Did you know that Daylight Savings is right around the corner? Maybe it’s just me, but the short, dark days of my first winter in Montana felt like they were never going to end. But after a gorgeous bluebird sky like we had in Missoula today, I can feel my inner hibernating bear begin to blink her sleepy eyes and think about going for a ramble in the hills. It might take a little longer for the plants and seeds outside to wake up, but don’t let that keep you from getting a head start on your garden this year!
We FLATmates love our eggs, which means we end up with a lot of egg cartons. They’re recyclable, but somehow we end up hanging on to them, in case we come up with a great way to repurpose them. (Reuse comes before recycle, after all!) I decided to turn a couple of egg carton bottoms into propagation trays for an indoor herb garden I’m going to install in the back house at the FLAT. Here’s how you can, too!
Cut the lid off of an egg carton (or two, or three…) and get your hands on some potting soil. Compost will work fabulously too, if you have any of that rich loamy stuff around. You’ll need seeds of whatever sort of plant you’d like to grow – I fished through our collection of seed packets and chose a variety of herbs that should grow well inside, with a moderate amount of light.
Fill the egg carton bottom with soil or compost so that it is full to the edge of the carton. Plant a few seeds in each egg space according to their needs – some seeds, especially the smaller ones, should be planted close to the surface of the soil, while larger ones can often be planted up to 1/4″ deep. It’s good to plant more than one seed per egg space in case some of them don’t end up sprouting. I labeled the sides of the carton center peaks with the type of seed I put in that egg space, so I don’t lose track of what’s planted where.
Water your planted seeds carefully, so that the soil is damp but not sopping. I’ve been using a teaspoon to douse each egg space with as much water as it needs. Make sure to water periodically to keep the seeds from drying out. I’ve been watering them two or three times a day.
Find a warm spot in your house that gets plenty of light for your egg carton propagation trays. My housemate Ellie happens to have a bright light that works well: she hung it from the bottom of a table, and I can turn it on during the day and off during the night. It’s important that the seeds get exposed to alternating light and darkness, since it’s the cycle of day and night that often triggers them to sprout.
The black mat underneath the cartons is a germination mat, specifically made to keep seeds and seedlings warm enough to grow steadily. You can find these mats online if you really want to get into germinating seeds. Otherwise, keeping your cartons in a warm, light space in your house should be fine.
It’s only been two and a half weeks since I planted these seeds, and I’ve already got sorrel, oregano, tulsi (holy basil), and cilantro sprouts! In another few weeks, I’ll transplant them into the hanging indoor herb garden I’m going to build…stay tuned. Until then, keep life resilient!