There may still be snow on the ground and frost in the air, but planting season is rapidly approaching, and if you have a sunny window, you can get some of your veggies started indoors right now. The sooner you start your seeds, the bigger the plants will be when it’s time to put them in the soil, and the quicker you’ll be able to begin harvesting food from your garden.
Most garden centers sell plastic trays and pots, soil blocks, or peat pots to use for starting seeds indoors, but if you’d like to start your seeds without having to go purchase a bunch of new stuff, there are a bunch of inventive DIY seed pots that can be made from items you probably have in your recycle bin right now.
1. Newspaper pots:
Small seedling pots can be made by rolling doubled-up sheets of newspaper around a small jar (or using a tool like this), then gluing the bottom together with wheat paste, or by folding the paper into a square pot and stapling the edges together. The entire pot can be planted in the ground once the soil is warm and the seedling is mature enough to be put in the ground.
2. Egg cartons:
Cardboard egg cartons can be used to start a dozen seedlings, and then cut apart to plant each one when it’s time to plant them in the garden. As with newspaper seedling pots, there’s no need to remove the plants from the pots before planting, as the cardboard will break down in the soil as the plant grows.
3. Egg shells:
If you’ve got egg cartons, you probably have egg shells as well, and while they can be crushed to make a great soil or compost pile additive, egg shell halves can be used as seedling pots as well, and naturally, they fit perfectly inside an egg carton tray. A small hole will need to be punched in the bottom of each shell for drainage.
4. Paper towel or toilet paper tubes:
Not everyone uses paper towels, but pretty much everybody buys toilet paper, and the paperboard tubes in the center of both of these items can be cut to form small seedling pots. There are two different methods of making pots from these paper tubes, one of which is to just leave the bottom open and fit the tubes tightly together in a tray (easiest), and the other is to cut several vertical slits in the bottoms of the tubes and to fold the resulting flaps to form the bottom of the pots (takes more time, but the soil won’t come spilling out the bottom if you pick these up).
5. Yogurt cups:
If you’re going to indulge in single-serving packaged foods such as yogurt cups, at the very least you can give them a second life by making the plastic containers into small seedling pots. The larger yogurt containers will work as well, but take up much more room, so in this case, the smaller yogurt cups offer more versatility. Cut a series of small holes around the bottom edge for drainage, and after planting the seedling into the garden, wash and dry the cups for use again and again.
6. Paper coffee cups:
If you regularly get coffee or tea in a paper to-go cup (because you keep forgetting your reusable mug, of course), or can raid the office trash or recycle bin for these, they make great seedling pots as well. Be sure to punch some small drainage holes in the bottom, and when you’re ready to plant them in the garden, you can pull off the bottom of the cup and plant the rest, or remove it entirely and add the old cup to your compost pile.
7. To-go containers:
Clamshell containers, especially those with a clear lid, can make great planting trays for seedlings. Simply punch a few holes in the bottom for drainage, fill with soil, plant the seeds, and use the clear lid as a mini-greenhouse until the seedlings have emerged. Planting seeds into trays like this is best suited for starting a lot of plants that you can then repot into individual pots once they have their first true leaves, or for growing microgreens for the kitchen, such as sunflower sprouts, buckwheat “lettuce”, or wheatgrass.
Seed pot trays:
You’ll want to have trays to hold your DIY seedling pots and keep water and soil contained, which is another good use for the to-go containers. Cases of soda or canned goods come in conveniently sized trays for holding seedling pots, which can also be lined with a used plastic shopping bag to keep counters and windows tidy. If you have access to really thick cardboard boxes (such as the cases that bananas are shipped in), both the top and the bottom of the boxes can be trimmed down into trays, which are thick enough to stand up to being dampened frequently without coming apart. Old plastic Tupperware-type containers can often be found at thrift stores and garage sales, and also make great seedling trays.
Making your own homemade seedling pots is a great way to repurpose common household items and get a headstart on gardening season, without having to go out and spend a bunch of money at the garden center for new pots and trays. It’s also a bit of an art to learn which pots are the most convenient for you to use, based on how easy they are to get or make, as well as which trays work the best for holding the most amount of pots in each sunny spot in your house.
I have been hearing a LOT more people talk about gardening this year. With the state of the economy more people are turning to the idea of growing their own produce. Even a small garden (or even containers on a patio/balcony) can mean savings on fresh vegetables.
