The use of eggshells for plants has long been seen as a natural, organic way to enrich the garden. But is there any truth in this old wives tale? This article will look at how eggshells can be used for the benefit of plants. As well as exploring the science behind the myth, we will also outline how best to use eggshells for plants in your garden.
Rich in calcium as well as other beneficial elements, old shells can be used for the benefit of your plants and soil.
Why Use Eggshells for Plants?
Eggshells are made up largely of calcium. This nutrient benefits your garden in a number of ways.
Calcium helps to enrich the soil, moderate acidity levels and provide nutrients vital for healthy plant growth. The shells are also rich in trace beneficial elements such as phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and sodium.
Shells can be particularly beneficial for plants such as tomatoes which are prone to blossom end rot. This issue is caused by a calcium deficiency. Rich in calcium, shells can be used to organically amend this deficiency. Shells can also be used to reduce tip burn in cabbages.
In many ways, using eggshells for plants has the same benefits as lime.
Be warned, you may need a lot of shells. Well ground up, you need around 150 shells to make one cup.
How to Prepare Eggshells
Eggs can carry salmonella. To be safe, rinse out the shells and dry them before using. Place on a sunny windowsill to dry. This should kill any salmonella present in the shell. However, if you want to be certain you can also sterilize the shells by placing them in the oven at 200 °F or 93 °C for about 30 minutes.
Take the time to properly clean and prepare the shells before you use them.
If you are grinding the shells, once they are dry, pulverize them with a pestle and mortar. The Tera Mortar and Pestle set is an ideal way to grind up herbs as well as shells. You can also use a coffee grinder to break the shells up. Store the prepared shells in an airtight container until you are ready to use.
Now that you have prepared your shells it is time to use them for the benefit of your plants.
Add Eggshells to Your Compost Pile
Adding shells to compost piles helps to boost calcium levels. As we have already discussed,calcium is an important nutrient for growing plants. It helps them to build cell walls, grow quickly and prevents blossom end rot.
There is no need to crush the shells before composting but it can help them to break down more quickly. You can also use a compost grinder. Remember to rinse out the shells before adding them to the compost heap. This gets rid of the smell and prevents animals from being attracted to your compost.
Kitchen waste can be used to enrich a compost heap.
Turn Used Shells into Plant Fertilizer
If you don;t want to go to the trouble of making your own fertilizer. Simply clean and grind the shells before working them into the soil. You can also mix the ground shells with compost and organic matter and place it at the bottom of the hole when planting.
Finally, you can use shells to make calcium water. Simply steep the shells in water for a few days before straining and pouring over your plants. This solution is completely safe to use on houseplants and is a quick, organic way to help perk up tired specimens.
Give Plants a Calcium Boost
Clean the shells and add them to soil to raise calcium levels. This can be particularly beneficial around peppers, squash, tomatoes and other specimens that are prone to developing blossom end rot. Large pieces of shell can take time to break down and raise calcium levels in the soil, so they may not have an immediate impact. To help speed up the process, crush the shells as finely as possible.
A Quick Way to Amend Your Soil Levels
If your soil is too acidic some plants may struggle to grow. A soil test kit can tell you the exact makeup of your soil and any amendments that are required. One quick way to lower acid levels in your soil is to work in amounts of crushed shell. This helps to aerate the soil, and reduce acid levels.
Shells as Seed Starters
Instead of pots or trays, you can start seeds off in eggshells. Keep deeper shell halves or quarters until you are ready to sow your seeds. Remember to sterilize the shells before use either by boiling or baking briefly in the oven. Then use a nail or pin to carefully make a hole in the bottom of the shell. This helps excess water to drain away.
Fill the shells with fresh potting soil and sow your seeds. Because the shells are biodegradable, when the seedlings are large enough and have been hardened off you can simply plant with the seedling still in the shell. As the plant grows the shell decomposes, like a biodegradable pot, adding calcium to the soil and allowing roots to spread.
You don’t have to just use eggshells for the benefit of your garden. They can also be mixed into bird food. Here the birds benefit from the calcium the shells contain. It can be particularly beneficial for female birds just before they start laying eggs. To use old shells in this way, first sterilize and finely crush the shells.Then mix them into a good quality bird seed.
Create an Organic Mulch
Another way to use eggshells for plants is to transform them into a cheap mulch. Oyster shells can be used in the sameway. Simply crush them up and spread them evenly over your soil. You may find that you need lots of shells if you are trying to cover a large space. You can also mix the shells with other organic mulch options such as bark.
Can I Use Eggshells for Pest Control?
An old wives tale, many gardeners spread crushed old shells around their plants to protect them from slugs, snails, cutworms and other pests. Like diatomaceous earth, when crawling over the jagged edges of the shells the pests suffer lots of small cuts. From these cuts they slowly dehydrate and die. To try this form of pest control, simply break up the shells and sprinkle them over the soil. Be warned, this is not a reliable form of pest control. Other organic methods such as beer traps and copper tape are more reliable.
Old shells can be used to benefit the garden in a number of different ways. It is also a great way to recycle and reduce your household waste.
Using eggshells in the garden, if done properly can benefit both your plants and soil. It is also a great way to reduce your household waste. Why not start recycling your eggshells today?
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.