Introduction: Easy Seed Starter.

Picture of Easy Seed Starter.

a simple, cheap way to get some seed started before getting them into the garden.

Step 1: Materials.

Picture of Materials.

egg carton, any size.
plastic wrap.

Step 2: Step One. Osh.

Picture of Step One. Osh.

first thing to do is cut off the top of the carton, save this for later.
then lay seeds in the carton.
cover the seeds with some soil, up to the bridges between the cells.

Step 3: When Osh Doesn't Have What You Need. Step Two. Lowes

Picture of When Osh Doesn't Have What You Need. Step Two.  Lowes

now take the lid you cut off earlier. place a layer of plastic wrap on top, big enough to have a inch hang off.
now place the cells into the lid and water the seeds. the lid will act as a support to the cells.
when they get wet, they will get weak.

Step 4: Almost Done.

Picture of Almost Done.

now wait a week or so depending on the germination time.
when plants are large enough transplant them into a larger container or directly into garden.
the egg carton is biodegradable and the soil will help the plant with nutrients.

Step 5: Notes.

it looks like this methods works for all my seeds.
don't know what to do with the top of the carton after planting the plants.
I'll update later if I think of anything.

Step 6: Update

Picture of Update

as you can see the plants are tall and you can see how the roots find a way out of the bottom.
I cut along to row and planted it like that. makes planting corn easy.


BestU1 (author)2017-09-08

I made it and I didn't xD. I actually came up with a similar idea and it worked well, nice to see I wasn't alone to germinate seeds with egg cartons.

I poked holes under the egg carton and used the lid as an "automatic watering system", just fill half the lid with water and place it under the holes, the soil will absorb all the water needed automatically.

tillmancan (author)2009-03-27

Does this mean that you just stick the new plants carton and all right into your garden?? I'm a new gardener and am looking to grow veggies w/my kids this year in an urban planter box in our back yard....I'd hate to get this far with the seeds just to kill them in the ground because I didn't take them out of the carton! (I'm so sorry if this is a stupid question!)

johnny3h (author)tillmancan2010-04-25

This is a little late for tillmancan, but can benefit others reading after this posting. 

Yes, IF the egg container material is PAPER based, but not the plastic foam, it is perfectly acceptable to plant the egg carton "cup" with your seedling BUT...

the spacing between plants in the "paper mache" type egg cartons is TOO CLOSE TOGETHER for proper plant spacing once in the garden. 

So what I do is, when the seedlings are ready to plant in the garden, I use sissors to cut the "cups" of the egg carton APART, and then plant the cups WITH the contained seedlings at the spacing distance recommended on the seed packet.

IMPORTANT: For this to work, the egg carton cannot be plastic foam, but must be the paper mache type made from ground up paper.  Usually you can identify this as the plastic or paper/cardboard material are clearly identifible by looking at them.  Also usually, the paper type is a grey color, while the plastic ones are usually bright colors, and shiny surfaced.

jhenderson16 (author)johnny3h2017-08-03

What a kind and patient detailed response!! :)

ravenc83 (author)tillmancan2009-03-29

if you are using the formed cardboard cartons, yes. it gets soggy and the roof sill just grow right through it. it's also biodegradable.

jwoo2023 (author)2011-04-27

THAT EGG CARTON IS HUGE! In Australia they sell them in packs of 12

jhenderson16 (author)jwoo20232017-08-03

We mostly have eggs in 12's but lots of 18's too!!

padawanspider (author)jwoo20232011-05-15

Mostly they're sold by the dozen in the U.S.A. too, but one can frequently find 18-packs (and 3- and 5- dozen packages in certain stores).

jrmarchesini (author)2015-11-18

Hi there! Nice instructable.
How often do you water those seeds?

naomi.darby1 (author)2015-01-11

I use this method all the time, I have many egg flats saved just for this, when it is time to plant I saturate the egg flat and it is easy to pull apart the individual "plant pots" in the flat and transplant them without disturbing the plant or roots.

sherry104 (author)2013-04-21

I have never used the bottom of the egg cartons to plant seeds, but I love it & will try it! As far as what to do with the tops of the cartons, they make a great fire starter. You just have to use a small portion 4 x 6 inches as a "container" for your tiny/small kindling. Then you just light a corner or two & boom your fire will start up in no time. This is great if you have a fireplace :)

bnutmeg (author)2013-04-08

Ravenc83: That is, indeed, some sweet, sweet corn. Great that the manufacturers notice this.

