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Growing veggies from seeds rather than buying grown plants will save you lots of money on your garden. Not to mention the savings on the grocery bill when you’re enjoying your fresh picked veggies for dinner!
It’s also fun and a great learning experience for kids and adults alike.
With all of the food recalls in the past year, growing my own veggies is a much more attractive alternative.
I want to know if/what chemicals have been used on the foods I’m eating.
And if I grow my own veggies, I know exactly what’s been put on them. From seed to table.
Plus, by starting seeds indoors early, there’s the benefit of getting into gardening again when winter seems to drag on and on… I enjoy making my own little spring indoors when I start getting stir-crazy and impatient for spring outdoors.
Since I want fresh, homegrown veggies this summer, I’m starting seeds indoors now!
It’s March, so that should give me a good start on the growing season.
It just takes a bit more patience and care, but it’s well worth it.
There are many seeds that can be started before the last frost as long as they’re kept protected indoors. And more growing time means a better harvest!
Around here in Hardiness Zone 6a, I’m hoping to get my successful indoor seedlings into the ground outside by mid-April.
You can start seeds indoors for your veggie garden this year too! It’s simpler than you think.
If this is your first time starting your veggies from seeds, you don’t need to spend a fortune to be successful. In fact, it can be a rather frugal undertaking.
For starters, save your money on seed starter kits.
Instead of spending money on seed starter kits at the store, you can easily make your own!
And you can make them with items you probably already have in your home right now!
Read on to get started on your successful veggie garden for less this year.
I’ll walk you through each step of making your seed starter kits so you’re sure to have a successful growing experience.
First, there are few things you need to gather together for these DIY seed starter kits.
Step 1: Gather supplies needed
- Cardboard egg cartons: Save up a stack of these cartons whenever you use up your eggs at home and you’ll have free and easy-to-use seed starters. Note: If your eggs don’t come in cardboard cartons, paper towel or toilet paper rolls are the next best thing to keep for free seed starters.
- Egg shells: When you’re cracking your eggs for cooking, try to crack it it near the middle. Then rinse and save the halves. These will line your egg carton seed starter kits.
- Used coffee grounds: If you or someone you know is a coffee drinker, save those old coffee grounds! It’s free nutrients that you can add to the soil.
- Dirt: If you don’t have the money to buy a bag of soil at the store, you can take some from old unused flower pots. If you’re like me, you may have a few in the garage or backyard. In a pinch, you can even dig up a bit from the yard. Just make sure you don’t dig up any cables. Call before you dig if you need to have the location of any underground stuff marked for you.
- Clear plastic storage containers (optional): These are great for covering and protecting your seedlings as they start to grow while still letting the sunshine in. Check your garage for clear plastic tubs that can be put to this use.
- Spray bottle: You can find these at the dollar store or rinse/save an old bottle from your cleaning supplies.
- Scissors: You’ll need some scissors for cutting the cardboard.
- Pencil: For poking holes in the egg cartons. Really, anything thin and a bit sharp will do.
- Old plastic spoons or straws: These will be used to label your seed starter kits.
- Permanent marker: for writing on the plastic spoons/straws.
- Seeds: The only thing in this supplies list that I had to buy for my seed starters were the seeds! You can save money on seeds by sharing packets with gardener friends. At the end of this growing season, you can save seeds from your own harvest for next year.
Step 2: Cut egg cartons.
Remove the lids from the egg cartons with a pair of scissors. Set the lids aside for now. They will be used as a tray to set the bottom half of each egg carton inside.
Step 3: Poke 3-4 holes in the bottom of the egg cups to allow drainage.
Use the pencil to poke a few holes in each egg carton cup along the egg carton. This will allow water to escape and prevent your seedlings from drowning or molding.
Step 4: Place each egg carton bottom in its lid.
Once your egg carton cups have drainage holes, you can put the egg carton bottoms back into the egg carton lids. This will help avoid any messiness from leaks and provide more stability if you everhave to lift/move the cartons.
Step 5: Add egg shells and coffee grounds.
Put a clean half egg shell in each egg carton cup. Then sprinkle a few pinches of coffee grounds in the bottom.
