8 Creative New Ways To Use Egg Cartons In Your Yard And Garden

Because you only need so many to start your seeds.

June 19, 2017
stack of egg cartons
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Given Americans' collective love of eggs, chances are you accumulate a lot of cartons. And while you may recycle them, or even upcycle them into handy, biodegradable seed starting containers, there are loads of even more creative ways to reuse these plastic or cardboard vessels. Here, we cover some of the best ways to use egg cartons in your yard, garden, and beyond. 

(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)

egg cartons in compost and mulch
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Mulch and Compost

Paper-pulp egg cartons are 100 percent biodegradable and can be squashed flat and used as mulch around plants in the garden. Try layering them with other types of organic mater to build up new gardening beds, or tear them up and toss into a compost pile or worm bin—especially if it’s getting a bit too wet or you have lots of moist, green stuff like fresh grass clippings and not much dry, brown stuff. (Here's what every gardener should know about mulching.)

wildflowers
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Seed Bombs

Wildflower seed bombs for urban beautification are often made of clay, but they can also be made from paper pulp. It’s fast, and there is no drying time involved, so you can deploy them right away. Cut out two egg cups, making the cut edges as straight and even as possible. Pack both full of slightly moist compost (or seed starting mix), and put three or four seeds on the surface. Then carefully tilt the two cups toward each other, and press them together, like closing a clam shell. Run a strip of masking tape (or any biodegradable tape) around the seam. Voila! Pull out your slingshot, and prepare to beautify! 

Related: 15 Native Wildflowers Every Gardener Should Plant

lettuce sprouting
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Outdoor Germination

Carrot and lettuce seeds germinate best if they are resting on the surface of moist soil. The same is true for many very tiny flower seeds. But keeping soil continuously moist in your garden can be a challenge. The flat, clear tops from plastic egg cartons solve that problem. Loosen and smooth the surface of the soil, sprinkle on the seeds, water well with a gentle spray, and then press the clear plastic lids down over the seeds, burying the sides to keep them in place. Once you see tiny sprouts, remove the lids. This works especially well in early spring when the soil is cool and a bit of extra heat is helpful. (Here's how you can grow nutritious lettuce greens all year long.)

coldframe
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Cold Frame Insulation

Cold frame boxes can seriously extend your growing season, but if a real temperature drop occurs, the single-pane glass may not be enough to protect your plants. If you’re facing an impending snap, help prevent frost bite by insulating the inside of your frame with clear plastic cartons. They’ll still let light in but will provide some extra warmth. Plus, they’re easy to remove once the mercury starts to rise again.

Related: This DIY Cold Frame Keeps Frost At Bay

self watering planter
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Self-Watering Planter

Any large container that holds water can be turned into a self-watering container—it just needs to be able to hold H20 without letting it drain away. And you need to be able to drill or cut a hole in one side a few inches above the bottom for overflow. After that, take a piece of absorbent cloth (old cotton T-shirts or worn-out kitchen towels are perfect) and some plastic or styrofoam egg cartons to make space between the water and the dirt in the container. Drill or cut a small hole in the side of the planter a couple inches up from the bottom. Then cut the lids off the cartons, and poke some holes in the bottom of each cup so that water doesn’t get caught there. Trim two perforated egg cartons as needed to make them fit snugly in the bottom of the container. The top of the egg containers should be above the hole you’ve drilled. Spread some cloth over the top of the cartons so that the fabric edges cascade over them and touch the bottom of the container. (The cloth keeps the soil above the water and acts as a wick to pull up what the plants need.) Fill the rest of the container with soil, and plant your plants. Pour water into the soil until it starts to overflow out the drainage hole on the side. You now have a self-watering container! Water every couple of days until you get a feel of how long your plants will go on a single watering. If the water starts seeping out the drain hole almost immediately, you can stretch out the number of days between watering, but don’t worry: You can’t really overwater it. (Here's exactly how to make quick and inexpensive self-watering pots.)

 

 

bird on branch
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Bird Feeders

Attracting birds to your yard is not only fun, but it helps cut down on insect problems, since our pests are their dinner. During the winter, birds appreciate high-energy food to supplement the seeds and berries they can find in the wild. Birdseed and other whole grains mixed with warmed peanut butter, melted lard, or melted bacon fat makes a suet the birds really love. And individual egg carton cup sections are perfect molds to serve it in. Cut cartons into individual cups, and thread a length of string or yarn through them. Once the suet hardens, hang the treats on trees or other supports outside. If you use paper-pulp cartons and natural string or yarn, you can toss the emptied cups in the compost. Plastic ones can be reused but will need to be recycled when they no longer work. And don’t use styrofoam for this project, as the birds may break them apart and eat some by mistake.

Related: 10 Backyard Birds You Should Attract To Your Garden 

egg carton holding garlic bulbs
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Bulb Storage

Those of us in colder climates have to dig up and bring in certain flower bulbs if we want to enjoy them the following year (gladiolus, dahlias, freesias, and tuberous begonias, for example). Once the bulbs have been cleaned, egg cartons are perfect for storing dug-up bulbs (especially the tiny ones) and for keeping varieties separate. Store your cartons in a cool, dry place—about 50 degrees is perfect—and write the names on the lid so you know which is which.

Related: 9 Things You Should Know Before You Plant Tulip Bulbs

egg carton wall molds
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Wall Molds

Poured-concrete wall blocks or poured-in-place raised-bed walls are long-lasting and reasonably easy to make. But concrete is ugly. Enter egg cartons, which can be used as molds to create funky surface texture and improve the look of your garden edifice. If you are casting walls in place, attach the bumpy sections to the inside of the outer form before pouring. Coating the surface of the carton with vegetable oil will keep it from sticking permanently to the concrete. Use scrap wood, also well-oiled, to create frames around the cartons if you want to leave bumps on the concrete. Be careful not to dislodge the cartons and frames during the pour. Make bumps or depressions all over the surface, creates stripes of them, or just put a few here and there for interest. You can also press cartons into the exposed top of a poured block before it hardens.

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