Start a Garden for FREE, part 2

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Starting a Garden

A few weeks ago, I shared an easy way to start your garden for free by getting seeds from a local seed library (see this post).

Seed Library

Seed Library

In between that post and now, a lot has happened: a little travel, a LOT of rain, and a messy, muddy garden plot.

There was also a special request from a friend on Facebook:  she needed all the paper towel and toilet paper tubes she could get.  As one who likes to keep everything out of the landfill, I was happy to oblige!  After seeing the request, I faithfully kept a small shopping bag handy, and filled it with the cardboard rolls…even rescuing them when they were discarded by uncaring teenager hands (it’s okay, they were clean).

Please note:  If you are excited about getting your garden started for free, but don’t have a stash of toilet paper rolls and paper towel tubes, just place a request on your Facebook page!  By the time I was ready to hand over my full bag to my friend, she had a garage full of rolls and didn’t need mine!

It hadn’t occurred to me to ask specifically what she needed them for until that moment.  I knew she needed them for the garden, but that was about it.  When she enlightened me to the reason why, and now that she didn’t need my tubes, I realized I could use what I had already collected!

I brought my bag of cardboard cuties home, posted this picture to my Facebook page, and got a lot of interesting responses as to what I might be up to.


Based on the guesses listed in the comments, I quickly realized that maybe the entire world didn’t know this great secret about getting a garden started!  So, I thought I’d share out step two of creating a garden for FREE…and a good way to recycle at the same time!

Here we go!

1)  Garner a collection of toilet paper and paper towel tubes, like the one pictured.

2)  Using a good pair of scissors, cut the tubes into 1-2″ segments, like this:


Prepare to Cut










Cutting the Rolls


3)  Place the tubes onto a shallow pan or tray, like this:


Tray of Seed Starts

4)  Fill the tubes with a good potting mix or soil from your compost, like this:


Tray of Seed Starts

5)  Using a pencil, make a dip in the middle of the soil (or several, if you want to plant multiple seeds).  Add the seeds to the pencil holes (check the seed packet to determine how far down the pencil hole should go) and cover lightly with the remaining soil.  I packed mine firmly, but left a little “give” in the soil.


Water the Seeds

6)  Water the tray from the bottom, around the tubing and in between if necessary.  You will need to keep the seed tubes moist at all times.

7)  You may want to cover the tray with plastic wrap to create a mini “greenhouse” effect, especially if it’s still chilly outside where you live.  The temperature in the seed tubes should not fall below 70 degrees, or about room temperature.  You can certainly put the tray outside in the sun, but don’t let the seedlings dry out or flood in a pouring rain.  Keep them watered from the bottom.

8)  Enjoy the waiting and watching, and celebrate when you see signs of life!  These herbs, planted last week, have begun to emerge!


First Growth

9)  When the danger of frost has passed, prepare the garden plot for planting.  Place the entire tube right into the ground, where the paper tube will decompose (many plants don’t like to be “transplanted,” so this is a good way to accomplish moving them with minimum impact).  

Or, if you are concerned that the roots won’t have enough room to grow, simply push the plant gently out through the bottom.  You can reuse the tubes or compost them.  (I haven’t taken this step yet since Ohio frosts are unpredictable…I usually wait until the end of May to plant.  Pictures of the move to follow!)

Happy gardening!  

~GGF Gourmet

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