I have plastic wrap questions. I have kale seeds that sprouted a few days ago. They're not ready to go outside (I have been told four true leaves, and these guys only have their cotyledons so far), but they are getting pretty tall. I'm afraid that if I leave the plastic wrap on, I'll (a) crush them (I could make a contraption to handle that) and/or (b) suffocate them (it's not airtight, more just draped, but it does prevent much airflow and/or (c) cause them to mold in there. Thoughts? Suggestions?

For reference, I live in coastal, southern BC. It's permanently soggy here, hence the mold concern. We're past frost, but it's still very cold at night.

velacreations (author)2011-04-10

Why don't you try it without the container? Soil Blocks are easy and work really well:

shyrell (author)velacreations2013-02-07

The cartons are free and put to good use.

shyrell (author)2013-02-07

Amazing instructable. I plan on starting my tomatoes like this. Thanks!

happyfmly3 (author)2010-07-19

Take any portion of your eggcarton mix it in the blender dry it out and sprinkle it into the garden the worms love to eat cardboard broken down to their capacity to ingest it. Want to give the worms a real treat take your grass clippings and your egg carton put that in a blender dry it out mix it with a little soil and now you have great worm food or simply use the mix as a soft potting soil. Plants love to grow in this mixture soil is rejuvinated. After drying re-blend one more time dry and your mixture looks like peat moss and ready to use. Last step: (to keep your wife from harming you) go and buy her a new blender, keep the compost blender for your self.

NinjaJay (author)2010-03-28

 I did this egg-carton seed tray recently, before seeing your instructable, and will also plant it all directly in the ground, but wanted to offer that probably not all plants will be strong enough that their roots will be able to push right through the form.  I pre-pricked the bottom of the cones before sowing seeds in.

Also did one slight thing too of using top of egg carton as a seed tray for smaller seeds like lettuce. 

These corn plants you've got look like they're off to a great start.  Kudos!

webcompanion (author)2008-05-09

You could throw the top portion into a compost pile and recycle it that way.

ravenc83 (author)webcompanion2008-05-22

not a bad idea. note to self: start compost pile.

enuwbe (author)ravenc832010-03-20

 Make a compost tumbler, they work faster.  Use an old trash can, or if you can get a hold of a 55 gallon barrel they work like a charm! You can build one, or just put it on its side and roll it around once a day. So much fun! 

suezq (author)2010-02-15

Egg cartons are great for starting seeds and I even use avacado skins after the insides are scraped clean. They make great little bowls that break down once they're buried and feed your new little plants.

jessfelfoldi (author)2009-07-08

Great idea! I am trying this out with some loosely wrapped plastic wrap to get a greenhouse effect. Hopefully I will have photos of shoots to share soon. As a bonus, after I stuck my markers in, my carton looks kind of like a ship.

can I ask how this worked for ya? I'm trying to do a green house, and just not too much to work with...

It worked pretty well, but since it was kind of humid when I was doing this I had to be really careful not to over water or my little cups would get waterlogged.  I've seen some really great instructables on here using plastic takeout cartons that seemed pretty good if you have more seedlings to get started.  Good luck!

I plan on doing it with a few clear, plastic boxes you can find produce and grapes in (grocery stores)... all I've read about doing that on here has seemed good. ...but hey, all I can do is try. I'm in zone 4, but I usually try to start my plants in Febuary, under grow-lights. Thanks for your comments!

steampunk-punk (author)2009-11-16

omg corn rocks!

lordzion (author)2009-04-02

ravinC83 worte if you live in the city you might want to check the chlorine content in your water. if the levels are high you might want to get some distilled water. If you live in the city most likely your water contains chlorine to get eliminate this just place the water in a container and in a couple of days the chlorine will evaporate and your plant including house plants will love this

jdtwelve12 (author)lordzion2009-05-30

Or keep an aquarium and use the waste water from the fish tank to water your plants. You'll already have taken care of chlorine and/or chloramine in the tap water before putting it into the tank. The water you take out of your fish tank when doing weekly maintenance is great for plants! Plenty of nitrites and nitrates in there. Free plant food!

awang8 (author)jdtwelve122009-06-20

I don't think too much salt would be good for the plants...

jdtwelve12 (author)awang82009-09-25

Sorry, I'm talking about a freshwater aquarium. Yes, salt water is not good for your plants, but if you keep goldfish, guppies, mollies, swordtails, plecos, danios, tetras, etc, the waste water is very good for your plants.

ravenc83 (author)lordzion2009-04-13

or set up a rain water collector and use that! it will have some organic material like pollen, topsoil and bird poo essence.

