A Productive Garden Chore for Rainy Days

Reader Contribution by Blythe Pelham
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I find it difficult at best to slow down and sit still during gardening season. As soon as the weather allows for me to spend time outdoors (I’m not a cold lover), I’m out playing in the soil. Whether it’s weeding, bed prep, planting, harvesting, or larger projects like creating beds or redoing established areas, I can often be found in or around my garden.

However, there are (thankfully) rainy days or (not so thankfully) extremely hot days that drive me indoors. During those times, when my indoor chores are at a lull, I take to moving forward some of the necessary preparation steps for the next year’s garden. This chore is one such move, assuming you’ve already been saving the things you need. If not, consider starting. This is a great way to repurpose some of the trash you may be creating each week.

What you’ll need:

  • Scissors (not for fabric!)
  • Steak knife (don’t use your good ones, get a cheapie at your local thrift store)
  • Cat litter jugs (empty)
  • Cardboard beverage containers (empty)
  • Toilet paper and paper towel tubes (empty)
  • Interfolded dry waxed paper (optional)

How to create your mini seed-starting gardens:

Remove the outer flimsy plastic sleeve around the cat litter jug. Measure up from the bottom 4.5 inches and cut around the container to create a basin. I use a combination of steak knife and scissors to do this. The measurement doesn’t need to be exact, and you may find that you prefer yours shorter or taller than I do. I like to be able to access my toilet paper tubes easily because I normally start my corn in them. Corn is picky about having its roots disturbed — the less I jostle and jerk my tubes, the happier the corn.

Recycle the top of the jug after removing the lid — the lid itself is not recyclable though they are handy for temporarily holding seeds or other small items. You may wish to turn the jug top upside down and use it for a funnel or drill holes in the lid and use it to strain things like homemade fish fertilizer

If you haven’t already done so, cut your beverage containers in half to create 2 “pots” and remove the plastic pour spout where necessary. I usually do this right after we empty them so I can clean them before they get ripe and stinky. Using a sharp implement, poke drainage holes in the bottom of each half. I use an awl. (Note: the pour spout is not recyclable, so unless you have another use for it, you’ll have to throw it away.) You can also use other cardboard beverage containers though different shapes may pose geometric challenges. I find 4 halves tuck perfectly into one basin.


Wrap the toilet paper (or cut-to-size paper towel) tubes with interfolded dry waxed paper. I do this step because it’s surprising how quickly these breakdown and roots begin growing through them. This is not a bad thing at all when you are seeking a biodegradable pot for your seedlings. However, as I stated, I start my corn indoors and it doesn’t like its roots being disturbed too much. Other plants like tomatoes would easily start growing through each other’s neighboring tubes.

I find that by simply wrapping each tube in one interfolded piece, I get the desired barrier for my 3-week old corn. Line the folded edge up with the top of the tube and fold under the excess. As you wrap each one, place it in one of your cat litter basins. Continue until the basin is full of upright tubes.

That’s it. As you can see in the photo above, 2 hours of work filled half a shelf of my guest room “greenhouse” with readied containers for next spring. All I’ll need to do is fill them with soil, plant my seeds, label the containers and I’ll be ready to cheer on each seedling as it emerges victoriously.

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humingsand Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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