One thing to keep in mind is that it is MUCH cheaper to grow your garden from seeds rather than buying plants from the nursery or garden store. If you have someone you can share seed packets with it’s even better since you generally won’t need whole packets unless you have a decent amount of garden space.
Last year I wrote about starting seeds early and I’m thinking it would be a good idea to run it again. We have a late growing season here so I still have a few weeks to get started, but you may need to start ASAP depending on where you are located. To starts seeds I use this handy method that is CHEAP, EASY & GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT.
- How to Start Seedlings in Egg Cartons
- Egg carton seed-raising pots
- Learn How to Use Egg Carton and Shells to Grow Seeds
- Using egg cartons as seed starters
- Preparing the egg carton
- Planting and caring for the seeds
- Transferring to the garden bed
- Family Craft Idea: Egg Carton Garden Activity
How to Start Seedlings in Egg Cartons
All you need to do is take paper egg cartons (styrofoam won’t work for this purpose) and cut off the lids. Fill each cup with potting soil and add your seeds, placing them at the depth indicated on the seed packet. Place the cups on a shallow tray. Jelly roll pans would work for this, but I use an old plastic boot tray.
Then fill the tray with water. The water will soak up through the cups. Cover the trays with plastic wrap and keep in a warm sunny place. When your seedlings are ready for the garden, just cut the cups apart and plant the seedlings (cups and all) right into the garden. Over time the cups themselves will erode away, allowing your plants to grow.
Find more gardening tips here!
Egg carton seed-raising pots
1. Cut the lid off the egg carton.
2. Use a skewer, or the hammer and nail, to make small drainage holes in the bottom of each egg cup.
3. Fill each egg cup almost to the top (about three-quarters full) with potting mix.
4. Using a dibber, chopstick or your finger, poke a hole in the soil in each egg cup. (The general rule is that the depth of the hole should be equal to two times the length of the seed.)
5. Place a seed in each hole and cover over lightly with the potting mix.
6. Water gently with the spray bottle.
7. Place the egg carton on a tray in a warm, well-lit position indoors.
8. Water regularly to keep the soil moist.
9. Check the seeds every day. Once the seedlings have sprouted, they’re ready to be planted in the garden.
10. Take the carton outdoors and water gently until the carton is saturated.
11. Dig a hole in the ground or garden bed where you would like to plant the seedlings.
12. Gently tear off one of the seedling carton cups and place it in the hole. Press the soil firmly around the seedling. The carton will break down in the soil over time.
13. Water well and watch your seedlings grow!
Welcome the spring with newly germinated seedlings using only egg cartons and shells!
RELATED: How To Raise Quail For Eggs And Meat
In this article:
- Using Eggshells to Start Your Seeds
- Using Egg Cartons to Start Your Seeds
Learn How to Use Egg Carton and Shells to Grow Seeds
Using Eggshells to Start Your Seeds
If you have an empty egg carton material lying around, you can use it to begin growing your garden. Now is the right time to do so as spring is just around the corner.
In this blog post, you will learn two methods on how to do it.
Let’s begin with eggshells. The great thing about this project is nothing ever goes to waste.
The eggshells will hold the healthy plant while the empty egg carton box can keep the shells in place and safe.
Once the seed starts to germinate and grow, you can plant the entire shell into the soil. The shell may also help provide additional nutrients to the plant.
- Save your eggshells. Rinse them, so they won’t become sticky or smelly.
- Add soil to the eggshells. You want to be sure to use seed-starting soil. This is a lighter soil that allows the root system to grow freely through the plant so it becomes strong and healthy.
- Add the seeds to the soil and slightly push down just until it covers fully the seeds. Make sure you don’t push them too deep. Otherwise, it will take longer for your seedlings to germinate.
- Water your seeds preferably with a spritzer bottle, especially for very small ones, so it doesn’t push the seeds too deep into the soil. Keep the soil moist but not soaked. Carefully poke a tiny hole perhaps with a nail at the bottom of the eggshell for water drainage.
- If you really want to give your seeds a jump start, place the eggshells in plastic egg cartons, which act as mini-greenhouses, and put the lid on. Once your seeds sprout, remove the lid so mold does not develop.
- Put them in a sunny window and enjoy watching them grow.
What Is a Greenhouse? It is a structure that can help protect the plants from environmental elements and regulate warm temperature.
