Starting Plants From Seed

Every spring I enjoy planting some of our vegetable plants from seed.  This year I’m planting 2 varieties of tomatoes and 1 of eggplant. These have to be started inside weeks ahead of the last frost. Growing your own veggies is a great way to save money, and I like to save even more by planting my seeds in egg cartons instead of buying seed starter kits. So here’s how it’s done:

First, take a styrofoam egg carton, and cut the lid and tab away from the bottom.

Throw the tab away. Next, using a toothpick, poke holes in each cell on the bottom for drainage.

In the past I’ve used generic all-purpose soil mixes and regretted it. They were full of sticks and lumps. So now I but only name brands. Not mentioning names here as I don’t get endorsed, but here’s a hint:

Spread some newspaper over your work surface. I didn’t have any so I used an old seed catalog. I have plenty of those this time of year.  Fill cells will soil up to the very top edge.

Smooth it over to make it even, but be careful not to pack the soil.

Using warm water, turn your faucet on at a little more than a trickle.

Carefully water in the soil by running the carton back and forth under the water.

If it threatens to overflow, stop for a little bit and then continue until water is draining out the bottom from all the cells. Leave to drain in the sink for a while. You’re ready to move on to the next step when water is no longer dripping out the bottom. Mark what used to be the lid of the egg carton, which will now be the drain tray, with what you are planting and how long it takes to germinate.

I’m planting 3 different veggie varieties, and only want 4 plants each. Twelve cells divided by 3 varieties is 4 cells per variety. And who said I would never use algebra? (Well, that would have been me who said that, but oh my, how I struggled with that class in college. I had to take it 3 times just to pass. Agony! I did finally get a B though.)

Read your seed packet to determine how deep to plant the seeds. All the varieties I planted were 1/4 inch. Use a toothpick to dig a hole for each seed.

While I only want 4 plants per variety, I planted 8 seeds just to improve the odds. Seeds don’t always germinate when you tell them to.  So I dug 2 holes per cell. First I planted the eggplant.

Use a moistened toothpick to pick up the seeds and poke them into the holes.

Carefully fill each hole with soil.

Next I planted the Early Girl tomatoes,

and finally the Celebrity tomatoes.

Next, water the seeds in. The soil is already plenty wet, but you want to settle the soil around the seeds to remove any air pockets, and watering is the best way to do this. You can use the faucet again, this time turning it on to a fast drip being careful not to disturb the seeds. I use and old mustard bottle that I washed out. It’s more precise.

Next, we’re going to made a little greenhouse over the planted seeds. First, break several toothpicks in half, and poke them into the egg carton in a neat row down the center.  This will be the greenhouse support.

Next, cover the carton with a sheet of plastic wrap tucking it underneath.

Finally, place the carton into the tray.

The plastic wrap will keep the soil moist and maintain a more even temperature. You can place the tray on a windowsill where it will get some sun during the day, and even follow the sun from window to window, or you can place it onto a warmer used for germinating seeds. Years ago I lived in an apartment that had an older fridge that was always warm on the top. I had great luck germinating seeds on the top of that fridge.

As soon as the seeds sprout and reach the plastic wrap, remove it. If they are not already in a windowsill, or grow light, place them there. After that you’ll have to keep an eye on the young plants to ensure they don’t dry out. Water carefully so as not to disturb them. Make sure they are getting as much sun as you can give them, or put them under a grow light.

I’ll have another post when mine germinate. And I’ll follow up when the young plants need to be transplanted.

Happy gardening!

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——>  UP NEXT: An uninvited resident on the farm.