Get Planting with Sprouts of Your Own

Do you remember the first time you learned how to plant seeds? Chances are you learned with the help of an easy-to-do egg carton method, placing soil and a seed in each of the carton’s pockets. Use these simple materials to bring the fun and wonder of gardening to life with kids you love, thanks to Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments to Learn, Grow, Harvest, Make, Play, and Enjoy Your Garden. (Bonus: this project can be done inside and at any time of year!)

Photo: Dave Brown / Gardening Lab for Kids
Photo: Dave Brown / Gardening Lab for Kids

Starting seedlings indoors is an easy way to save money because a packet of seeds is much cheaper than a tray full of plants. It’s also a great way to start gardening earlier in the season rather than having to wait until it warms up outside.

Tip: Before starting this Lab, cover your workspace with newspapers and gather your materials.

What You’ll Need

  • Permanent marker
  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Seed-starting mix
  • Spoon or small trowel
  • Seeds: tomato, hot pepper, sweet pepper, etc.
  • Spray bottle

How to Start Seeds in an Egg Carton

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  1. Use a permanent marker to label the lid of the egg carton with the names of the seeds you will plant in each segment. Using a spoon or small trowel, fill each indentation with soil. (Fig. 1)

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  1. Plant your seeds to the proper depth (read the package directions for each type of seed). (Fig. 2)

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  1. Use your spray bottle to water your seeds. A spray bottle, as opposed to a watering can, lightly waters your seeds so they don’t wash away. (Fig. 3)

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  1. Close the lid on your container and put it somewhere warm. Check your seeds daily. Once plants begin to pop through the soil, keep the lid open and make sure your seeds get plenty of light. If using an artificial light, keep your seedlings 1” to 2” (2.5 to 7.5 cm) from the light. When your seedlings are ready to transplant outside, cut the egg carton sections apart. Based on the seed package directions, plant your seedlings (egg carton section and all) in the ground at the directed distance apart from each other. Water your plants in well. (Fig. 4)

Starting Seedlings Indoors

Once seeds sprout, use a ruler to measure your plants every morning. Create a chart to keep track of how much they grow every day. You’ll be surprised how fast some seedlings grow! Plant seeds indoors six to ten weeks before your last frost date. You can look up this information online or in gardening books. Every area’s frost date is different, so look up your own. At www.plantmaps.com, you can enter your ZIP code to find the last date in the spring your area typically gets frost.

As your seedlings get taller, lower them from the light source so that the tops of your plants still remain 1” to 2” (2.5 to 5 cm) below it. If your light source can be raised higher, do that; if not, place your egg carton on books or cans that you can remove gradually to lower the plants away from the light.

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A refreshing source of ideas to help your children learn to grow their own patch of earth, Gardening Lab for Kids encourages children to get outside and enjoy nature. This fun and creative book features 52 plant-related activities set into weekly lessons, beginning with learning to read maps to find your heat zone, moving through seeds, soil, composting, and then creating garden art and appreciating your natural surroundings. Author Renata Fossen Brown guides your family through fun opportunities learning about botany, ecology, the seasons, food, patience, insects, eating, and cooking. The labs can be used as singular projects or to build up to a year of hands-on outdoor experiences. The lessons in this book are open-ended to be explored over and over – with different results each time! Garden Lab for Kids is the perfect book for creative families, friends, and community groups and works as lesson plans for both experienced and new gardeners. Children of all ages and experience levels can be guided by adults and will enjoy these engaging exercises. So, slip on your muddy clothes, and get out and grow!

As Associate Director of Education, Renata Fossen Brown (Cleveland, OH) oversees the thousands of school children visiting Cleveland Botanical Garden yearly, as well as the development and implementation of teacher professional development workshops. She assisted in the planning and facilitating of a 10-day teacher workshop that traveled to Costa Rica to study biodiversity. Brown is involved in the writing of interpretation and exhibit graphics at the Garden and served as president of the Cleveland Regional Council of Science Teachers. Brown holds a B.A. in Biology from the University of Toledo and an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from Bradley University, in Peoria, Illinois. She is certified to teach grades 7-12 science, and has been active in informal science education since 1993. As Assistant Curator of Education at the Toledo Zoo, Brown was responsible for all educational programs occurring on Zoo grounds, as well as researching and writing for their Emmy award winning television show, “Zoo Today.” Creating and implementing their very first Earth Day Celebration is a task of which she is particularly proud. She continued her education role, while adding volunteer coordinator duties while working at Luthy Botanical Garden in Peoria, Illinois. A native Clevelander, Renata Fossen Brown gladly returned home in 2004 after a 15 year absence. She was named the Garden’s Clara DeMallie Sherwin Chair in Education in December 2004. She is usually surrounded in her yard by her three dogs and prefers natives and perennials over annuals any day. She is particularly in love with purple coneflower.

As the Vice President of Education, Renata Fossen Brown oversees the thousands of school children visiting Cleveland Botanical Garden yearly, the development and implementation of teacher professional development workshops, the library, Hershey Children’s Garden, and the garden’s urban youth farming program, Green Corps. She assisted in the planning and facilitating of a ten-day teacher workshop in Costa Rica to study biodiversity. Brown is involved in the writing of interpretation and exhibit graphics at the garden and served as president of the Cleveland Regional Council of Science Teachers.

Brown holds a B.A. in biology from the University of Toledo and an M.A. in curriculum and instruction from Bradley University, in Peoria, Ill. She is certified to teach grades seven through twelve science, and has been active in informal science education since 1993.

As Assistant Curator of Education at the Toledo Zoo, Brown was responsible for all educational programs occurring on zoo grounds, as well as researching and writing for the zoo’s Emmy award-winning television show, Zoo Today. Creating and implementing its very first Earth Day celebration is a task of which she is particularly proud. She continued her education role, while adding volunteer coordinator duties and working at Luthy Botanical Garden in Peoria.

A native Clevelander, Renata Fossen Brown gladly returned home in 2004 after a fifteen-year absence. She was named the garden’s Clara DeMallie Sherwin Chair in Education in December 2004. She is usually surrounded in her yard by her three dogs and prefers natives and perennials over annuals any day. She is particularly in love with purple coneflower.