Growing veg from seed is such a rewarding experience, not only for the health benefits but for the hands-on learning it provides the kids. Every morning I love watching my daughter carefully take the cartons outside to a protected area, where she gives them all a spray and gets them ready for the day, just like herself getting ready for school.
When starting out it’s really important to think about the output you will receive from your crop. It’s not good planning if you’re planting 50 cauliflower seeds when they’ll all be ready around the same time. You’ll have to give half of them away or they’ll get wasted. I try to limit one variant to one egg carton. This way you’re planting in lots of 12. The reality is, they won’t all make it, and they won’t all be ready on the same day.
Most seeds need approximately 4-6 weeks before they’ll be strong enough to go into the ground out in the sun. Factor this into your planting timetable. Remember too much sun or not enough water, could bring a sudden end to your seed raising project. You need to treat them like newborns because they are newborns. Keep the soil moist, the cartons out of the sun, even bring them inside during the night.
Learning with the kids
As you go through the steps below, take the opportunity to talk with your kids about the amazing process a plant goes through in order to deliver veggies that we eat. Some of the topics you can cover include:
- Appearance: Seeds come in lots of different sizes, shapes, and colours. Some are smooth and shiny, and some are coarse and flat.
- Seed layers: Most seeds have an external shell which is referred to as a coat. It protects the content of a baby plant or embryo, and its food supply inside.
- What seeds need: For a seed to grow into a plant, it will need the essential such as soil, sunlight, water, the right temperature, and a place to live. One of the most important things for a plant is sunlight. Here you can talk about how a plant often grows towards the light.
- Progression: During the early stages of the plants emerging, talk to the kids about the different parts of the plant and what their roles are. For example the roots, leaves & stem.
Growing veg from seed
What you will need:
- Seeds (up to 3 varieties to start with)
- Seed raising mix
- egg cartons (3 cartons, bottoms only)
- Spray bottle
- Marker or handmade labels
Growing veg from seed steps:
- Write or label each egg carton with the name of the plants you are going to grow.
- Fill the egg carton with seed raising mix.
- Using your pencil, poke a hole in the center of each section for the seeds to go.
- Open the seed packet into a small bowl. Depending on the size of the seeds either put a few or only one into each hole. Gently cover up the seed. Keep the seed packet so you can refer back to it.
- Using a spray bottle dampen the soil in each section with water. Don’t drench the soil. The cardboard should still remain dry.
- Make sure you use a clean seed raising container. With egg cartons, make sure it’s free of egg contents. If you’re using another type of container wash it out with hot soapy water.
- Follow the directions on the packet and make sure you are planting at the right time of year for that particular variant.
- You need to keep the soil damp. Spray regularly, or use a plastic bag tied as a mini greenhouse. If the soil is dry the seeds will not germinate. If the soil is too wet, the seeds can rot.
- Don’t leave them in the sun. Like babies, they will not survive. A position that offers filtered light is best and increase their time outside as they grow.
- Get the kids to take responsibility for the watering. When your babies sprout and start to stabilise, you can add a small amount of liquid fertiliser to the water in the spray bottle. They are starting to become toddlers.
- Document your growth by taking photos. Even use this as a show and tell at daycare or school.
- You can transfer them to a bigger pot before going into your patch to give them more growing space for stronger roots. The stronger your plants are the better they are going to cope with life in your garden.
- There are lots of things that can go wrong out in the garden, such as overheating, loss of moisture, and getting eaten. You’ve got them this far, so please make sure they are strong enough to transition to big school.
- If you don’t have access to egg cartons and would like to try something else, have a look at a seed raising kit which you can purchase from a nursery.