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It’s Pinterest Challenge time as influenced by very cute and crazy addicting Young House Love (and Bower Power a few others linked on their site). This is the “winter edition” even though around these parts we’re entering spring but I always appreciate a good challenge. Especially as I add more and more ideas to my Pinterest boards. For those of you not familiar, this “challenge” is a totally unsponsored thing where all you have to do to participate is act on one of the things on your Pinterest boards. Easy as pie. Ugh… I should have made pie…

I started pinning “DIY Small Greenhouse” ideas a few months ago before moving to more general “Gardening Inspiration” board. I realized that building a small greenhouse wasn’t really needed when I had a kitchen window letting sun in because really, my goal was to get seeds to sprout when it was still cold outside so when it warmed up they were seedlings already.

Simply take a cardboard egg carton (those Styrofoam or plastic ones definitely won’t work) and cut or tear it down the hinge part. Line the “lid” piece with foil so that NONE of the cardboard on the old lid touches the cardboard of the sectioned part otherwise you’ll end up with a soggy mess. Put a little dirt in each of the sections that the eggs used to be in and put one or two seeds in each. I also used a ball point pen or permanent market to write on the cardboard what I had planted in each section.

All you need to do it keep the soil wet and be patient! This carton had pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelons and peppers planted. The pumpkins came up within a week or two but it took much longer for the peppers to sprout so don’t give up on your seeds too quickly! These guys lived on my window sill five weeks because I planted them in early February and in the last week they were brought outside during the day and back in at night. Seedlings are like goldfish, you can’t just plop them into their new environment or they can go into shock and die. You’ve got to ease them into the cooler temperatures outside before they will be able to with stand the different temperatures, wind, bugs, etc.

After a week and a half of going out during the day and coming in at night, my little seedlings weren’t looking so awesome. They had plenty of water and sun, but they were now lacking something else: space.

After five weeks most of the seedlings (and especially the pumpkins on the left above which sprouted first) were growing roots and real leaves. At this point, they were ready for real soil because they were out growing the egg carton. But how cool is it that their roots made it through the cardboard!?

Their baby leaves had almost all died off and one of the watermelon plants (lower left) didn’t quite make it. There were still three pumpkin seedlings (of two types), two cucumbers, and one water melon. The far right above are a few pepper plants that still weren’t quite ready to go into the ground and were instead put into a large pot that still lives on the window sill.

Planting was super straight forward. The cardboard easily tore apart because it was so moist. Most websites will tell you that you can just plunk each seedling directly into the soil as is because the roots will grow through the cardboard. Obviously this is mostly true but in order to make things a little easier for the plants, I gently opened the bottom of each section before planting.

My plants are going to live in an area that had weed cloth and mulch so I just took a box cutter to open up the fabric and dig a little hole. After putting the little plant in, I back filled with a special soil from my local nursery mixed with chicken manure and a little vegetable fertilizer.

The cloth went back down around the seedling and then mulch on that. This should actually help these guys weather any colder temperatures– here in Northern California we’re past frosts– until they start growing more. Maybe even more importantly, the wood chips will prevent snails and slugs from munching on these because they don’t like to.. crawl?… on sharp things. Also, just so I knew where  what was growing, I labeled them all again.

These wood stakes are leftover from some project at some point so I just wrote on them with a pencil and tapped them into the ground. This will also help prevent these little guys from being stepped on if my husband or I are walking in this area.

The six seedlings join a dying gardenia and dead azaleas. Hopefully they will fare better here and with the week of rain we are FINALLY experiencing, I couldn’t have timed their planting better!

While I didn’t end up with a greenhouse, I’d definitely use the seed carton on a window sill method again. I’m also glad that my husband agreed to let me put the little plants in our front yard where I’ve unsuccessfully kept plants alive previously — mostly because I didn’t water them enough! With such an early planting this could mean that this year I actually have pumpkins for Halloween!

Has anyone else started planting outside yet or do you have indoor seedlings started?