egg cartons, how does this sound?

rj_hythloday(8A VA)February 20, 2009

I have a lot of egg cartons that I want to use for seedlings. I'm planning on drilling several holes in the bottom and sides before filling w/ seed starting mix. I'm hoping this would allow the roots to get out and I could just keep it in the cell when potting up. I'll cut away excess around the top and seperate them of course. I just thought this might disturb the seedling less during the pot up.

How does this sound? Would I be better off just to remove the seedlings and compost the cartons after?

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anney(Georgia 8)


I wouldn't use egg cartons to start seedlings -- they're WAY too small unless you plan to transplant them immediately after the cotyledons (first leaves) appear. Even if you had holes large enough for the roots to get out (in young tomato seedlings, the roots often are much larger than the visible top of the seedling), when you try to remove them from those little cups, the roots WILL tear. Why don't you start them in 8-oz. or even 12-oz. styrofoam cups or plastic cups (both cheap)? You can provide drainage holes for them, but the cups are big enough that the roots won't have to grow through the holes before you transplant them to something larger.

As I say, I wouldn't do it, but maybe others have and it's worked for them. We all find what's best for us.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 10:55AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Sorry but I agree with Anney. I know some try it but egg cartons are far from ideal for starting seedlings unless, as she said, you want to transplant them quickly after they germinate.

And that can be done of course, but with care not to injure the cotyledons or the stems. But if you are going to go that - called "pricking" the seedlings then you might as well just start them all in 1 container rather than individual egg cups.

Consider investing in just one plug flat.

Egg cartons are definitely too small for growing them much past germination.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 11:10AM
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azruss(8b Tucson)

I think it hinges on how many seedlings you want to grow. I do use egg cartons for starting seeds--the plastic ones such as those used by Eggland's Best and Land O Lakes. I like the fact that the plastic top just folds over the egg carton to help retain moisture. However, I do plant up within a few days of germination, and I like the egg cartons for this, too. Just lift the planting mix and seedling out of the carton with a spoon and transplant it. This is also useful if your seedlings have become leggy for any reason--just bury them to the leaves when you plant up. Finally, I'm not a volume grower. This probably would be a major hassle for anyone doing more than a couple dozen seedlings. BTW, I do not recommend planting the paper cups from paper egg cartons. They decompose too slowly and will impair root development.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 1:21PM
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I am using plastic egg cartons so the roots won't go through the sides, so they won't get torn when I pot them up. I will pot them when the first true leaves appear.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 1:59PM
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rj_hythloday(8A VA)

I planned on repotting to about 8 oz plastic cups, I thought they might be too big to start in but it sounds like it would be better than repotting so soon. I'm planning on drilling holes in the bottom of those to bottom water. I guess that 16oz would be a good size to pot up to.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 3:59PM
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rj_hythloday(8A VA)

As for the amount of seedlings I have 18 varieties of heirloom and 5 peppers. I figure at least 4 of ea to ensure germination and then I'll probably go down to 3 after first true leaves and give away what I can't plant. I am only going to be able to plant 15. I had originally wanted 12 w/ 2 of ea but it's going to have to be 1 of ea. 9 in raised beds and 6 in straw bales.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 4:02PM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

I did do a few seedlings on egg cartons (the biodegradable kind) but I found out the hard way that they cause the plants to become root bound. I planted the whole thing (separating the sections for one egg) and I figured the roots would go trough, just like they do on peat pots or other biodegradable pots. After examining some plants that did not thrive I noticed to my dismay that they were being root bound. The cardboard from the egg cartons is not porous enough apparently. Now I start on larger pots, no more egg cartons for me. Too bad, I thought it would be a good way to recycle, and save some $, but no, not a good idea. I toss them in the compost bin now.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 4:07PM
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We used the foam egg cartons for many yrs.

An ice pick through the bottom in a couple of spots and set in a big tray for bottom watering. The do need to be transplanted pretty quickly but it is easy to keep varieties straight.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 4:08PM
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anney(Georgia 8)


This year I'm going to start the seedlings in 8-oz styrofoam cups and then transplant them to the 16 oz size if they need it before setting out. I start out with the small cups so I can get them all under my grow light. Two closely-spaced four-ft. rows is plenty of room for what I start.

I like the styrofoam because you can write the variety name on the cup with a ball-point pen, pressing down, and the name stays there! The holes are also easier to make than with plastic drink cups. I just poke a pencil point into them at the bottom on the sides in three places and push until the hole is the diameter of the pencil.

Nothing fancy and just a couple of steps to get them started and ready to transplant outside.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 4:27PM
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Egg cartons are waaaaayyy to small. The small amount of soil per unit is insufficient for water retention--they dry out very quickly.

I'm keen on the styrafoam cups, Anney deSCRIBES it perfectly ~ SCRIBE is highlighted for a reason. When you press the name into the cup with your ball point pen you will never lose that variety name. Even if the ink fades all you need do is rub over the name with some mud or shoe polish and the name magically appears as its grooves are filled.

I don't bother to transplant up in size--from the cup the seedlings can go right into the garden.

Here is a link that might be useful: Here's how to use styrafoam cups for sowing tomatoes.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 6:33PM
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I have to admit, I really like the styro cups. I don't like to use styro (for enviro reasons), but what I have done is to collect the ones I see as trash (in parking lots, etc) and re-use the ones I get from restaurants. I have also found that they last for years, even left outside year-round.

The egg cartons work OK for some plants, but the tomatoes are not ideal for that.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 9:20PM
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rj_hythloday(8A VA)

I got my seeds sowed tonight. 68 8oz cups, they don't really fit under the 48'' shop light,they are hanging out the sides a bit. I had wanted to do 3 of ea tom 16 varieties. After the first few I realized they weren't going to fit and went to 2 cups w/ 2 seeds in ea. I'll thin if both germinate. I only have room to plant 1 of ea 15 plants total.

I also started 5 different basil's, 4 diff sweet peppers, and a jalapeno. I think a second shop light is going to be needed to keep them all from getting leggy. I should be able to manage that before they all sprout.

I winter sowed my lady lavender outside also.

I didn't go w/ the styro for enviro reasons, then came home and read all the posts for styro. I think I'll go w/ styro when I pot up.

I don't have them in a tray, but I think I'll use a tray to bottom water, put 'em in for about fifteen minutes as many as will fit and rotate.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 9:29PM
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kandm(8b coastal alabama)

I use egg cartons to hold my peat pellets. I will place them in the carton after they germinate from the green house or use the cartons (the Styrofoam ones are esp good for this) to make a little enclosed green house. I like them because they insulate, are cheap, and just the right size the hold the peat pellets until they need to be transplanted to 3 inch jiffy pots.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 9:32PM
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Egg cartons are waaaaayyy to small. The small amount of soil per unit is insufficient for water retention--they dry out very quickly.

Mine, if well-watered, dry out in a couple days. That's not too fast for me; I don't mind watering every other day. And I use the plastic ones (Styrofoam would work very well too) so they don't dry out as fast as the paper ones would. I plan to pot the seedlings as soon as 1st true leaves come out.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 10:16PM
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