Sometimes photos are just a mere illusion of what actually “is.” When I looked around online for egg carton gardening I found all these awesome photos with kids helping their parents start seeds in egg cartons so I thought, why not!? The photos made it look like such a picturesque activity to do with your little one.
Since we recently ripped out a good 11 x 15 size chunk of lawn and made a jerry-rigged but functional raised garden bed, I thought it would be a good time to start seeds. Everyone always talks about how difficult it is to start plants from seeds but I had a somewhat successful germination ratio the first time I started from seed (I’ve only started from seed once) so I figured I’d give it a shot. If none of them germinate, then at least I tried.
By the way, I started them in a really rich blend of peat, perlite and compost that I got from a local guy I met at the farmer’s market.
Basically you’ll need:
- a quality, seed starter soil
- non-GMO seeds or seeds not bought out from Monsanto (I like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds)
- egg cartons (cardboard ones)
- sharpie or some other way of being able to mark which “egg cell” contains what seeds (popsicle sticks or white label markers)
- a nail or something to poke holes into the carton
I like the soft egg cartons because they are biodegradable. When the seedlings are ready to be put in their permanent home you can actually put the whole cell and the carton will break down in the soil. Cool way of reducing waste, right?
Andrew was really anxious to open the seeds which made it difficult to get everything ready. I suggest having everything prepped and ready to go before you get your little one close to the work space. (They don’t tell you that in all the “this is rainbows and butterflies” pictures)
Make sure you poke holes in the bottom of each egg cell so there is proper drainage. I’m not going to confirm nor deny that I accidentally forgot to poke holes in the bottom because I was so worried about getting things ready for my anxious toddler. Seeds all over the ground or holes in the bottom… which one to choose?
Oh, I also ripped the top half of the egg carton because it gets in the way. Save it for your compost bin if you have one.
The phrase, “hold on a second” or “give me one minute to get everything ready” does not and will not ever apply to toddlers. Might as well just accept the fact there will be seeds… everywhere.
Better yet, if you follow the advice I gave above — you know, where you set everything up first — then you probably won’t run into this problem.
Next, have your little one place seed starter in each egg cell. Sounds easy right? If your toddler loves to get dirty and is not finicky then this works out perfectly.
However, I got the little boy who doesn’t like to get dirty, is really finicky and likes to do everything opposite of what I say. This activity did not go over so well and I had to fill the egg cells. He fussed about his hands getting dirty from the soil. Is this really my kid!? (just kidding….sorta)
He was missing out…
Next poke holes in the dirt with your finger in each cell. You could have your little one do this if they are interested in participating. If you guessed that I had to poke the holes, you’re right. It probably was easy to guess that would happen, huh?
After the holes are made, it’s time to drop the seeds in the holes. I think at this point Andrew finally turned around and had his happy underpants on and decided he wanted to plant the seeds. Figures, I do all the work and he does the easy part.
Whatever keeps them content, right?
Another word of advice: Give your toddler seeds that are big, not tiny. I made the mistake of giving Andrew lettuce and yellow strawberry seeds to plant and it did not go over so well.
He got really frustrated that he couldn’t pick up the strawberry seeds and he planted a whole pinchful of lettuce seeds in each egg cell.
Hey, at least the chances of a seed germinating raises greatly…. Right?
Towards the third and final egg carton, Andrew decided he wanted to put the dirt in each cell. He finally realized it might just be as fun as Mom said it was the past 15 or 20 times.
If your toddler is willing, have them cover up each seed. If you are anal like I am, you probably want every seed to be covered just as the package states. You know how lettuce seeds are supposed to be sown on top of the soil? Yeah, well, not according to a toddler.
Throw all of your control freak mumbo jumbo out the window because if you are doing it with a toddler, it’s their way or the tantrum way.
Which do you want?
As far as labeling them… yeah, well, about that…. I was NOT prepared and had absolutely zilch to mark them with so I used t a sharpie to write on the box. Then I realized it might get all smeared and blurred with the moisture so I had to think of something else.
I decided for the mean time to lay out and label how the seeds were placed on the top of the egg cartons. I also numbered the egg cartons so I knew which one went to which.
All in all, it was fun. It wasn’t like the rainbows and butterflies I saw pictured around the web but we made due. Plus, I still think planting seeds and watching them grow is an important lesson to teach children when they are young, even if they were only participating (almost) half of the time.