Simple Fun for Young Green Thumbs: Egg Carton Gardening with Your Kids

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Spring is finally upon us after a long, cold winter!  Today at Simple Kids, we are celebrating with a fun,  educational project to inspire you and your little ones to get your hands dirty in the garden – Egg Carton Gardening!

First, I have a confession to make. While I love fresh, homegrown vegetables as much as the next gal, my thumb errs on the side of black. My husband typically bears the gardening responsibilities of our home while I handle the cooking. However, this project  is easy enough for a toddler to do.  It’s a great introduction to gardening for kids and novice adults alike.


Materials Needed:

  • Styrofoam Egg Carton (we like Styrofoam for its waterproof quality)
  • Package of Seeds (we used pole beans)
  • Organic Garden Soil
  • Water

Purchase seeds that will be ‘in-season’ according to your particular climate and prepare according to package directions. (For example, we had to soak our bean seeds overnight in water.)

Retrieve a used egg carton from your recycling bin. Cut the top of the egg carton off and set aside. Turn the bottom of the  carton upside down and poke holes in each “dome”, as this allows adequate water drainage. Then, place the top of the carton underneath, like a tray. Fill each of the domes with soil.

Have your child poke holes in the soil of each egg compartment – about 1/2 inch deep. Then have her place the seeds (one to three seeds in each compartment, depending upon the plant variety – see individual seed package for directions) in each hole. Gently cover seeds with soil, lightly water, and place in a sunny window sill. Make sure to place it in a location where your child can water and  monitor its growth each and every day.

For children (and children at heart) seeking instant gratification,  the sprouts appear in a matter of days. Once the seedlings are well established and weather permits, transfer directly into the outdoor garden soil and watch them flourish.


Photo by NurtureBaby

 

The day after…

A few days later….

About a week later…talk about instant gratification!

Egg Carton Gardening can be a wonderful learning experience that makes a long-lasting impression on your child. First, it teaches a simple lesson about conservation, as the otherwise trashed egg carton is repurposed for an entirely new use.

Second, your child is more likely to try (and like) the vegetables she’s grown. She feels invested in the project and therefore wants to reap the tasty rewards like the rest of the family. (To my delight, I found my three year old sneaking broccoli florets straight from the garden a few days ago!)

Last, it teaches your child patience and the value of hard work -  all while creating fun, family memories. We hope it will inspire a lifelong love of gardening and healthy eating as your child begins to experience the wonderful fruits of her labor.

What ways do you inspire your children to help in the garden? We’ve love to see what you and your young green thumbs are up to. You can share pictures at the Simple Kids flickr group.

This post originally appeared in April 2010.

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Comments

  1. Stephanie says:

    I tried this with my tomatoes and pepper seeds but it’s been 2 weeks and nothing germinated. Any troubleshooting tips?

    • Hi Stephanie –

      I will have to refer to my gardener husband on this one, but I did look into it a bit and the germination time for tomatoes can be up to two weeks. Perhaps it could also be a soil tempurature issue if you left the egg carton outside or it’s next to a drafty window.

      This is a great resource for planting seedlings, as it provides detailed info about germination time, soil temps, etc…

      Tomatoes: http://bit.ly/aVp20g
      Peppers: bit.ly/aVp20g

      Hope this helps! :) And for the record, you are not alone in your struggle with tomatoes and peppers. We tried seeds one year but were not successful. This year, we purchased small tomato and pepper plants and they seem to be doing OK so far. I have found that some plants are easy to germinate, others not. Perhaps start with beans or broccoli. Those seems to be foolproof!

  2. I love this idea ! I can’t wait to get started.

  3. Thank you soooo much for posting this! I am a novice and will be starting my first veggie garden this year. This is the perfect way to get started…although I will not be letting the twins help this year…they’ll eat the soil.

    • There’s always next year with your twins! My daughter started helping when she was two (pictures above are from last year) and how that she’s three, she’s a dedicated little gardener and daddy’s big helper. Best of luck to you on your first veggie garden!

  4. Impressive! My boys would love this. It helps that green beans are among their favorite vegetable, too.

    Thanks Christen!
    .-= Aimee @ Simple Bites´s last blog ..Snacking and Your Child: Finding the Healthy Balance =-.

  5. This is on my to do list.

  6. This is so cute, Christen! I know my kids will like it – they are getting pretty excited for Spring and gardening – we’ll probably start peas as those are pretty quick, easy, and grow fast :-)

    Happy gardening!
    .-= Kara´s last blog ..Weekend Showcase: Link Love =-.

