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.
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naomi.darby17 months ago

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.

sherry1042 years ago
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 :)
bnutmeg2 years ago
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.
Why don't you try it without the container? Soil Blocks are easy and work really well: http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Super-Cheap-Seed-Starters/
The cartons are free and put to good use.
shyrell2 years ago
Amazing instructable. I plan on starting my tomatoes like this. Thanks!
jwoo20234 years ago
THAT EGG CARTON IS HUGE! In Australia they sell them in packs of 12
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).
happyfmly35 years ago
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.
tillmancan6 years ago
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!)
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.
ravenc83 (author)  tillmancan6 years ago
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.
NinjaJay5 years ago
 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!
You could throw the top portion into a compost pile and recycle it that way.
ravenc83 (author)  webcompanion7 years ago
not a bad idea. note to self: start compost pile.
enuwbe ravenc835 years ago
 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! 
suezq5 years ago
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.
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!

omg corn rocks!

lordzion6 years ago
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
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!
I don't think too much salt would be good for the plants...
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)  lordzion6 years ago
or set up a rain water collector and use that! it will have some organic material like pollen, topsoil and bird poo essence.
dventu6 years ago
I will try that i don't think it would work
wazure6 years ago
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.
wazure6 years ago
Orchard Supply and Hardware
dabido6 years ago
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)  dabido6 years ago
i leave the carton on. its biodegradable.
awang8 ravenc836 years ago
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 dabido6 years ago
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)  awang86 years ago
in some cases yes, but with plants like corn, they need to be planted close, keeping the cell rows together worked last time.
vee776 years ago
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) 6 years ago
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.
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.
caverron6 years ago
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.
grannycat076 years ago
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!
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