By Vina Medenilla
It’s no secret: many gardeners love using egg carton trays for growing seeds to seedlings. This home gardening idea is good for growing vegetables with tiny seeds like monggo and kangkong.
Karen Pascua, a financial advisor and urban gardener, germinates her seeds in a cardboard egg tray in their front yard. They started planting vegetables when the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was announced as a measure to halt the spread of COVID-19. They were later able to plant the seedlings in the vacant lot beside their house with the permission of the owner.
Using egg trays as seed germination containers is not just economical, but is also a good way to recycle them and to lessen trash, Pascua said.
The challenge in this technique is that some cardboard egg trays disintegrate easily. To prevent this, Pascua ensures that she does not overwater the seedlings and puts extra cardboard underneath the egg tray for support.
You must be careful when watering the seedlings. Apply enough water to moisten the soil but not too much that soaks through the tray. You do not want to break the egg trays before the seeds planted inside germinate, or before transplanting the seedlings.
Make a seedling planter out of an egg tray
You’ll need the cardboard egg trays, seeds, potting soil, and water.
First, poke small holes in the spaces in the egg carton using a pencil or anything with a sharp tip for drainage.
Fill each hole with potting soil. For potting soil, use a combination of vermicast or fine compost, carbonized rice hull, and coco peat. Pure vermicast is also a good alternative.
Place the seed on top, cover with a thin layer of potting soil, then water thoroughly. When the seed grows and there’s already a presence of at least two leaves, that’s when you can transplant it.
In transplanting, cut the cardboard tray, separating the germinated seeds. There is no need to remove the seedlings from the trays as the cardboard will break down in the soil when transplanted. This will be advantageous for beginner gardeners because they will not have a hard time getting the seedlings out, plus this will also keep the roots undisturbed during the planting process.
If you are planning to use plastic egg trays, you can take out the seedling and reuse the tray to grow another batch of seeds.
When planting seeds like monggo, kangkong, and sili, you can sow one seed per egg tray hole. For smaller seeds like pechay and mustasa, you can sow three seeds in one hole, Pascua said.
She waters leafy vegetables in the morning and afternoon during the summer and in other seasons, she waters once a day. For pest control, she uses homemade natural concoctions.
In whatever container you use as a pot or planter, remember to make enough holes for excess water to drain out. If you are a beginner, use seeds from kitchen scraps like tomatoes. Kitchen scraps can also be added to your compost. Compost will serve as nourishment for the plants.
When it comes to sunlight, only partial sunlight is necessary. This means that seeds must be exposed to the sun for less than six hours per day. Egg tray planting is better for the outdoors, but summer heat can easily dry up the potting soil so proper watering is crucial.
Eggshells can also be used as fertilizer as they are a good source of calcium. Eggshells can be collected, washed, sun-dried, pulverized, and added to compost.
Photo from Karen Pascua
This article appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s May to June 2020 issue.