dventu (author)2009-07-26

I will try that i don't think it would work

wazure (author)2009-07-09

add the lid a little beanth your planted sprouts within your raised bed (if you are using a raised bed), it will biodegrade into the soil and the folds/creases/corners of the lid will provide space for microbials to grow, which will greatly enhance your soil. look up "lasana layer mulching", to have more detail explained.

wazure (author)2009-07-09

Orchard Supply and Hardware

dabido (author)2009-02-26

when transplanting the sprouts to larger pots, should you just cut each cell and plant the carton with the plant into new soil? or ditch the carton when transplanting?

ravenc83 (author)dabido2009-02-27

i leave the carton on. its biodegradable.

awang8 (author)ravenc832009-06-20

It won't biodegrade fast enough and then masses of roots start to stick out of the carton and the plant becomes weak because there is still loads of roots inside the cells and then when you break open the cells the roots get chopped off and then your plant will hate you. Or at least that's what happened when I tried this last time with tomatoes... (I think I left them in there too long. It says 14 days on the packet... I left it there for about a month... Oops...)

awang8 (author)dabido2009-03-04

I think cutting out each cell will allow you to plant the plants further away so they don't die of squishdom (homemade words are awesome).

ravenc83 (author)awang82009-03-04

in some cases yes, but with plants like corn, they need to be planted close, keeping the cell rows together worked last time.

vee77 (author)2009-05-14

Great instructable, this is actually how I started squash and sunflowers this year. It makes transplanting easy. For greenhousing started seedlings, the first few days I put a papertowel over it and wet the paper towel every morning and put it in plastic. Then sat it in the sun. Then I removed the paper towel and kept it in the plastic for a little bit. One thing that has to be paid attention to though is mold.

ravenc83 (author)2009-04-13

hey there, this is the author. well, it's been a year, and this is still an active instructable. haven't had any seeds not grow well with this method. thank you all who have left comments and tips.

magnoliasouth (author)2009-04-13

This works great in most zones, but not ALL. I used to live in Alaska and you can't plant the egg crate there. They don't degrade in cooler soils. I just note this because Alaska has a lot of military there and they come from all over the US. They won't be aware of the local dos and donts. This is a don't for some and they need to check before doing it. Just a tip! I was a southern gardener in the arctic and it was WAY different than I was used to.

caverron (author)2009-04-04

This works great. I also set them on a piece of insulating silver wall board for heat retention. Then use a clear plastic sweater storage box to cover them. This holds about 5 egg cartons ( cut to just the egg cup side). This holds the humidity and heat. Perfect little greenhouse that fits nicely on a shelf or table by a window. I also use plant bulb in a desk lamp for light.

grannycat07 (author)2009-03-18

I do same as "khaotik" putting lid under without plastic for better absorption, on tray on windowsill, AND use top or bottom of clear plastic egg carton to cover, for greenhouse effect: gets 'em started quickly!

ravenc83 (author)grannycat072009-03-18

to be honest, i haven't seen the clear top egg cartons around here. I have also started to raise chickens, so I've seen egg cartons even less. glade to see someone has been using this method. please keep adding your own tips and tricks.

lauriedemers (author)2009-03-17

I use this method!! love it learned from my mom. I find the planting mix floats, so I rinse with a stainer, wet it down. then use a small ice cream scoop to fill it.

khaotik (author)2009-03-16

I did this and it worked well. I didn't line the top with plastic, just placed the egg carton in the lid to make the whole thing more sturdy. It absorbed water and helped keep the soil from drying between waterings. When I transplanted it was easy to tear the cells off the carton, and I chose to remove paper on some of the seedlings depending on the roots. With peas - the roots grew right through! Now I am doing it with the eggshell halves placed back in the carton. I poked a hole in the bottom of each eggshell to let it drain into the paper. When its time to transplant I can just pluck each eggshell out of the carton, give it a little squeeze to crush it, and plop in in the ground. Now that's biodegradable!

cfishy (author)2008-11-29

I think you should explain what osh stands for. It's a home and hardware center. It's not in every state, so people might not know what you are talking about.

ravenc83 (author)cfishy2008-11-29

i agree, i think that those who know not what osh is, must watch "the hammer". priceless osh scene.

whitedem0n (author)2008-10-12

lol i tried that when i was 7 or 8 years old. The soil i used was from my backyard, clay soil. within days it became moldy and i never tried it since... until now. Thanks for the great Instructable

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