Paper pots, toilet rolls and parsnip germination

To start with, I used 3″ round plastic pots.

That’s what you do when you get an allotment or start gardening, isn’t it? After all, you can buy them in B&Q, Poundland, Homebase — anywhere!

Well, I’ve been trying out a better way…

The method is simple – use pots that cost nothing, are biodegradable and are easily sourced.  Home made paper pots or cardboard toilet roll tubes are the way forward for  me.

Paper pots are a little hassle, but its still fairly easy to put together a large number in double-quick time.  Simply take a sheet of your paper of choice – I go with rescued A4 from the recycle bin at work, but newspaper will work just as well – and roll around a cylinder such as a deodorant, leaving and inch or so at one end.  I simply then staple the cylinder together and fold the 1″ excess to create a bottom to the pot.

Home made… Very therapeutic!

You can also go with cardboard tubes.  These are great, of course, because they’re free and would be binned, and are no hassle to source – just stop throwing them away and before you know it (over the winter), you will have quite a few stored!


We’ve been collecting for quite a while…  The stocks are building up for the spring.

In action, packed into a mushroom tray

The trick with this method, of course, is to fill them with compost, sow your seeds as normal and plant out the whole container once the time is right.  The paper or cardboard simply rots away, leaving your plants to crack on and get growing!  This is great for parsnips, sweetcorn and the like; which we are always taught to wrap in cotton wool and not disturb their roots.

The reason I was prompted to promote this method is that I’ve been harvesting my parsnips – and they’re brilliant!

The lack of root disturbance is really working for the pasnips, letting them put on a really good foot of growth before any forking, on most cases a lot more.

The two ‘snips below were Gladiator, sowed two to a pot, and they simply both shot straight down, pushing their neighbour away as they swelled.


An experiment – I left two germinated seeds in one tube to see if they would ‘push apart’ like beetroot do – turns out they will!


You can see the flat surfaces a little better here, where the parsnips had been hugging. For reference: large gloves.


4 thoughts on “Paper pots, toilet rolls and parsnip germination

  1. They look great and a great way of planting them. I put ours in tiny little plastic modules, that I then had to transplant… I was told they might not like that and they might not grow. Fingers crossed we’ve got lots to dig up on Christmas morning along with the spouts! Thanks for the tips. I’m going to try that next for next year!

    • I transplanted some seedlings last year and they did ok – a few hit stones and forked, but not too many. The only problem with parsnips is the rate the taproot grows! The ones I transplanted out were at the bottom of the card tubes when I put them out. Much longer and they would have started to spiral around the bottom of the tube I expect.

      One thing’s for sure though, if you get alien-looking parsnips – they’ll still taste great!

      This is my first “proper” year of growing a decent number of parsnips and so far things are looking good.

  2. A great storage idea for all of those cardboard tubes. Never thought of folding them in halves and putting them inside each other! Clever girl…half of my tubes go into the compost bin cut finely with my scissors and the other half are first processed by Earl who leaves the shreds nice and wet and microorganism rich to add to the suite of organisms in my compost ;). I find that the cardboard tubes don’t break down readily if the seedlings are planted out in them. Might be because we have hot summers here and the soil dries out more than yours?

    I wouldn’t even bother with trying parsnips here as our soil is so rocky but other root veggies do well in our raised garden beds.

    • It’s entirely possible – a hot summer here lasts about three weeks and it rains at least twice in that time!

      The tubes I used vanished within a few weeks – parsnips obviously go in quite early; at that point it’s still a few months before anything you could describe as “summer” so they have plenty of chance to break down.

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