Creative seed starting

Grow It Eat It has a new place for you to share your secrets of gardening success with the other members of the Network – it’s called Growing Great Gardens and you can read all about it and start sending your tips in right now!

This month’s topic is Creative Seed Starting.  So to get you thinking about what you start your seeds in, how you give the seedlings plenty of light and make sure they get to transplant size nice and strong, here’s a little photo essay on one way I reuse something sitting around my house.

I start with a plastic egg carton. 

This kind is very convenient because it has three sections and is all clear, but you can use styrofoam or (for one use) cardboard too, with plastic wrap to cover.

Next I cut the top off the carton:

The smooth top will form the drip tray.
Now to punch holes in one of the egg-holding sections:
I use a large needle such as a darning needle.
Then add moistened seed-starting mix to the cups with holes in them, plant your seeds, and position the trays one inside the other; there will be room for excess water to drip out.  The other half of the egg tray makes a convenient cover to conserve moisture until the seedlings sprout, but you could use plastic wrap instead. 
And a few days later: onion sprouts!  
Now, onions may not be the best thing to grow using this system, unless you can plant the seedlings outside later this month, which given the sodden soil conditions may not be possible.  But they sprouted quickly and showed how well this works.  Good uses for the Egg Carton Method include seedlings that you’ll be transplanting into larger containers when they are a bit bigger.  I have some peppers coming up in egg cartons right now – and some of those were from old seeds, which is another good use: if you don’t want to do a full germination test (with moistened paper towels and counting percentages of seeds germinated), or maybe you only have three seeds left to try with, you’re not wasting very much soil mix if the seed fails here.  And you can write the variety you’re growing right on the plastic egg-bump lid (though don’t forget when you take it off to stick it underneath or something, or you’ll lose your names!).

What seed-starting and seedling-growing methods work for you?  Send your tips in to Growing Great Gardens!  We look forward to hearing from you.

8 Comments on “Creative seed starting

  1. The only disadvantage is that you do have to detach the top, unless you are growing seedlings that get their real leaves while they are still VERY short, because you don't want to transplant them until then. And even then you may want to take the top off earlier because the humidity is too high. You can just fold it back, but with the number of things I've got under lights now I have no room for that! So off it comes. But the next time I need the carton it can just sit on top.

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  2. I like to use paper egg cartons so I can plant the containers directly into the ground. You just have to rest the paper cartons on top of plastic so it doesn't leak.

    Photos are here if you want to see the setup: http://3.ly/Hzd8

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  3. What a simple yet brilliant idea, I think I'll try the paper cartons! I'm sort of new to gardening but very excited to get started!

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  4. Paper egg cartons are perfect if you've got a seedling that isn't going to outgrow that tiny space before it can go into the ground. Like a peat pot but smaller. (Most of my local stores sell no eggs in paper cartons but I ended up with lots of plastic – sometimes it's just use what you have.)

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  5. Thanks SO much for this photo-tutorial! I have been hating it every time I have to trash one of those egg cartons; now I can recycle them happily! They really ARE pretty much a perfect small starting system all in one!

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