If your weather is ready for planting, then put the plant into the soil, eggshell and all!
RELATED: 10 Gardening Tips And Tricks You Can Use Right Now!
Using Egg Cartons to Start Your Seeds
If you find using eggshells a hassle or you don’t have them, go straight with egg cartons. They will still help you germinate seeds inside your home.
- Paper egg carton
- Potting soil
- Plastic wrap
Note: You can use the dimples within the egg cartons as individual seed-starter pots.
- Take an empty cardboard egg carton and poke a small hole in the bottom of each dimple to allow for water drainage.
- Fill each individual dimple with seed-starting soil.
- Plant seeds according to the planting-depth instructions (found on the back of the packet) in each individual dimple.
- Mist with water regularly keeping the soil moist (but not soaked). You may want to keep the carton on a plate so the water doesn’t go everywhere.
- To give extra warmth and humidity (if needed), cover the top of the egg carton with plastic wrap, which can work as a little tent. To prop it up, position toothpicks in the middle of the clear egg carton.
- Place the carton in a sunny spot and watch the plants grow!
- Once the seeds start to sprout, cut apart the individual dimples and plant the seedlings straight into your prepared garden or pot. There is no need to remove the sprouting seed from the carton—just plant the whole thing!
Check out this video from eHow Garden to learn more about how to plant seeds in egg cartons:
There you have it — two easy, earth-friendly, and cheap egg cartons crafts you can do today. All you need to do is save some of the eggshells from cooking.
Once the weather is right, start planting and let the shells supply the nutrients.
Have you tried growing seeds from egg cartons? Tell us about it in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 20, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.
Using egg cartons as seed starters
Turning egg cartons into seed starters is an excellent way to save money and recycle the cartons, avoiding use of new plastic containers. The beauty of egg cartons is that they can be planted into the ground along with the seedling, and the egg carton will disintegrate into the earth as the seedling grows. It is less of a shock for the transplanted seedling as well. Best of all, kids will find this approach a lot of fun.
Preparing the egg carton
Choose an egg carton. It can be a full length (12 holes) or a half length (6 holes) one, depending on how many seeds you’d like to plant. If you have a larger carton of the type use for catering, you’ll need two of the same type, as you need a “lid” for the carton as well. Leave the lid in place; it is going to form part of the growing process.
Use a toothpick to pierce small holes into the base of each hole of the egg carton. These will serve as drainage holes.
Fill each hole of the egg carton with seed-starting mix or suitable soil. When done, add the seeds (see next).
Planting and caring for the seeds
Push in a finger to the depth that is required for a seed of the plant type being planted. Add around 5 to 6 seeds per hole. Gently spread soil back into the hole to cover the seeds.
Place the whole egg carton on a surface that is okay to water; for example, an old baking or serving tray, a large ceramic plate, etc.
Spray with a gentle mist of water to moisten the soil. Push down the lid and place in a warm spot.
Note: In warmer weather, the lid may not be necessary. In this case, the lid can be used as an additional place the put the seeds (see image).
Open the lid at least once a day to check for the seeds’ growth. Once the seeds begin to sprout, keep the lid off from this time onward. Keep within a good source of light, either sunlight or artificial light. Keep the growing temperature warm––don’t put outside unless the temperature is warm.
If needed, thin out the seedlings as they grow, or wait until you shift them to the garden bed; this will depend on the type of plant you’re growing.
Transferring to the garden bed
When the seedlings are strong enough to transfer to their permanent site in the garden, cut or pull away each egg carton hole to form a separate seedling holder reading for planting. Then plant the whole carton portion, soil and seedling in the ground together. Stick to the recommended placement and distances required for the plant type.
- You can label the lid for each seedling if using different seeds in the same carton.
- This is a great way to encourage children to grow plants. Sunflower seeds are a great starter plant.
- Start saving up egg cartons from autumn/fall for the coming spring season. If you don’t eat eggs, ask your neighbours for their egg cartons. They’ll often be happy to pass on unwanted containers to you.
One of the things I enjoy most about writing this column is the interaction with my readers. I get thanked for helping, I get chastised when they disagree with what I said, and from time to time I get unsolicited tips. I appreciate each and every e-mail I get and always encourage my readers to send more of them.
