Start your garden with a little newspaper, toilet paper and bleach

Jeanne Dunstane and Pat Guckenberger are Master Gardeners from opposite ends of the county. Jeanne gardens among the rocks and deer in Bushkill. She talks about making manure from deer poop. Guckenberger lives in Gilbert and has her own stories about planting among the rabbits.

Together, they did a presentation about everything from seedlings to herbs to rotating plants in your garden.

This week, a few highlights:

A great use for the Pocono Record, after you read it from cover to cover, of course:

They shared a “recipe” from for seedling pots made from newspaper.

Spread open a standard sheet of black-and-white newspaper, then lay a 1¼ -inch-diameter dowel along one edge of the paper. Roll the paper and dowel one turn, then dab a small amount of flour-and-water paste on the rolled portion of the paper.

Continue to roll the dowel to within 3 inches of the end of the paper, then apply more paste in a zigzag pattern to this remaining area and finish rolling. Remove the dowel and allow the paper to dry overnight. The next day, when the paper is dry, cut the tube into 3-inch lengths.

When you’re ready to start sowing, stand the open-ended cylinders upright inside a planting tray or flat, fill each with seed-starting mix, then plant your seeds. When it’s time to transplant, place the pots right in the garden—the paper will decompose.

(Be sure to cover the entire paper pot with soil so that the paper doesn’t act as a wick, drawing moisture away from the seedling roots.)

Now Dunstane even uses toilet paper rolls for seedlings. She just crimps the ends and then opens them to plant in the ground. “Cardboard will rot away,” she says.


She fills everything she can.

 But not with just any dirt. She recommends the following “recipe” from Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening:

Mel’s Mix

■1/3 vermiculite

■1/3 peat moss

■1/3 compost (from as many sources as possible)

If the pots were used before, Dunstane recommends sterilizing them with a mixture of one part bleach to four parts water. Plastic pots should soak for 15 minutes, non-glazed pots  for 30 minutes. Let them air dry.

   Fill the container half full of soil. You want a lightweight potting mix. Add more as the plant grows.


All really good ideas. Maybe that’s why they call them the Masters..

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