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Simple DIY Gardening Project

Parenting Tips and Mishaps

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In addition to all the things I do on a day-to-day basis, a few years ago I began volunteering as a leader in my son’s Cub Scout Pack. This means that, among other things, every month I need to coordinate a meeting for about 25 scouts and assorted siblings and provide them with some kind of activity. For our next meeting I’ve been working on a simple DIY gardening product to welcome spring.

This simple DIY gardening project uses some pretty basic stuff and will easily transition to a pot or a garden later. All you need are the bottoms of a couple of egg cartons (be sure they’re cardboard, not styrofoam), some good soil, and your choice of seeds.

For this particular project, I cut the bottoms of the egg cartons into sections of four.

Tales from the Dad Side - egg cartons

(Don’t worry, I didn’t eat all those eggs myself. Also, I recently had my cholesterol checked and everything was at acceptable levels.)

This way, the Scouts can plant four different types of seeds if they want, and the container is stable so that it won’t easily tip over. I don’t want any parent angry with me because their children accidentally tipped a single or double container over on the way home and spilled dirt all over the inside of the car. I chose cardboard egg cartons specifically because the container is biodegradable and when the seeds are ready to be planted in something larger they can be put right into the dirt as is.

For the dirt I picked up a big ‘ol bag of potting soil. I did this for two reasons. First, it was the best price for soil that I found at the store. Second, I chose potting soil because I know that some of the scouts live in apartments or condos and don’t have yards in which to more permanently plant the seedlings once they’ve sprouted. By using potting soil, the kids can transfer the plants to pots just as easily as in the ground.

Tales from the Dad Side -- Seed Packs

For the seeds I selected lemon basil, cucumber, sugar snap peas, morning glories, and forget-me-nots. I picked the cucumbers and peas because I’ve had some success with them in my own yard. I picked the flowers because I know morning glories grow like crazy in my area and the forget-me-nots have a personal meaning. The basil I had from another project.

So, to put this all together it’s simple.

  1. Put some dirt in the cups.
  2. Put in a couple of seeds in each cup.
  3. Cover with a little more dirt.
  4. Keep moist until the seeds sprout.
  5. When you’re ready to put them in your garden or a pot, cut the sections apart and put them in their final spot. The containers will break down on their own as the roots push through.

As an added step for the scouts, I had them write their names somewhere on the container before they begin in case there’s any confusion once the meeting is over. We also put them into brown paper bags so parents didn’t have dirt spilling all over their cars on the way home.

Tales from the Dad Side - Finished Planter

The Scouts really enjoyed this (partly just for playing in the dirt). I hope the seeds germinate and this simple DIY gardening project bears fruit (or seeds).

Simple DIY Gardening Project to Advanced DIY Gardening Project

I’ve been saving egg containers for some time, so I’ve got a decent stack going on my workbench even though I cut up a bunch for the Scouts. I have been doing a least a little garden in my yard every spring/summer for the last few years.

I’ve tried a variety of things: cucumbers, zucchini, snow peas, carrots, watermelons, soy beans, radishes, cabbages…I’ve tried a little bit of a lot of things. I don’t claim to have a green thumb, but I enjoy the time out there, and I enjoy the fresh produce that I can then enjoy with my family (although the kids aren’t always super keen on eating their veggies).

My gardening tends to evolve a little every year as I learn new things and try new things. I’ve gone from some pots on the driveway and a little spot in the yard to a more purposeful setup. Here are some of the things I’ve done and/or picked up along the way.

  • A couple years ago I decided to start doing my own compost for the garden, to help the soil be more nutrient rich. This has the added benefit of using the scraps from my kitchen and some of the waste from the yard to make rich, healthy soil for growing. You can build a compost pile if you want, but I chose to use a compost barrel to keep things a little more contained and make it moveable if I decide to put it in a different part of the yard later. Just remember not to put meat or dairy in your compost because it’ll stink and attract wildlife like raccoons and skunks, neither of which your neighbors will be too happy about.
  • Planting a lot of a few things if better than planting a few plants of a lot of things. In the past I’ve tried to plant as many as a dozen varieties of fruits and vegetables in the garden, which is fine. The problem is, though, that even if everything you planted grows well, you only get a few things from each type of seed you planted. I think it’s better to limit yourself to just a handful of plants and then have the benefit of a lot of a few things. Sure, there’s a possibility you’ll get sick of zucchini, but you can always make zucchini bread.
  • Tales from the Dad Side - Raised Bed GardenLast year I decided I wanted a raised bed garden so that I didn’t have weeds and grass encroaching from the rest of the yard. I bought some lumber and built myself a simple box. I lined the bottom of the box with cardboard to keep weeds and things from coming up from the ground below the raised bed but didn’t think about just how much dirt it would take to fill up. Keep in mind that if you build a raised bed for your planting you have to fill it. It would have taken a metric shit-ton (that’s totally a scientific measurement) of dirt to fill the bed. I was lucky that there were a couple of big-ass piles of mulch that I had access to that I was able to move to fill the bottom couple inches of the new garden. I covered all that over with fresh dirt and manure, but if I didn’t have the mulch at my disposal I probably would have needed to order a truckload of dirt to fill it all in.
  • If you do build a raised bed garden and start with a bunch of dirt that you bought at the store like I did, that dirt may already have some seeds in it. The dirt that I bought must have already had morning glory seeds in it, because I did a ton of weeding the first few weeks. Also, as I found out, sometimes it takes a year for the soil to mature, so to speak. I didn’t have a ton of success with the garden last year and after talking to a neighbor who had a similar setup, he said that sometimes the soil has to be broken in before it has the right balance of nutrients.
  • If you’re interested in going from a simple DIY gardening project to an advanced DIY garden, there are plenty of resources to get you started. If you’d like to get your kids involved, you don’t have a lot of space, or you just want to make the most of the space you have, you might want to check out Square Foot Gardener with Kids, a book that will help you plan your garden and maximize the yield and make it fun for you and your kids.

Do you have a simple DIY gardening project that you’ve tried that you can share? Or, do you have a green thumb and can share some tips with the rest of us?

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