. Here's how.
Pull some old newspaper out of the recycling / craft bin. Open up one full sheet. Put a handful of Xmas tree needles in the center.
Fold the bottom point of the newspaper sheet over the needles, about a hands width  down from the top point of the newspaper.
 Fold the left and right corners in a bit to form a little pocket or envelope to contain the needles.
Lift the whole package up and tap the bottom edge against your work surface to settle the needles. Then roll it from bottom to top like a burrito.
Using both hands, twist down the entire length of your Xmas tree needle burrito.
Tie the two ends of the twist into a loose knot. That's it. Use them now or save for next winter. The needles are trapped securely inside your fire starter paper twists.

While you have the old newspaper out, why not make some seedling starter pots, too? I followed this tutorial at All Our Days. Pictured below are four finished pots folded flat for storage inside a fifth origami newspaper pot. The leftover strips of paper will go back into the newspaper drawer. You never know when the papier mâché urge will strike. The beauty of these pots? No need to remove your tender seedlings for replanting. Simply remove the bottom of the pot (presumably soggy and easy to tear) and plant the rest of the package in the ground deep enough to cover the top edge of the paper with soil. The newspaper will biodegrade naturally and possibly offer a temporary barrier to encourage deep growth of the new roots.
I must admit that I am a little skeptical. The toilet paper roll seed starters I used last spring became moldy before it was time to replant outside. I'm afraid the paper might do the same. Nonetheless, I plan to try these this year.
The thick tabs on the two sides tend to spring back up. I assume the tabs will stay in place once the pots are filled with soil or seed starter mix. Has anyone tried newspaper pots before? Any luck?


  1. Hi Laurie, Momma Rosa here. I've used old muffin (cupcake)tins for both homemade cardboard and newspaper seedling starters, and they're helpful in lots of ways: they support the pots keeping them upright, keep from overwatering the seedlings as the indentations in the tins will allow only so much water before overflowing, the spacing of the indentations allow for great airflow between the pots avoiding alot of the molding, the tins are sturdy and allow rotating the pots to achieve best sunlight, a dozen pots at a time. By placing a short branch-about 3 to 4 inches higher than the pot rim, and stretching clear, used plastic wrap (like bread bags sliced open to be flat, etc.)over the pots and edges of the tin you can make a minny greenhouse, remembering to vent the collected moisture for a short time daily to avoid mold. When the weather is right and the seedlings are ready to be hardened off, it's very easy to transport the tinned pots to a homemade cold frame, a dozen plants at a time, and to rotate and re-position the seedlings in the cold frame--once again a dozen at a time. When the plants are finally in the garden just rinse out the tins and store them until needed. Old muffin tins are generally easy to find at rummage or yard sales, often found in the "free" box as many folks think that being rusty or dented the tins are useless. To that I say HAH! Those tins are so very handy to sort out small items. With a cut-to-fit recycled cardboard cover they stack-up nicely. And they're great for keeping at hand small craft items as you're creating a masterpiece! Actually, you may find that those tins are in constant use year round! Bonus-no unused items cluttering the house!

    1. Wonderful ideas! Thank you, oh greenest thumb in the North Woods. I actually have an old muffin tin in the closet waiting for a makeover to become a desk drawer organizer. Only thing is, my desk is really just a table - no drawers to be organized! I'll let you know how it works out with my newspaper pots.