USING EGG BOXES TO START SEEDS
Egg boxes are perfect for many different kinds of seeds but most useful for two classes.
1. ONES THAT NEED STRATIFICATION, - A PERIOD OF MOIST COLD - BEFORE THEY WILL GERMINATE.
Maybe you have tried the 'plastic bag in the fridge' method and been disappointed. Personally I find it difficult. Often the seeds begin to sprout, sometimes instruction even tell you to wait until this stage, then you have to pot them up. Its extremely difficult to carefully maneuver a tiny seed with a proto root without damaging it and I have found that the success rate using this method no matter what seed I am using to be quite low. (and I have steady hands and used to do surgery).
2. THOSE THAT DONT LIKE BEING TRANSPLANTED.
Using paper egg boxes to start small seeds like poppies can help make the process easier. This method takes up far less space than lots of larger pots. Once the seeds have sprouted they can either be moved to larger biodegradable pots or planted directly in the ground.
Now matter which reason the method is mostly the same.
EASY HOW TO WITH EGG BOXES
1. FIRST GET YOUR EGG BOX.
If you are doing this because they don't like being transplanted, use cardboard boxes only. If you just need to stratify you can use plastic ones instead.
2. ADD SEEDING MIX.
Place seeding mix in each egg dimple of the box. Fill to about 2/3 way up the dimple.
3. WATER IN THE SEEDING MIX.
Mixes may be a little moist when you purchase them but its never enough. Carefully water each dimple to ensure that all the mix has thoroughly taken up moisture. Do not flood it, but when completed the mixture should be very moist but not wet. Leave it for a few minutes to soak into the seeding mix. If after five minutes you still have pools of water or very wet soil, use some paper towel to gently remove the excess.
4. ADD YOUR SEEDS.
Depending on what you are seeding it may be just one seed per dimple or it may be a few. Larger seeds obviously need their own dimple but very tiny seeds may have 3-4. If planting tiny seeds that don't like transplanting (like poppies) 2-3 per dimple may be good as you usually want to plant them in clumps anyway. How you seed is up to you.
Here I have used butterfly weed that meet both criteria. They need stratification and they don't like transplanting.
5. COVER THE SEEDS
Very lightly cover the seeds with a little more seeding mix. UNLESS your seeds need light to germinate then omit this step. With larger seeds like the ones I used just sprinkle a little on top. For tiny seeds use a sieve to shake a light coating on the seeds.
6. WATER AGAIN.
If you have large seeds then gently add a little more water to each dimple with your small watering can. If you have tiny seeds use a spray bottle or a mist setting on your hose.
Ensure the mix is good and moist.
HERE IS WHERE THE METHODS DIVERGE.
FOR STRATIFICATION OF SEEDS
1. LABEL YOUR EGG BOX!
This is very important otherwise you wont remember what you put in it. I like to use permanent marker. If you have sown the same seeds in the whole box then you just need to give it one label. If you have different seeds in the same box you can mark on top of each dimple so you know where each different plant is.
2. WRAP THE WHOLE THING IN A PLASTIC BAG AND SEAL IT UP.
The ones you get your fresh produce in supermarket work perfectly. Wrap it around the box to seal in the moisture and ensure the bag will not catch on anything else in the refrigerator. Then seal it up with the twist tie. (recycle reuse!)
In this case I used the bag my bagels came home from the supermarket in along with the same twist tie.
NOW YOU CAN PLACE YOUR SEEDS FOR STRATIFICATION IN THE REFRIGERATOR
They should not get lost and hopefully not forgotten. Put them at the back of a bottom shelf where few people tend to look anyway and they should be safe. Now just make a note that you did that so you don't forget about them when spring comes around.
Once the stratification period is done bring out the box and place it with any other seed trays you have, near a window, under grow lights whatever you do.
If you used a plastic box you need to gently hold the box up and using a sharp pin or knife tip punch a small hole in the bottom of each egg dimple to allow any excess water to drain away now you will be watering it along with the other seed trays. If you don't do this the dimples will become flooded and the seeds will die.
Once the seeds have sprouted allow them to get their first pair of true leaves
then using a small spoon scoop the whole thing out and transplant it to a small
pot. Something like a 2.5 inch (cm) is ideal.
Now you are on your way to new plants. Easy as that.
FOR THOSE THAT DONT LIKE TRANSPLANTS.
Ensure that the egg boxes are kept on a DRY surface. If they are allowed to
sit in water they will quickly disintegrate.
Place the boxes where you would normally put any other seeds that your are sprouting (just not in water or on capillary matting).
With this method you really only need the bottom of the box so using scissors cut off the top and clip side of the box. You may want to do that even before you plant your seeds.
Egg boxes will get soggy an begin to degrade over time so make sure that you pick the box up carefully. Put it on a flat plant or tray to move them around don't try and carry them in hand it could end in disaster.
The objective of the egg box is to allow more seeds to be started in a smaller area. Once seeds have sprouted and reached their first set of leaves we recommend you moving the carefully to a larger biodegradable pot. These can be peat pots that you purchase or you can use cardboard food containers like cream, juice or any other items that comes in a cardboard container. Just remember to punch a few holes in the bottom of the container with a sharp knife before you fill it with soil. This will allow good drainage and prevent the plant from becoming waterlogged.
Fill the pot with good potting soil to about 2/3 way up.
Carefully pull the single egg dimple from the rest of the egg box. Nestle it into the center of the new pot.
Gently fill in the area around the dimple with more compost mix. The cardboard will quickly degrade and allow the plant to increase in size in its new home. care for your new plant as normal.
Once its ready to be transplanted just plant the whole cardboard container in the ground. If you want you can carefully cut down the sides of the cardboard pot with a knife to allow the new plants roots faster access to its new permanent home. Make sure you have hardened off your plants before you transfer them to the garden.
If tiny seeds are growing well it is possible to transplant them directly from the egg box into the ground just ensure they are well hardened off or protected from sunlight when they are first moved.
Experiment on your own to find the best method to use these 'free' pots to start your seeds and give you more space to grow. If you stratified seeds just remember that you did. Perhaps put a note on the fridge so you don't suddenly find them in July!
|Janice Hazeldine PhD is the owner and head grower of Floral Encounters an organic Medicinal Herb farm that is also a designated sanctuary for pollinators.