Don’t skip the egg shells. I hadn’t saved up enough for every egg carton cup so I planted some with the egg shell liner and some without. The seeds with the egg shells had nearly a 100% germination success rate. I share my two-week stats for the seed starter kits at the end of this post.
Egg shells have many uses when it comes to gardening.
For these seed starter kits, they are handy as little egg carton cup liners. That’ll make it even easier to transplant the seedlings when it’s time to move them outside.
And the shells can also be crumbled up and added to the soil for free nutrients. Then once you transplant the seedlings outside, you can use the egg shells sprinkled on top of the soil around the stems to deter slugs from eating the plants!
Step 6: Fill egg cartons with dirt.
Make sure the egg carton cups are completely full and do not compact the soil.
I had an extra bag of dirt leftover from last year so that’s what I used for my supply.
Step 7: Plant seeds.
Following the directions on the seed packets, plant one seed per egg carton cup at the appropriate depth.
Step 8: Mist each egg carton with water.
You want to be able to water the seeds and little seedlings without drowning them or washing them away. Misting with a spray bottle works perfectly for this.
Step 9: Label the seeds.
For each type of seed you plant, write the details on an old plastic spoon or straw.
- Plant name
- Date planted
- Days to germinate
- Days to harvest
Then slide the labels in between the egg carton lid and carton cups.
Don’t skip this step!
Believe me, it’s so worth it. Take a few minutes to make these. You may think you’ll remember exactly what you planted, when you planted it, and where, but save yourself the brain strain.
Step 10: Close plastic tub and move to sunny location.
A plastic tub will prevent pets and children from digging into or knocking over your seed starters. The clear plastic still allows the sun to shine on the seedlings and produces a greenhouse effect, keeping your seedlings warm despite the winter weather. And another bonus, you can put the egg cartons on the tub’s lid to both protect your floors and easily transport your little greenhouse as needed.
If you don’t have any fears that someone or something may get into your seed starter kits, then this is an optional step.
However, if you have pets or children, I highly recommend using a clear plastic storage tub to protect your hard work.
At my house, this is a necessity because my cats think the window is for them alone to enjoy. And any green plant must be for chewing.
Note: I opened the lid from time to time when I was around and could prevent any cat mishaps.
Important: Check seeds daily.
You will need to check the seeds daily and mist them as needed to ensure the soil stays moist.
Seed starter kits, one week later…
Radishes, Broccoli, and Brussels Sprouts- Oh my!
These three types of veggies sprouted right away. So far, so good.
I planted chives, bell pepper, lettuce, and green onion too, but they took a little longer to sprout.
Seed starter kits, two weeks later…
After 16 days, every type of veggie that I planted has at least a few seedlings. And they grow a little more each day, keeping it new and exciting.
A fun and successful DIY seed starter kit experience!
However, I noticed something very interesting about the success rate.
When I counted out how many seedlings had germinated from the egg shells in the egg cartons versus the plain egg cartons, the numbers were too different to be a coincidence.
The only difference between these seed starters was the egg shell liner. Both kinds of seed starters had coffee grounds sprinkled at the bottom. Both were misted daily and placed in a sunny window. They were all planted at the same time, etc.
Yet somehow, here are my germination stats:
- Radishes: 4/4 with egg shells, 3/8 without
- Brussels sprouts: 2/2 with, 2/4 without
- Lettuce: 2/2 with, 1/4 without
- Bell pepper: 2/2 with, 1/4 without
- Broccoli: 2/2 with, 4/4 without
- Green onion: 9/9 with, 0/3 without
- Chives: 3/4 with, 1/8 without
Out of 25 seeds planted in egg cartons lined with egg shells, a whopping 24 have germinated! That’s a 96% success rate.
And out of 35 seeds planted in the plain egg cartons, only 12 of 35 have currently germinated. That’s only 34%.
A couple of weeks ago, I would’ve said that the egg shells were an optional step, but now that I’ve totaled up my seed germination percentages…
Don’t skip the egg shells!
Now, its just a matter of caring for these seedlings a few more weeks until it warms up enough to transplant them outside.
I hope that I’ve proven to you that starting seeds indoors is affordable, easy, and fun.
Good luck and enjoy your veggie garden started from seeds indoors!