Monday, April 8, 2013

Egg Carton Greenhouse

Egg carton garden in it's homemade greenhouse.
Please excuse the free advertising for my hometown grocery store.
Spring, of course, is when everyone's mind turns to seeds and new green things. I am no exception, especially as we are busily planting things almost every day at the farm or tending to things that will be planted shortly. As usual, I decided to start some seeds of my own at home. I'm thinking of a green curtain, of course, for the summer, and this year I'm going with morning glories. I love them, and their blue trumpets and generous heart-shaped leaves make ideal shade long into September when the sun still manages to beat down on our little apartment.

So, I made my own little greenhouse. Inspired by Cardboard Collective's numerous ingenious ideas and an aversion to plastic, I turned an egg carton into a planter and an old grocery bag into a greenhouse. So far so good, and it was easy to boot!

What you'll need:

  • seeds
  • cardboard egg carton
  • seed starting soil (preferably. It tends to be light enough and often comes a bit pre-loaded with what seeds need to sprout.)
  • a large-ish container
  • shishkabob sticks, about eight
  • a plastic grocery bag
  • a small waterproof tray
  • a clothespin
  • a sunny window

Dampen the seed starting mix.
Plop some of the mix in a bowl or container and add some water. You're aiming for a damp texture, but not absolutely dripping. Dampening it first means you don't have to water once the seeds are planted, which can wash the seeds about and out of place. Especially if you're me and you don't have a watering can of any kind at home. Keep mixing until the soil sticks together in your hand.

Egg carton garden ready to grow!
Fill the egg carton seed starting tray.
I filled both sides of the carton. The side where the eggs sit is nearly made for seed-starting, and the other side when laid open flat looks like a miniature garden. Leave a centimeter (give or take) of space between the top of the soil and the rim of the carton. You want this to be well-filled, but don't press it in too firmly. Seeds and roots need a bit of elbow room to grow and breathe, and a tightly packed soil doesn't give them any space for either of those things.

Plant your seeds.
I planted watermelon on the left side where the eggs sit as I had some leftover seeds from last year. (Sadly, these didn't sprout. A fresh egg carton is underway even as I type.) On the right I sprinkled morning glory seeds. I covered them with a thin layer of the seed starting mix and pressed it down firmly but gently over them. (The rough guide here to covering seeds is to bury them only about as deep as they are thick.) The seed needs good firm contact with the soil in order to sprout, but it can't be so tightly packed that the sprout can't push up to the light and the roots push down into the soil.

Set up the greenhouse.

  • Place the egg carton on a tray (or other object) that fits squarely inside the bottom of the plastic grocery bag. The cardboard does get a bit soggy-saggy almost immediately, so having a tray of some kind or another keeps things under control.)
  • Insert tray and carton inside the plastic bag. Check that it fits well enough that you can pull up the sides of the plastic bag easily and close it.
  • Insert shishkabob sticks in the four outer corners and the four inner corners of the egg carton tray. Water will condense inside the bag as the interior heats up. This in turn will make the walls heavy. The sticks are just enough to help keep the plastic bag above the seedlings once they've sprouted. Not keeping them off the seedlings crushes them, but also makes a nice environment for molds and fungus that are not helpful in this situation.
  • Lift the sides of the bag up and tie the handles together with a clothes pin. This helps the interior temperature of the greenhouse rise, which is what will encourage the seedlings to sprout. Periodic opening helps satisfy your curiosity, but can also keep a bit of air flowing, which helps prevent those molds and fungus' from growing, too. Be careful, though, as too much peeking will lower the temperature and result in slower sprouting or no sprouting. 
  • Set it in a sunny window and wait for your new friends to appear!


Emma said...

Ingenious :)

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

You are too kind, Emma. It has turned our windowsills into a million tiny greenhouses, though. Here's hoping the garden can hold it all!