    • Hi Kara, I have gardening project coming up and I could use some guidance. I’ll be working with Pre-K children in the classroom, once a week, for five weeks. It should be as easy and foolproof as possible, especially since I can’t control the quality of care plants will be given from week to week, in between my visits. I tried this last year with a variety of flowers. I gave explicit instruction to the classroom teacher as to their care needs. In the schools there are too many uncontrolled factors that can derail a project. So I’m really hoping you might have a great idea. I was thinking about planting bean (peas, maybe) because they grow fast, are reasonably hardy, and have a product that can be eaten eventually. If you agree, what type of pea would you recommend and should I start with a bean seed or the pea itself? The project is to start in about 1 week. I hope you don’t mind my inquiring and hope you have some useful information to pass on. Please email me directly at quirkylab@aol.com. Many thanks for your consideration!
      Robin

      • Hi Robin, sorry I’m a little late w/ this (forever behind on my email it seems) Peas and beans in general seem to grow pretty quickly, but to speed things along, i would probably soak the seeds ahead of time so that you can skip that step with the kids.

        Something fun to do is to place a seed (we’ve done this w/ peas and w/ beans) in a cup to grow and also to wrap a seed in a wet paper towel and place it in a plastic baggie that you attach to the window sill in direct sunlight. From time to time, take down the baggie and open it up to compare it to the growth of the seed in the soil in the cup :-)

        I realize I’m late w/ this and your class has probably already started, so I hope you’re having good luck!

        Best wishes!
        Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Straightening Out a Bumpy Day

  7. This is my first year getting to grow seeds with my little one and it is such a joy!! He gets excited to water them each day. Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. I’ve done this with my kids and it’s an awesome project. It’s a great way for the kids to play in a little dirt and then get to watch the plants grow. And you’re right Shannon, there’s a lot of excitement generated by the watering.
    .-= Tina@RideOnToys´s last blog ..Power Wheels Toys – Everything You Ever Wanted To Know =-.

  9. We just planted some tomato and some basil seeds in an egg carton last week! Still no sprouts but we are hopeful!

  10. What a brilliant idea and a great way to recycle as well! Definitely will give this a go with the kids this spring. Thanks.
    Elvera´s latest post: Fabulous Garden Toy Gift Ideas

  11. I like the cardboard cartons because when the plants sprout you can just break up the carton and plant the sections and the carton will decompose. Environmentally friendly.
    Diane Balch´s latest post: The Height of Flavor: Glutamate Cooking

  12. I would love to do this, but we are moving at the end of May. Know of anything we can plan and harvest in two months?
    Amanda´s latest post: Not everything is worth worrying about…is it?

    • You don’t really have much time to grow something in soil. How about sprouting some beans. When I was a kid I would put alfalfa beans in a pie plate with a little water and cover them with a tea cloth. I would check every day and they would sprout pretty quickly. Who knows your kids might even be tempted to eat them.
      Diane Balch´s latest post: The Height of Flavor: Glutamate Cooking

    • Hi Amanda – If you are leaving in a few months, I would stick with herbs, like basil, parsley, or cilantro. They grow pretty quickly and you could easily take them with you when you move. Best of luck!

  13. Thanks for the Styrofoam tip for the egg carton, I hadn’t thought of that.
    I just planted our spinach and broccoli outside today. The crazy warm weather just forced me into it.
    Emily @ Random Recycling´s latest post: Project Simplify week 3: Closets & Drawers Progress

  14. Thank you for this idea! I am excited to do it with my kids. We are in an apartment, so do you have any suggestions on what are the best plants to plant in pots?
    Johanna´s latest post: 3 Reasons to Choose Public, Private, and Home School

  15. Such a great and simple idea! Why had I never thought of egg cartons before!? We have a parent run and taught co-op preschool once a week and this will be perfect! And finally a good use for egg cartons! Yay!

  16. Hi there,
    My name is Amy Greenberg and I am the co-founder of a website called The Grandparents Guide. You can check us out at http://www.thegrandparentsguide.com. I love some of the gardening ideas that you have posted. I would love to use a few of the ideas/images. We would create a direct link to your website, adding you to our FB page and possibly our newsletter, offering you the opportunity to get some exposure from our viewers.
    It would be fantastic if in return, you could let some of your viewers know about us by highlighting us in some way.
    You can email me at amy@thegrandparentsguide.com

    Please let me know if this sounds interesting to you.
    Thanks,
    Amy Greenberg
    Co Founder
    The Grandparents Guide

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  5. [...] this quick tutorial for creating an egg-carton garden with your preschooler. Although I’d think it would be better to do this with a regular [...]

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  7. [...] the web and Pinterest, you can find great planting activities to do with kids: This one from SimpleKids is a simple egg carton and Pole beans. Visit their website for complete [...]

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