Can You Start Seeds in Egg Cartons?
If you want to get a leg up on your garden in the spring, you should probably sow your seeds indoors. When started in sterile planting mix and exposed to plenty of light and moving air, young plants get a great chance to develop before they’re moved into the great outdoors. The size of an egg carton is ideal for a young plant’s needs. When you’re ready to transplant, you can easily transfer the seedlings your garden.
How Do You Start Seeds From Egg Cartons?
Although you can purchase special kits and materials for your burgeoning garden, an egg carton is free. They’re a perfect size for holding young plants, and you can grow 12 sprouts in one streamlined location, such as a windowsill.
To start plants in an egg carton, separate the lid from the bottom of it using a sharp knife of scissors. You can use the lid as a tray beneath the pods to catch water that drains out. Use a sharp object to poke holes in the bottom of each cell in the carton for drainage.
Fill the cells more than halfway with potting soil. This is important because regular garden soil can be too heavy and prevent air from getting to the young plant.
The packets should tell you how deep to plant. Make two or three indentations in the soil of each cell to the indicated depth using a pencil. Place a seed in each indentation before covering it with a thin layer of soil.
The soil mixture should remain damp. However, take care not to get it too wet. Soggy soil can kill your young plants. Misting the soil regularly with a spray bottle should be enough to keep it moist.
When your plants germinate, pinch off the smallest ones, leaving one per cell. If they’re light green or yellow, feed them with a watered-down solution of general-purpose liquid fertilizer. You only need 1 tablespoon of fertilizer for each gallon of water.
Can You Plant Egg Cartons in the Ground?
The easiest way to move your plants into the garden is to separate the egg carton cells and plant them directly in the ground. This will only work for paper cartons. If you use Styrofoam or plastic, you’ll need to remove each soil cell and carefully transfer it outdoors.
Are Cartons Biodegradable?
Not all egg cartons are biodegradable. Plastic and Styrofoam will not break down in the dirt over time. Some people prefer those materials for starting plants because they hold moisture better than paper and don’t need to be watered as much. However, moving the plants to your garden is more complicated.
Many cartons are made from biodegradable, paper-based materials. These may provide better drainage than the non-biodegradable alternatives. Using them could prevent your plants from damping off, a phenomenon that can happen when seedlings are grown in environments that are too wet.
Paper cartons are sturdy enough to withstand lots of moisture, though. They should have no problem staying intact until it’s time to transplant them. If they dry out too quickly between watering sessions, try wrapping the bottom of the tray with aluminum foil. This will serve as a drip tray and hold additional moisture.
Transplanting your plants is easy when the time comes. Water them until the soil is quite wet. Separate the cells by tearing them or using scissors.
Dig a hole in the ground that’s twice the size of the pod in which your plant grew. Place the plant, carton and all, in the hole, and lightly cover it with soil.
Plants have to get used to living outdoors or they may suffer from the shock. You can prepare your plants for transplant by placing them outside in the shade during the day. Move them inside at night. The gradual exposure to wind and sunlight will help prevent them from dying when you move them outside permanently.
Try transplanting them when it’s cloudy or close to nighttime. If you experience a frost or freeze, cover the young plants with buckets or coffee cans to protect them.
Some people find that they need to move egg carton seedlings to pots before placing them in the garden. This would encourage a strong root ball to develop, which could improve survival outdoors.
Whatever you decide to do, starting your seeds inside allows you to launch the growing season before the first frost. You’ll probably get to the harvest before it’s extremely hot out in the summer. You can also start plants in an egg carton in the summer to prepare for a fall harvest.