1st Feb 2018

DIY plastic-free pots
It’s very heartening to see that plastic is a huge public issue in the UK these days – and I daresay most gardeners have at some point or another been struck by just how much plastic there is in the garden now compared with even twenty years ago.




Experienced garden mavens will tell you clay and terracotta pots make better, stronger plants anyway, but for those of us on a more restrictive budget, there’s got to be an alternative to the hundreds and hundreds of plastic pots that stack up.
Here’s one alternative to consider right from the start.



The benefit of making your own seedling pots from recycling newspapers is that not only are individual units easier to dot about your windowsills than great big trays, and when the time comes to harden them off outside and get them into the earth, you can plant the paper in directly. The paper rots away of course, but in the meantime they might get that little extra time before hitting the earth cold.

I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing in every case for a strong, healthy plant, but I figure there’s no gain from stressing young plants unnecessarily. Plus, I’m still always looking for extra matter to mix in with the nutrient-rich clay.

(I’ll make a note about compost in the future – both for clay gardeners like me who know the whole extra wedge of budget that goes into preparing the earth, unless you have your own rotting organic matter source on hand!- and for regular composters who are looking for the perfect recipe! And I’ll especially focus on peat-free alternatives to mushroom compost etc.)

Now, I do have a specialist tool for these pots. It was given to me as a gift, and it was years before I actually used it. This must save hours of labour overall – and each little pot takes a couple of seconds! Here’s the one I use:



Useful tips!

  1. Don’t wrap the paper too tight round the barrel – I’ve wrecked a few trying to get them to come off!
  2. Leave enough at the bottom so you’re not left with a gap! I’d leave too much rather than too little – you can always scrunch it right down with the tool!
  3. Remember to put them on something! These are still paper, so watering will get messy… (I know plastic is tempting as a tray base, but ceramics are just as good – and head to a vintage market or charity shops and you have an excuse to get something beautiful!)

Free Gift…

If you gift your own plants for birthdays or Christmas, you can make something really sweet this way with different coloured and textured paper – and be very extravagant with ribbons, jute, string – dried flowers…




Handmade is good for the soul. And the environment, usually.


A Note on Tools…

I’m not sure how much this tool would have cost, but  think it’s an investment, and I suspect most gardeners like good tools. Making paper pots without a tool isn’t exactly difficult, so you never have to buy a product to make the change from plastic to recycling.

But if you know you’re better off with the right tool, it’s worth it to make the change over – and it does speed up the process about ten times. Just make sure you don’t buy a plastic one!!

I’m going to make a reference list for myself every time I find a good use for something recycled, (plastic water bottles cut in half make 2 pretty decent cloches for small tender plants!), if you have any ingenious recycling gems, please share, and I’ll put the list together for everyone!


25th January 2018

National Arboretum - 02-23-10 - Seed Herbarium (5)

The job I most look forward to in the darkest depths of winter is going through seed packets. I never throw anything out – I have a packet of candela di fuoco ‘long radishes’ that’s just turned 11 years out of date, but I’m going to sow-it-and-see. I know it won’t do anything, probably, but if nothing else this is an allegory to a lesson I learnt as a fumbling beginner: the sooner you find yourself a system, the better.

I’m currently using a cloth-covered divider file with a blue ribbon tie that I found for next to nothing in a charity shop (along with a hefty tome called The Story of Gardening: From The Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the Hanging Gardens of New York, which funnily enough, though the handwritten inscription on in the inside cover says it was a gift given in 1934 – it is the inspirational spark for a project I plan for the garden this year. Old is not the same thing as obsolete, thankfully!)  I designated a month to each pocket and each month is full of packets of seeds that need to be sown that month.

A dreary day in January is often brightened in short order by looking through indoor sowing options: fragrant dill; silvery grasses (the effervescent Agrostis Nebulosa which looks like a bursting firework captured mid-explosion); gorgeous night-scented stock (transporting you to those balmy summer nights); Lavender; the full purple-spectrum delphiniums, and of course, the ubiquitous Busy Lizzies. I’m not a fan of the Busy Lizzie, but as I mellow in age and find myself inexplicably forgiving Beagles and Spaniels of their former crimes of being ‘boring dogs’, I’ve also lost my disgust for some of the more… garish flowers of our suburban gardens. After all, Busy Lizzies look gag-worthy in some people’s hanging baskets, but did I mention it’s dark this January?

The Winter Workstation
by The Compulsive Gardener

The Winter Work Station
Your little box of paradise when you can’t be out in the real thing. Primroses always remind me of breaking my front tooth – but that’s a whole other story…


I could spend hours with my seed packets, the ones I’m most excited about have got to be in the pocket of May. May has the bee-wooing scatter collection! May has oriental vegetables like choy, and May has poppies and May has my flower dreamboat: the Nigellas.


Love-in-a-Mist – I swoon just writing its name. They call it an easy plant, a beginner’s favourite, old reliable, but there’re no words in any language that can cheapen the sublime perfection of this gorgeous wierdo. This cornflower re-imagined by Richard Dadd.

Ooh, that reminds me, Cornflowers….


I think I’ll make a note about collecting and storing your own seeds at the time, so I can take photos. I’ve never really done this in the garden before, because I’ve been happy to let whatever’s out there self-seed, and I get donated so many packets I can’t keep up with them, but I think I’ll try this year. I’m after abundance, on a budget of zero, after all! I have very big plans for the garden this year…

Next week I’ll share my homemade plastic-free sewing pots.

Until then, I’d love to know other gardeners’ winter jobs and rituals!