By Sherri A. Affrunti & Madeleine Gale
It’s the time of year to get your garden ready! Growing your own vegetable plants and flowers from seeds is not only cost effective, it’s also satisfying and fun.
In these sometimes chilly early days of Spring, you can start your seeds inside your home, using egg cartons as seed starting trays. Reusing egg cartons is more economical than buying containers, and contributes to recycling/repurposing (keeping those cartons out of the landfills!). Egg cartons are already perfectly divided into little cups for germinating seeds, and are narrow enough to easily sit on a window ledge for sun without getting too cold. You can either use the whole container or cut them into separate compartments before your begin. Cardboard cartons are ideal, since they are biodegradable and can later be planted directly into the ground with your new plants.
To start your seeds in egg cartons, first you need to prepare your cartons by poking a few drainage holes in the bottom of each cup. You can also remove the carton lids and place them under the seed cups to catch any water that drains out. Then, fill the cups with a good garden soil or seed starting mix, and place several seeds in each cup at the appropriate depth (per package instructions), covering the seeds with the potting mix or seed starter. You can then write on the seed cups with a permanent marker to label your seeds.
Water your seeds regularly in the egg cartons. If you’re worried about water leakage, consider watering your seed container in the sink while letting the excess water drain out. Or, use a spray bottle to gently spray your seed trays. Be sure to check on them daily to keep the soil moist, but be careful not to overwater or soak your seeds or plants.
Most important, make sure your germinating seeds are kept warm. If your home temperature is below 70 degrees, you could place clear plastic or fabric around them, or set them on a warming mat. Once the seeds have sprouted and reach a ½ inch tall, be sure they are located in a sunny spot to continue to promote their growth. After the chance of frost has passed, you can move your sprouted plants outside (if you planted them in a cardboard carton, cut the cups apart, place slits on the sides, and then plant them with your seedlings directly into the soil; if you used a Styrofoam carton, be sure to remove the seedlings from the Styrofoam cups before planting.).
And there you go - a cost-effective and fun way to start growing your vegetable plants and flowers while helping the environment at the same time. Get ready, seed and plant away!