As I sat down to write this column I opened my e-mail inbox and found that several new tips had come in, so I thought this might be a good time to share some of the tips with all of you. Gardening is a strong union and we all learn from each other. The first tips come from Ruth, and I like them because they are eco-friendly and practical:
“I resolved to send you an e-mail early this season, to share my favourite gardening tricks. Instead of using peat pots to start seedlings, I use cardboard (pulp-type) egg cartons with soil in each cup. This costs me nothing, since we always have egg cartons on hand, and it’s one less thing to put into the recycling bag. From the gardening perspective, pulp cartons do not bind the roots as peat pots tend to do, so it isn’t necessary to remove the pulp egg cups before replanting or transplanting. Regardless, the pulp, when moist, is easy to tear and pull away.
To support the cartons with their seedlings, I usually place them in a plastic gardening tray (the kind that greenhouses use for multiple bedding plant containers). With lattice-bottom trays, I line the tray with a re-used plastic bag to catch any water or soil leakage. Voila! The cartons are easy to move or rotate, and easy to water.
The second trick with pulp egg cartons is using them to line the bottom of plant pots. Unlike the traditional broken crockery, the pulp material will prevent soil from washing out the bottom holes, but it still allows drainage. The pulp material is easy to work with, just soak the carton (or pieces) in some water and then gently press the softened pieces into the bottom of the container. It’s almost like paper maché, and will conform to the shape before you fill the pot with soil and the plant. Once you’re done with your pulp egg cartons, the pieces can simply be added to the compost pile.”
Reduce disease and damping off
The next tip is from me, and it is regarding the problem of seedlings damping off. ‘Damping off’ is the term used for a number of different fungus-caused ailments that can kill seeds or seedlings before or after they germinate.
I was a big fan of Serenade, which was a broad-spectrum disease control spray for fungi and bacteria. I just found out the company that previously manufactured Serenade had been bought out, and the product is now being sold under a new name: Natria. This is an excellent product to prevent damping off in seedlings, among many other uses. I haven’t seen it yet in the local garden centres, but T&T Seeds in Manitoba is carrying it, as is amazon.ca, so it should be here soon if it isn’t already.
A new use for packing peanuts
The final tip comes from a reader, and I really liked this one because it deals with recycling those annoying styrofoam packing peanuts that come in parcels:
“I have many pots in my yard, and I like to move them around as it suits me. Why stick with the same arrangement of pots when you can just move them around? I use packing peanuts to fill the bottom of my pots, making them lighter and easier to move around. Depending on the size of the pot, I fill the bottom one-third to half-full of the packing peanuts. I then put a piece of landscape fabric on top of the peanuts, and then fill the pot with potting mix and plant away.”
Gerald Filipski is a member of the Garden Writers Association of America. E-mail your questions to [email protected] He is the author of Just Ask Jerry. To read previous columns, go to edmontonjournal.com/filipski
Family Craft Idea: Egg Carton Garden Activity
Looking for an easy indoor project for the family? Gather some egg cartons and get growing!
Creating an egg-carton garden is an enjoyable and rewarding way to learn about seeds and how they grow and teach lessons about sustainability.
Gardening also fosters children’s interest in nature, encourages making healthy food choices, and provides a great opportunity for experiential learning.
Supplies You’ll Need:
- A paper egg carton
- Potting soil
- Coffee grounds
What type of egg carton should I use?
Egg cartons are typically made of paper or styrofoam. We recommend using paper egg cartons for the following reasons:
- Styrofoam is not biodegradable and will not break down in the environment.
- Styrofoam is not water-absorbent and will not soak up and retain moisture for your seedlings.
Cut the lid from an egg carton off with scissors.
Poke a small drainage hole in the bottom of each egg cell, using the tip of a pencil.
Place the egg carton lid under the bottom to create a drainage tray.
Fill the individual egg cups about half full of the planting soil. Keep the recommended planting depth in mind. This information should be on the back of your seed packets. Some seeds will need to be planted deeper, so add more soil during this step for those seeds.
Add the seeds. Be sure to not add too many seeds to each egg cell as overcrowded seedlings will often die off.
Cover the seeds with a thin layer of potting soil.
Water the seeds lightly with a spray bottle. Mist as needed to keep the potting soil lightly moist. Don’t over-water, as soggy soil prevents germination and may kill emerging seedlings.
Place the egg cartons in the sun. Different plants have different sunlight requirements – the seed packets should give you the particulars.
Water the seedlings regularly and watch them grow!
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