DIY Springtime Seedling Garden Starts

dirt for gardening

dirt for gardening


Springtime is exciting. With the return of the birds and the bees to our neighborhoods, so too is the sun warmer and the day stretching longer. Here in California, our Daylight Saving Time sprung forward extra early this year. However, Spring came early too. Traditionally, Daylight Saving was standardized to meet the needs of farming families. Though it seems to make little sense to most of us anymore, it is still a reminder for myself, to get my homegrown veggie starts happening. Oftentimes it is still too frosty some mornings for tiny seedlings to survive in the ground. This is why I choose to start my seedlings in a portable containers, so that they may be brought inside, easily protected from those unpredictably cool weather waves. As always, I am also creatively problem solving ways to reuse items that are consistently manifest in my life. Such as egg cartons!

egg carton seed starter

I do not like to discard anything, as it is best to always find use for what we already have. This insights a greater appreciation for everything I claim responsibility in my life. Which, in turn, leads to fonder moments of gratitude, when I realize that I have something useful already in my cupboard, saving a trip to the store, money in my pocket, as well as additional waste in my home. To begin this Springtime seed planting project, you will need the following items.

  • discarded egg cartons
  • garden gloves
  • clothespins OR old twist ties OR popsicle sticks OR toothpicks and masking tape
  • seeds (visit my previous article about Seed Saving from the Fall here)
  • sharpie OR crayon OR other water resistant marking utensil
  • water tight tray
  • dirt
  • watering pail OR cup of water
  • love (as always, an open heart grown sweeter fruits for you labor)


seed starting kit items


Everything begins with dirt. If you are lucky enough to have some property to establish a composting system (see our previous Eco Etsy article on composting here) then gather some prime soil from there. Otherwise, find a source of soil that isn’t going to sprout weeds (or as my boyfriend calls them “space holders” as most all weeds are useful as medicines or at the very least they pull nitrogen into the soil in the off gardening season). There is nothing more disappointing than water your starts for a couple months, only to discover they are in fact NOT poppy flowers, beans, or squash but merely poke and monkey flower like you’ve already got growing everywhere in your yard. For this years starts, I chose to reuse some soil I had left over in pots from last years planting.


egg carton reusable project

To begin, gently tear the center binding of your egg carton so you have to halves. Then stack them one into the other with the egg cups sitting on top.

upcycle egg carton

Then fill with dirt, careful not to compress the soil. You want it loose and fluffy so the seeds can easily sprout through the surface.


egg carton garden project


Next, select your seeds. If you are interested in seeds which are harvested locally in your region, a good idea is to get involved with seed swaps. National Seed Swap Day happened at the end of January. Oftentimes, if you look through community bulletins, you’ll find ongoing meetups that are happy to welcome newcomers, even if you do not yet have seeds to exchange. Next, place one or two seeds into each egg compartment. Not too many! I know they are small now, but the nature of a garden is to GROW :) Then, gently cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.

seed planting

Next, make sure you crate a system to label your starts. In the past I have saved those annoying (to someone like me who reuses everything) twist ties from the grocery (now I avoid inheriting these by writing my bulk good bin #s on my arm instead). Sometimes I make little flags with toothpicks and masking tape. If I am lucky enough to have a stash of popsicle sticks, those are brilliant for when planting directly in the ground. However, for the shallow height of the egg cartons, I opted to use my Grandmother ancient clothespins. After all, when I hang out my laundry I rarely use them. It has become a household game to pick up the linens off the grass on windy days. time to make use of these now. So I grab a sharpie and mark my seed names out.

egg carton garden

The result in the end, is a satisfyingly organized tray.




Place the egg carton onto your water tight tray, and gently water your seeds. CAREFULLY, you don’t want to wash them all away.

rain water catch

Personally, living in California, it isn’t tough to get it together and start conserving water. This past Winter was one of the harshest droughts in history. Not only do I keep a bucket in the shower to catch water for houseplants, but I leave large containers outside (they will need to be kept covered to prevent mosquito infestations) to catch the rain for watering the garden. Please note, the water only looks dirty because I didn’t bother to wash out the container before it rained. I mean, really, I am just dumping the water back onto the dirt anyway :) Have you discovered any interesting ways in which to conserve and save water? Please share!







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  1. LOVE it!We usually save ours to give back to friends who raise chickens but this is a wonderful use.When they break down too much to use for seed starts you could then use them for weed cover(we save cardboard to use in between bed rows to keep down weeds,and also around trees etc to hold in moisture when its dry).
    Great post! Aloha

  2. Great post! I knew there was some reason I was hoarding all these egg cartons – love the clothespin tip, too.

  3. Love this article! I have a school garden project this year and we are going to plant seeds!Yeah!Thank you for all the tips and info!We will use them for sure!:)

    • Wow! Fia! It feels so good to know that I had a part in inspiring you to pass on the project and educate others. Thank you for your comment :)

  4. The clothespin idea is just too brilliant :-) Great post. Tw, fb, pin, g links posted!

    • Thank you so much. I am really excited about this solution myself. They seem to be holding up well and I plan to use them for years and years to come.

  5. fantastic, can’t wait to try this out for my container gardening!!

  6. What a lovely detailed article! I reuse everything in this kind of way too, and know how satisfying it is when things lend themselves to a specific purpose, and the circle of life continues :-)