Planting Garden Starts in an Egg Carton

For the past five years, I have admired people who coax seeds into lush vegetable gardens but have never felt I had the gardening skills to take the leap. Instead we spent around $50 each year on starts. Then, at an organic seed sale, it occurred to me that with an investment of less than five bucks and one used egg carton, my kids would enjoy the experience of trying to start our vegetable garden from scratch. If any of the seedlings survived, perhaps it would help my kids to bond with vegetables more deeply and actually embrace sauteed zucchini sometime this summer.

Did I do thorough research before beginning? Not in any way. I knew that the seeds needed sunlight, a warming pad, and lots of water. Other than that, we’re flying blind.

First Roscoe worked on the labels for each plant. He carefully drew out the letters and a quick picture of the plant. We covered his label with scotch tape so that it wouldn’t fade during waterings and attached it to a toothpick.

Then the kids dumped spoonfuls of dirt into an egg carton with eighteen compartments. This was messy and thoroughly fun for everyone.

Then we tucked each seed into the soil in the labeled compartment. The kids guessed before we opened the packets about the size and shape of each seed.

Finally we put our egg carton into a casserole dish and placed it on a heating pad next to a window. There is a squirt bottle nearby that is used frequently to water the seeds or for a weapon in sibling squabbles.

I also made little cards with numbers so that the kids can change out the cards on each day to see when the seeds germinate. Which ones come up first? (And, most likely) which ones are a total failure? I think we’ll do it every year, even though we may not ever be completely successful. I’m also hoping that all the care and coddling of these plants will lead my kids to enjoy gardening–and maybe even broccoli.


  1. I love the addition of the casserole dish and the heating pad! I start most of my seeds in egg cartons tucked inside plastic salad containers; I opted for a grow light and space heater (I learned that if you have new, energy-efficient windows they block out some of the sun rays that are helpful to plants). Peas and beans generally do great with the windowsill approach (but broccoli needs a grow light or full-strength sunlight). Happy harvesting!

  2. The kids look like they are enjoying themselves! Do you keep the heating pad on all the time or just until the seeds germinate or what?

  3. Thanks for the tips Larissa! Those tools may just make our less cooperative seeds sprout. And it would be worth the investment if it meant not having to buy starts every year.

    Rebecca, I though using a heating pad would work well but it does shut itself off automatically so it’s only on in short spurts. I am now going to put a desk lamp directly over the egg carton garden and see if that helps move things along. The great news is that our green beans and peas sprouted today! Day five! The kids are thrilled! Now we have to focus on keeping those little sprouts alive….

  4. I always kill or at best dwarf my starts by trying to harden them off too early. Last year I was hopeful of planting an early garden and hardened the starts off for two months waiting for warm weather. That wasn’t an effective strategy.

  5. My strategy is VERY effective. My uncle grows starts in his greenhouse and gives me them when they are nice and healthy.

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