Friday, March 23, 2012

DIY Paper Mache Seedling Pots

What is easy with a capitol E, messy with a capitol M, and fun with a capitol F?  Making paper mache seedling pots!  These would be a great project for the kiddos.  Here's what you need to make them...

The kitchen blender
The kitchen sink (or other large container)
Warm and cold water
Newspaper torn into bits
Wire colander or screen
All purpose flour
2 large muffin tins or other containers to use as molds
Latex or other gloves

**Put on your gloves or your hands will be black with ink.**  (I found this out the hard way)

I began with strips and then tore them smaller

Tear up the newspaper into the sink/bowl.  (Don't use glossy ads.)

Paper absorbs warm water faster than cold

Pour warm water over the paper strips and let it sit for a couple minutes.  The strips tear into bits easier when they are wet.

Not exactly a smoothy

NOTE: You will need to make up two batches of wet pulp to have enough pulp to fill both muffin tins.

Fill the blender about 1/3 of the way with the wet paper bits (don't pack them down).  Add COLD water to about 2/3 full. Pulse to blend.  (By the way...the lid will pop off the blender if you use warm water.)  You will probably have to stir it a time or two during this process to get it to blend properly and if it seems too thick just add more water.  Blend until no paper bits are visible.

The sink would be easier than this bowl

Place the wire screen colander in the sink and pour the paper pulp onto it letting it drain.  I find tipping the colander from side to side helps speed up this process.

It will begin looking more like clay when it is drained some.  Now you can take it by the handful and gently squeeze out excess water...but not too dry as you still need to add the flour.  The original recipe I found through Pinterest did not call for adding flour but every paper mache recipe I have ever seen uses it so I figured I could just mix it into the pulp since I was not gluing down strips of paper. 

Next place the double batch of processed and drained paper into a bowl and sprinkle 1/2 cup flour over the top.  Knead the flour into the pulp until well blended.  You have just made paper mache clay. 

If it seems too juicy at this point just take it by the handful and squeeze out some of the water over the sink until it is not so drippy.  If its too dry add water a little at a time and mix with your hands.  Remember that the wetter this clay is the longer it will take to dry.

Bottom and sides of even thickness

Fill each muffin tin 1/2 full.  Press it into the tin starting from the center of each cup and working outward.  Try to avoid thin spots.  I found using the back of my fingers worked really well for molding the sides.

A heat vent would work great too

Find a warm spot to set the filled muffin tins on and let them set for 24 hours.  When they are about half dry poke a small drain hole in the bottom of each one.  If you don't have a warm spot like I do you can let them dry on the counter and finish them up in the oven at 220 F to finish drying them.  (Time needed depends on how damp they are.)

Didn't get this one pushed into the corners tight but it is fine

When they are completely dry the pots should pop right out of the pan.  If they are not they will stick and could tear if you try to dig them out so it pays to be patient.

Pert near perfect pot I'd say.

As I was extracting my new little paper pots this morning I noticed one thing I probably should tell you about.  These smell a bit like a really old dog...or maybe old dirty socks.

Where is the air freshener?

Not that the odor it will make the whole house reek or anything but they are, fragrant.  So if you are not planning on using them right away I would storing them where they won't perfume the room.  The smell seems to dissipate some with time too as I noticed they were not as strong the day after.

Have fun!


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  2. This is a pretty bad-ass idea. I would bet you can use any fibrous material as well, including plant wastes/grasses. For faster draining, I would almost 100% bet that a sheer-ish curtain/cheesecloth-like bit of fabric could be used to press or wring out excess moisture. Could probably even use an old t-shirt in a pinch.

    Almost entirely certain the flour is not needed. If you get use 2 identical trays, and 'press' the pots out, I don't see how the fibers binding would not be enough to hold the thing together. I mean this is essentially "briquetting' a method used for hundreds of years, and is currently seeing huge reappearance in places like Africa to deal with deforestation for cooking. A making use of the more renewable tree parts like twigs, leaves, etc.

    1. You certainly could though it would need a binder of some kind, maybe add flour to the mix probably as the dried plant material is not as fine as paper pulp. A combination would definitely work. Thanks for the input, it was great to have you pipe in with your ideas. I'll have to give those a try myself.

  3. hi, first of all i was impressed with the article, is really easy, ecofriendly and economic, i like it ;)

    and i have a question .. These pots can be planted directly into the soil and degrade themselves? of curse with a plant inside..

  4. hi, first of all i wanna say that i was impressed with the article, it was easy to do, ecofriendly and economic,i like it ;)

    and i have a question These pots can be planted directly into the soil and degrade themselves? of curse with a plant inside..

    thanks :)

    1. They can Marilyn. The paper will soften with water. I recommend making them thinner than what I have pictures. They are remarkably strong once they dry, more like peat pots and if thinner the roots will go through them faster. Hope that helps.

  5. Could they just dry in the sun? Less painful than a smelly kitchen.