In the current economic climate, we’re all looking for ways to economise at home. Growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs is an easy and fun way to save a little money round the house, and you don’t need a big garden. You can grow your own herbs, radishes, etc. as long as you have a sunny windowsill. Even a small chilli plant will enjoy a warm windowsill and virtually any herb, including basil, mint, and coriander, will do well in a pot. You’ll notice a difference in your cooking (and as your veg and herbs will be organic you will have the most wonderful outdoor BBQ’s) and your kitchen or lounge will be filled with the wonderful smell of these herbs.
And if you have a few odds and ends lying about the house, it’s especially easy to make your own biodegradable plant pots – just the thing for starting out seedlings (seeds are much cheaper to buy than plants, and come in packs large enough to supply seeds for two years’ plantings).
The benefit of biodegradable pots
is that once the seedling is ready to go outside or into a bigger pot, you can just plant the biodegradable pot straight into the soil, minimising the stress that transplantation puts on a young plant’s roots.
If you have some spare egg-boxes, these make perfect starter pots for seeds. Simply cut up the egg-boxes into separate ‘pockets’, fill with moist compost, and plant one seed in each.
Then you can leave them on a warm windowsill to sprout. Put them on a tray to catch any drips, and remember to check them daily to make sure the compost isn’t too dry. It’s better to water sparingly a couple of times a day, as needed, than to water too much.
Alternatively, you can make your own biodegradable plant pot. All you need is a few sheets of newspaper.
- Take a tin can, a small plant-pot, or even the inner cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper, and, folding one sheet of newspaper in half length-ways, wrap it around the can or pot, leaving enough paper at the bottom so that you can fold or tuck it in to make a floor for your pot.
- Still holding the newspaper, sit the pot upright and remove the can or tube from inside. Using your fingers, or a pencil, press down the folded paper bottom and tip a little bit of compost in to ensure your new biodegradable pot holds its shape, but keep hold of the outside in case it starts to unravel.
- Now fold down the top, making sure that you fold over the ends of the paper to stop it springing loose. As soon as it holds, pour in more compost up to a couple of centimetres from the top.
- Place the pot on a tray and gently moisten the soil. You can crowd lots of other makeshift pots around it for additional support and to help retain moisture.
- Now you’re ready to plant your seed. Leave the tray on a warm, sunny windowsill and you should start to see little green shoots appearing in a matter of days.
- As soon as the seedlings are big enough (follow the instructions on the packet), you can start hardening them off by taking them outside for the day, and bringing them in at night for about a week before you plant them out. If the seedlings are going directly into a pot inside, you can move them as soon as they are a few inches tall. Do be aware though that plants do grow very quickly in these early stages and you’ll need a larger pot than you think (especially if you’re growing mint, which tends to spread!).
If you want your pots to be a little more rigid, follow the directions above until you’ve got the newspaper pot, then make a paste out of equal quantities of flour and water – it will smell a little unpleasant at first – and cover your plain newspaper pot with strips of torn newspaper, painting on the flour and water mixture as an adhesive. This is a fun activity for kids. Do a little at a time and leave the pot either out in the sun or in the airing cupboard to help speed drying. While you’re waiting for one batch to dry, you can start another. Just repeat the layers until the pot is suitably rigid, then plant up as normal. These pots are still biodegradable, but will last a little longer than the plain newspaper pots.