Feb 28

Egg Carton Seed Starters

by Hannah Holt »


Is it spring yet?

This time of year always makes me antsy for spring. It’s not time to start hoeing in the garden, but it might be time to start those tomato, pepper, and/or basil plants. Here’s a quick guide to starting plants indoors.

What you need to know about starting plants indoors:

  1. Only cold sensitive plants and slow growers* need to be started indoors. One year I tried starting cucumbers indoors and oh my! They grew out of their containers before I even turned around… Quick growers and hearty plants don’t need to be started indoors.
  2. You’ll need to know when the last frost is expected for your area. Start plants indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Here in Denver, the last frost is usually around Memorial Day. Even then, we always seem to get a wicked late spring hail storm storm, which is why I love Walls of Water.
  3. Are you thinking about going on vacation? Seedlings need to stay medium moist. If you’re planning on leaving them unattended for more than a few days, they’ll probably die.
  4. You’ll need a warm (at least 65° F) and well lit area for your seedlings.
  5. Before moving indoor plants to the garden (or a larger pot) outside, you need to harden them. Soft indoor plants will die without hardening. Hardening helps plants adjust to the elements gradually.

What you’ll need for the seed starters

  • an egg carton, with the lid removed
  • potting soil
  • seeds

Step 1: Thoroughly mix water into your potting soil. The soil needs to be damp before you start planting.

Step 2: Scoop the damp soil into the egg carton until it is nice and level. Then using a finger, poke a small indent into the top of your soil (1/4 an inch or whatever your seed packet recommends).

Step 3: Place 3-4 seeds in each hole and cover them lightly with soil. Then place in a sunny spot and watch them grow.

Step 4: When they are an inch high or so, thin them to one plant per egg holder. When they are 2-4 inches high you’ll want to transplant them to a bigger pot or to the garden. See my link above about hardening before moving the plants outside.

Because it’s only freeeeezing February right now, I transplanted my little seedlings into large plastic cups. Here’s how…

Transplanting 1: When transplanting into a larger container, you’ll need to select one with good drainage. Using a steak knife, I punched a hole in the bottom of my plastic cups. (If you are container gardening [not just seed starting], soil composition and drainage gets a little more complicated.)

Transplanting 2: Then I filled my cups with damp soil and created a holding space for the seedlings.

Transplanting 3: I broke the seedlings out of their egg carton holders and patted them into their new homes. Look how happy they are!

Now I just need spring to arrive!

*The plants in this post are tomatoes. I usually start peppers, herbs, and tomatoes indoors.


  1. Julie Hedlund

    We’ve done this before, and there’s nothing like the magic of seeing the kids’ faces when the first shoots come up!

  2. Matt

    Those kids sure are lucky to have you as their mom!

  3. Eric VanRaepenbusch

    Oh! I love seeing this post!! It makes me think happy-spring-like thoughts! My kids loved gardening with me the past two summers, but we just moved and have ALOT of trees. But, I was scoping the yard this week and I might have found a spot.

    I saved a whole bunch of seeds from our pepper plants last year. Thanks for giving me the itch to plant them!

  4. Kirsten

    Cool, I just emptied an egg carton making tonight’s fritatta. Next on the agenda: shopping for seeds.

  5. Hannah Holt

    Happy planting everyone. Eric, we started our first garden in a plot where a tree had been removed. I do not recommend it. I spent hours and hours digging out roots before we could do anything. Not that that’s what you are planning, but your comment brought back memories of me, an ax, and our first garden.

  6. Rena J. Traxel

    I can’t wait to garden this year! I usually buy my plants, but this year I want to try starting them indoors.

  7. Hannah Holt

    Rena, it’s fun starting your own seeds. I like watching them sprout up (and so do my kids).