Gardening in Northern Maine : A Recycling Project

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I grew up in a suburb town to Houston, TX which is now incorporated into the city. I lived on a quiet cul-de-sac, in a cute brown house, on a street with 15 other kids within 2 years of my age. There were lots of birthday parties, tons of trick-or-treaters, and our fair share of spats amongst peers. I remember some events in such vivid detail, it might blow your mind. There is one thing I remember doing constantly that has truly helped mold me as a person.

My health-conscious neighbor, two doors down, in the green house… Mrs. D is what I called her. She was the mother of two kids on my street. I don’t recall what she did as a profession. I remember her husband had architect’s tables in their back room with her craft stuff. What he did? I assume he made money with those tables. Mrs. D and I would garden. I didn’t understand kids my age back then and I preferred to be around people older than myself. I got annoyed easily back then.

The lessons Mrs. D taught me in life at such a young, impressionable age will remain with me for all of my days. I hope to begin passing them along to my child this spring. She is young, but she is very tentative and grasps things quickly. She already knows how to weed thanks to my father’s girlfriend! That’s handy, right?

Of course Mrs. D taught me how to clear land, till it up, plan the garden, dig holes and begin planting, but what she taught me then that I didn’t understand until I was older is that you truly are, what you eat. If you put effort into the things you do, good things will happen. And if you put a shoddy effort (or garbage food!) into the things you do, you will get trash in return.

Monsanto “is a publicly traded American multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation headquartered in Creve Coeur, Missouri. It is a leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed and of the herbicide glyphosate, which it markets under the Roundup brand.” — Wikipedia.org. Monsanto, DuPont and Syngent control 53% of the world’s seed market. Their seeds will grow one generation of plants. Those plants’ seeds will not propagate for next years would-be crop. Do a bit of Google searching on those three giants. If you aren’t disgusted by the independent research that has been done, try looking at the image results.

Heirloom seeds, on the other hand, will propagate for many years to come. I suggest buying local mainly because what is available locally will probably do well in your climate (be sure to check!). If you are anything like my household, you recycle as much and as best as you can. We eat a ton of farm fresh, free-range, organic-fed chicken eggs around here and I have amassed egg cartons like nobody’s business. What I have within those cartons is even better!

I save my eggshells. Why? They’re great for your garden and eggshells contain calcium, phosphorus, sulfur and potassium, which help make plants healthy. I just place them back into the empty carton for easy storing.

I recently moved from sunny, hot Texas to sunny, cool Maine. It is quite a difference in climate, but gardening here, I feel will be much easier. Droughts up here are non-existent, where as in Texas, a drought was a given. The growing season is much shorter here, but we can start plants that take longer indoors and transplant them later when the snow is gone. Which brings us to our project!

16x20Seedling TraysSteps

Step 1 – Materials!
1 Bag of Soil – I suggest organic. (Anything your plant absorbs through growth, you will be ingesting.)
All Your Saved Egg Cartons
Scissors
Dowel Rods 1/8″
Paper Towels / Rag / Glove (A glove would be ideal!)
Heirloom Seeds
Eggshells
A Box
Water

Step 2 – Cartons!
Using your scissors, cut the tabs off the egg cartons and the lids. Depending on their material, it may be easier to just tear it with your hands. (Save the lids and the tabs for later!)

Step 3 – Dowel Rods!
I don’t have the luxury of a craft store near by, but I do have a wonderful place called Marden’s. If you don’t know what it is, be thankful. It is like crack. There have a little bit of everything. I went in looking for heirloom seeds and popsicle sticks, but dowel rods was all they had. I didn’t have the luxury of picking my size either, so here we are. Cutting a notch in the dowel rod with my scissors, I was able to easily break it into two equal halves.

Step 4 – New Dowel Rods!
I placed one new dowel rod in the egg carton for labeling our seedlings. You can label it now. I also include the date I planted them for future reference.

Step 5 – Dirt!
Take your dirt, I used the only organic dirt available to me that wasn’t Miracle Grow (something seems off about that…), GreenWorld Organic Seed Starter / Herb Starter. Fill your egg carton’s egg slots just above the divider lines.

Step 6 – Seeds!
Take the other half of your dowel rod and use it to poke holes in the dirt for your seeds. The back side of your seed packet will tell you how deep to plant the seed. It is different for each plant. Drop a seed or two into the holes and cover with dirt.

Step 7 – Water!
Water your seedlings and place them under a grow light. Maintain a normal day/night time cycle for these. Some of my egg cartons were plastic and their lids may be used to create a humid environment for your seedlings.

10x20SeedlingTraysTips

Okay, Britney, what about these eggshells?

16x20 EggshellsSteps

Step 1 – Gather!
Put all of your eggs into a box.

Step 2 – Glove Up!
Put a paper towel or rag over the eggs to protect your hand. A glove would be ideal, but I was in a hurry!

Step 3 – Smash!
Push down on the eggs shells. Repeat. Once the shells are small enough, you can grab them in your hands and crush them without pain or worry. The smaller you get them the better.

Eggshells are great for your garden in a number of ways.
1 You can start your seedlings right in the eggshell! Transplant the whole thing. The eggshell will biodegrade in the earth and become nutrient for the young plant.
2 Add them to your compost pile.
3 Grind them into a powder with a pestle and add them to the soil for nutrition.
4 Put them in the bottom of your potted plants to allow for drainage.
5 Deter slugs and other slimy ones from your garden. The sharp edges of the shells are not very appealing.
6 Create an egg head with grass hair! I did this when I was a kid and plan to do it with my little one this summer.

The tabs you cut off the egg cartons can also be cut up and added to your compost pile. As long as there is no ink on it.

There you have it! I hope you ‘upcycle’ your egg cartons in the same fashion this spring!

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BritneyLayne
BritneyLayne
Britney Patterson Photographer