When the first signs of spring arrive, I just get so excited! I love gardening season and am learning new things every year. Getting your children involved in growing a veggie garden is a great way to watch science in action. It doesn't have to be complicated either. Using egg cartons is a great way to start seeds and help your babies participate in the process.
This is the first season we've used egg cartons, but it was super easy! We live in the south and we wanted to start our seeds indoors a few weeks before the last frost was estimated to come.
A side note: A great way to track yearly frosts is to keep a calendar of firsts. Charlotte Mason teaches that using a calendar of firsts helps you track when the first things occur during the year such as the first snow, the first sign of spring, the first frost, and the last frost for that matter! Now, onto egg carton gardening with your kiddos!
How to set up an egg carton garden
paper egg cartons
1. Save your paper egg cartons (not styrofoam) for several weeks.
2. Cut the tops of the egg carts off and discard. Carefully poke holes in the bottom of each egg carton circle. This is a job for you, not your kiddos! It needs to be a good size hole, but not too large that dirt would drain out through it. You can test your hole size using water over the sink. I used a sharp knife to start the hole then opened it a bit with a pencil tip.
3. Make a list of all the seeds you will plant and the dates you will begin them indoors. Use the seed packets or Kids Gardening to decide when to move your plants outdoors. Using a calendar, schedule the days each seedling will move outside.
4. Draw a diagram of each egg carton. Let your children help disperse how many of each seed you will plant by labeling a first initial into each egg carton circle on the diagram. For example: You might choose to do a full carton of carrots and so they might write a "c" in each circle for that egg carton. However, you may choose to split an egg carton with 2 tomato plants, 4 peppers, and 4 cantaloupe. *Tip* It's easier to work with even numbers so you can section off the egg carton. You could also cut the egg cartons to fit your needs before filling in dirt.
5. Fill egg cartons with loam or gardening soil. It needs to be dark and rich in nutrients. Kids can help with this one, too!
6. Help your children plant two seeds in each circle in the soil. They can use a finger to make a hole first in the soil and then drop the seeds in, covering them back with dirt. By dropping in two seeds each hole, you have a better chance of a seedling popping up that's healthy. Once the seedlings are a couple inches high, cut the smaller one back with scissors. The larger one is your best bet and will the use the nutrients in the soil to grow stronger.
7. Place the popsicle sticks in each section as you go, making sure to label them correctly. This will let you know which sections to move outdoors at specific times. When time to transplant, cut the carton from around the roots. If you need to, you can plant the whole cup in the soil, but I like to carefully loosen it from the roots.
Don't forget to visit your seedlings indoors and then out to let your babies record illustrations of the growing process in their nature journals! To see how to start a nature journal, read here. Read more about gardening with kids here.
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