If you’re anything like me, then you love eating eggs. Fried, scrambled, boiled, poached, even pickled! So, let’s take all those leftover egg cartons and do something fun.
Another food I love is tomatoes. Sometimes when I cut up tomatoes, I get a bunch of seeds left on the cutting board. You can take those seeds or try some other vegetable or fruit seeds to start in an egg carton seed starter. I like to use tomatoes because they’re easy to grow and don’t take up too much space in the garden.
A quick note about growing seeds from fruits and vegetables: Most of the time seeds that come from fruits and vegetables that we eat aren’t as successful as the seeds that come from a packet. For example, seeds from a big beefsteak tomato might turn out to make smaller tomatoes.
Before we get started, we’ll need some supplies. Find some tomatoes (any variety) and cut them up for a BLT or a snack—we need some of those seeds. Always ask an adult to help out with a knife. We also need an egg carton and some soil.
Let’s fill that egg carton with soil and gently pack it down. You can use any gardening or potting soil. Make sure there’s at least one to two inches of soil. Poke the tip of your finger in the soil in each egg cup to make a hole—the hole doesn’t need to be deep. You can put two or three seeds in each hole (make sure the seeds don’t touch) and then cover them up loosely. Once all of your holes are filled in, you can gently sprinkle water over them until they’re really wet.
Set your egg carton in a plastic dish or on a plate to keep water from dripping out and place your planted seeds inside where they’ll be warm. Keep an eye on them to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out too much. Only water when the soil feels dry on top and watch out for mold growth—you can scoop the mold out of the soil if you see it.
After a week you might see little tomato plants poking up from the soil. Make sure they get lots of light in a south-facing window. You should plant them up to a bigger pot or into the garden when they’re about two or three inches tall. Just cut or tear the carton away.
This is a fun way to reuse waste and to grow your own food. It’s also a ton of fun to watch plants grow from a little seed into a big bush filled with fruit. And what a reward that will be!
A few tips on tomato plants:
· You can pinch off a few of your tomato seedlings so that there’s one strong one in each cup—tomatoes need a strong root system and don’t do well with too much competition.
· Plant tomatoes or place potted tomatoes where they get at least six hours of direct sunlight.
· When you plant them up, use a big, deep pot, like a five-gallon bucket with holes for drainage. Plant the stem into the soil so the root system can really jump out.
· Fertilize or provide rich compost, tomatoes love good soil. Water your plants if the soil feels dry or if the plants look droopy.
Aaron Young is a museum educator on Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Outreach team. Museum staff, volunteers, and interns are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working at the museum.