Gardening with Kids: Starting Seeds in Toilet Paper Rolls

Starting seeds is inexpensive, easy, and good for the earth when you use a resource you already have and it’s a great way to get kids involved in gardening! Give those toilet paper and paper towel rolls a new life as an eco-friendly seed starter. Start envisioning the blooms, fruits, herbs, and vegetables that will nourish your body and soul this spring!

It’s a great idea to start your plants from seed, you can save some big bucks and get a head start on the growing season. It also gives you much more flexibility with the types of plants you can grow. You aren’t limited by what the garden center has, but can try new and exciting varieties!  Also, when in the midst of a long, cold winter, it is simply refreshing to think spring and makes for a perfect winter project.

gardening with kids

Seed starting is a great way to introduce kids to the joy of gardening!

My three wee ones and I are undertaking this project on a cold, snowy Vermont afternoon. Bring on Spring we say! We decided to grow herbs for our sunny windowsill until they are ready to make the move outside when the weather warms. We absolutely love cooking with cilantro and basil, so that is what we are growing. Let the pesto and salsa parties commence!

The basics of seed starting

The seedlings are going to be nice and cozy staying inside for about 2 months before your final frost date. In Vermont, to be on the safe side, we plan on that being Memorial Day and we start our seeds for many vegetables at the end of March. If you are itching to get your hands in the dirt earlier, just know you might just have bigger plants when it’s time to make the move outside. And for plants destined for the veggie garden, I would stick with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kohlrabi as my first seed starting group.

Common Sense Homesteading offers a Printable Seed Starting Calendar which will help to take some of the mystery out of when you should start  your seeds relative to your last frost date.


How to make the toilet paper tube planters:

1. Cut three 1 inch slots in the side of the toilet tube.

2. Fold in to create a bottom.

seed starting in toilet paper rolls

Make 3 slices in roll and then fold in edges to form cup.

Planting steps:

1. Moisten your soil. It makes your seeds happy. To do this, just fill a container with some potting soil and wet it through. Be careful not to make it soggy.  If it’s too wet, squeeze out as much of the water as possible.

seed starting in paper towel rolls

Fill each of the cups and then level off.

2. Fill and level off the toilet paper roll containers.  (I’ve found that the small measuring containers that come with cough syrup make perfect scoops for little hands.)


use 2-3 seeds per pot depending on seed size.

Use 2-3 seeds per pot depending on seed size.

3. Sow your seeds into the container following the directions on the seed packet. I put in two seeds per container, just to be safe that I don’t end up with a dud.


seed starting with kids

After placing seeds on soil, cover with a little more soil, following seed package directions.

4. Top off your seeds with a little more soil, again referring to your seed packet for depth instructions.


seed starting with kids

Mark the seed names for easy identification of small seedlings.

5. If you’re planting more than one type of seed, you can simply mark the containers with a felt market after filling them.


seed starting with kids

Completely cover the tray with plastic wrap or enclose in a large zip-lock bag.

6. Cover your roll cups with plastic wrap and put in an evenly warm spot but not in the direct sun, until you see the first sprouts. (Do not add any more water until the sprouts emerge).



7. Yea! They sprouted! Remove the plastic wrap and move them to a nice, sunny spot and rotate regularly to keep from getting too leggy.



Caring for your baby plants

1. Water your plants with room temperature water… you don’t want to shock their system! Check daily by putting your finger carefully in the soil to see how fast they dry out.

2. Water them with a mister sprayer or from the bottom, so that you don’t wash away your seedlings.

3. Once the seedlings have been inside for 6-8 weeks, bring them out for some fresh air on sunny days for a couple hours. This helps them get used to being outside and readies them for their move to the garden bed.

 Happy Gardening!


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One Response to Gardening with Kids: Starting Seeds in Toilet Paper Rolls

  1. Caroline Mathis July 14, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

    My daughter was so curious watching me making these seed starters. It was a new thing for both of us and we needed a day of trying and failing with our recycled seed starters. But it was a big fun and I’m glad to see my girl to be so responsible, taking care of the little sprouts. It was a good experience and recycling toilet paper tubes is a great idea indeed. Greets!

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