Save your cardboard toilet roll inners and grow carrots!

Filed in Blog by on January 15, 2009 16 Comments
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carrots - use toilet roll inners to grow them inYipee! I have a day off from writing today! The lovely Sarah from Ethics Trading (who is offering free delivery on all order over £30 and has REDUCED the price of her soapnuts) mentioned growing carrots in toilet roll inners on one of our posts. Well it caused quite a stir amongst our readers who were eager to hear more. As your wish is our command, it’s over to Sarah to tell you all about it………..
This article was first published by Sarah on Quassia; July 18th 2008.

“I’ve always struggled to grow carrots. My soil is quite clay and cold so they often don’t germinate or survive to be big enough to eat. Last year I tried something new.

Someone said to me that they save the inner card tubes from toilet rolls and use those to start off seeds, especially carrot and parsnip. The tubes are rigid enough to hold compost, biodegradable and open at the bottom so anything with a tap root isn’t restricted, as well as being tall enough to give those root veg a good head start.

Now carrots hate being moved, if you try to transplant them they split, fork or die, don’t form that delicious tap root and are generally inedible. So you can’t usually give them a head start indoors or in a greenhouse, which plants need in my garden – because the soil is cold and sticky.sarah barnard from ethics trading

So, I saved some toilet roll inners, stood them in a deep tray, filled them with compost and sowed my carrots. They germinated and grew fine on the window sill. I went to plant them out and the cardboard was still solid enough to handle reasonably well. I left one or two seedlings in each tube and set them in rows in the veg bed. I did help them along with a liberal sprinkle of organic slug pellets, but this year I have chickens to help with the slugs so I’ll have to be more careful with the pellets or use something else.

This all started happening last March and continued through the year until planting season finally came to an end and I now had several rows of carrots grown this way. I ate the first carrots grown in this garden – and they tasted lovely, the roots were long and straight, but could have done with another week or so to bulk up a bit. Still, a successful carrot crop, but I’ll leave them in the ground a bit longer this year and I want to try some different varieties.

I did run out of tubes though, so I did some with pots made with the Paper Potter and those did just as well as long as I stuck to a short rooted variety. But I’ve been saving toilet roll tubes all winter and I have loads to start with when it eventually warms up enough to be sowing seeds.

So, save your toilet roll inners and plant carrots in them! Or parsnips, but I don’t like parsnips so I’ll stick with carrots.

My gardening progress, along with any hints and tips I find along the way, will be recorded in the Ethics Trading blog through the year so do drop in there after you’ve finished wandering around the Zero Waste site”.

Marvellous – thank you Sarah. I gotta say, I’m sceptical; I’ve tried carrots in my clay soil and they are having none of it, so I can’t wait to try this method and I’m looking forward to being proven wrong.

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing what I have been up to with the inners from toilet rolls. I bet you can’t wait!

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About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (16)

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  1. indiebird says:

    Hiya Mrs Green, glad you got Ms Barnard to elaborate on this as we have never had any luck with carrots, am saving toilet roll inners as we speak…..

  2. Hi Mrs Green,

    Developing gardening techniques will certainly improve everybody’s grown quantities. Window boxes have been a consideration with a south facing position. Carrots will be worth trying here as well. I hope to raise 3 beds a decent height. Thanks for the tip, Sarah.

    Regarding the slug menace, a cousin of mine, more like an uncle really, used to do home composting years ago and had great success. I met his son recently, an artist type working in Berlin, and he said a hedgehog was bought for the slugs. I am considering this as well. What could be better than a self-feeding pet?

  3. Abi says:

    What a great idea! As a kid, I used to save every toilet roll innard that materialised in our house, paint faces and bodies on them and turn them into ‘dolls’. I had a whole town of them living in shoebox houses I’d made – they had names and everything! I think it was when I started actually unraveling the toilet roll *before it was finished* to create a new family member that my mother decided the obsession had got ‘out of hand’ and swept them all away into a binliner. Boo!

    So *ahem* yes. Toilet rolls – very handy. Although I was saddened to hear that nursary schools are now banned from using them as craft materials as they might be ‘contaminated by germs’!

  4. Sarah says:

    Happy to oblige folks!

    The trick is to transplant before the card disintegrates and before the carrot tap root reaches the bottom and begins to fork.

    Good Luck!

  5. esther says:

    yes, that’s sounds like a good idea, I have to try out this summer! Last year, we had a great veggie garden…and little blond me, was kind enpugh to take out the bad weeds…all veggies grew great! but one day, husabnd showed me the -what should’ve been carrots-wondering why of all veggies, those didin’t grow….that’s when I found out, that what I had been taking away, thinking it was bad weeds…were the carrot plants!

  6. Carol says:

    The only success I have had with carrots when I had clay soil was to build raised beds and have DH fill it about 2/3 with topsoil (geez, I hate to pay for dirt)and the rest with sand. This created a really loose environment that the carrots liked. I’m going to try the TP rolls, though. We always have a really late start for vegetable gardening here. Last year I tried 3 times before I was successful – way too wet. Tried carrots, direct sowing into the soil (in late June). Ended up with tasty, but puny results.

  7. Mrs Green says:

    John, we rescued an orphan hedgehog and learned that slugs are, in fact, toxic to hedgehogs in excess. It’s all a myth about them eating them. Ducks are better and some chickens love them.

    Hi Abi, good to see you – I can’t believe that about toilet roll inners in schools. Oh my; whatever next?

    Esther – i think we have all done that at one time or another :D

    Clay soil can be such a pain, can’t it Carol. We do have wonderful success with some things though; potatoes, courgettes and runner beans seem to love our soil ;)

  8. Sarah says:

    Too many slugs can make hens unwell too – they’re too rich in complex proteins.

  9. Great article Sarah – and you’ve now given me the confidence to grow some carrots. Our soil is full of clay, so I would never have tried it, but this method looks great, thank you. I’ll now try and clear a windowsill for some space.

    It’s true about the toilet rolls in schools. I used to run craft workshops for mums and toddlers and that was one of the things we couldn’t use. Eh ho….:-D x

  10. Poppy says:

    >>I can’t believe that about toilet roll inners in schools. Oh my; whatever next?<<

    Egg boxes Mrs G! They have to be zapped in the microwave before use ;-)

  11. Hi Mrs Green,

    Insecticides are toxic to the hedgehog as insects are a staple. Apart from slugs and insects, there are other supplements to the diet, including some dairy produce. Slugs only is a dull diet.

  12. Deb from Boston says:

    Thanks for this tip – dw and I have been starting to talk about the summer garden – she’s even thinking about building a root cellar. I can just see our friends and family now thinking that we have totally gone off into the “earthy, crunchy, green, end” They already think the compost bin is weird.
    So for carrots in Boston, I plant a small row out of tradition since one daughter only ate raw carrots as a veggie as a kid (she’;s now 16, still doesn’t like veggies but eats them anyway but only if served) I’ve had luck w/ the little finger length ones, but anything longer and they break when harvesting no matter how careful I am. The soil where I garden (its in a community garden part of an audobon society site) is really rocky – so we have some interesting shaped root veggies. I guess my son is going to have to give up making binoculars out of the tp rolls.

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