Eggs are pretty commonplace in just about everyone’s kitchen. You use them for baking, as binders in casseroles, and as a staple breakfast item. You can eat eggs fried, scrambled, as omelettes, boiled, poached… great, now I’m hungry.
So what do you do with all those eggshells? Some people just throw them into the compost pile – which is perfectly fine. Other people throw them away. If you throw your eggshells away, I urge you to stop! Especially if you grow your own veggies. You can use those eggshells in the garden and bypass the trash and the compost pile.
I love eggs! To me, nothing beats a breakfast of bacon, grits, and fried eggs… and a steaming hot cup of black coffee! Simple, but it makes me happy! Anyway, we tend to eat a LOT of eggs around here. (I cannot WAIT until we’re out of this apartment and into a house where we can keep chickens!) We also hate to waste anything that we can reuse… so we keep our eggshells. Why? To use in the (container) garden, of course!
What Good Are Eggshells in the Garden?
Eggshells provide a boost of calcium to the soil to be soaked up by your plants as well as helping level off your soil pH. They also help fend off blossom end rot in tomatoes and other nightshade fruits.
How to Use Eggshells
There are a number of ways to actually use eggshells in the garden, but they all start the same way – cracking eggs. Once you have the shells emptied, rinse them out. Although highly unlikely, you don’t want to risk contaminating the soil with salmonella. Ok, to be completely honest here, I’m not even sure you can contaminate your soil with salmonella… or for that matter, if it could affect your plants or what. But I like to live by the old saying – “Better safe than sorry!” So I rinse them – in hot water. I use my finger to scrub the insides gently. It doesn’t take much time, and it makes me feel better about the whole process. After I rinse the shells, I put them on the dish drying rack temporarily. This literally takes up no additional space, so nothing’s in the way, and it’s no trouble.
I like to dry them further in the oven, but I don’t want to waste power just on the eggshells. So I wait until I’ve used the oven (say, for example, to cook some delicious cornbread (which happens to use eggs, as well)), then when I turn it off, I pop the eggshells onto a sheet pan and put them in the oven as it cools. The residual heat helps sterilize and dry the eggshells completely. You could also put them into the oven as you’re preheating it to cook something. Any way it goes, you’re not using excess power to run the oven just for the purpose of drying and sterilizing eggshells.
Once the shells are completely dry, I’ll put them into a container to accumulate. Once I have about a dozen or so, it’s time to pulverize them! You can use a variety of tools to do this job – a coffee grinder, a mortar and pestle, or a mini chopper… or anything else you may have readily available. I personally use a mini chopper (because that’s what I have readily available). A dozen eggshells makes about 1/3 cup pulverized, depending on how fine you crush them. With my mini chopper, they don’t completely reduce to powder – it’s mostly just small shards of shell and a little powder.
Here’s where things change. You can use the eggshells any way you like. If you haven’t actually put the plants into the ground yet, you can add some to the hole before you plant them. This makes certain that as the shells break down, the plant continues to gobble up all the calcium it can. If you are putting the shells onto an existing plant, you can sprinkle them around the base of the plant, or you can do what I do – make eggshell tea. I put 2 Tbsp of crushed eggshells and 1 Tbsp Epsom salts into a gallon of hot water. I put the water jugs outside and let that steep for a few days. You don’t want to pour hot water directly into the soil as it may scorch and cook the roots, killing the plants. Watering your plants with water the same temperature as the outside air ensures you don’t shock your plants at all. It will actually allow the plant to more rapidly suck up the water and nutrients!
I can’t say how much eggshell to use, or how often – your situation may be much different than mine. I use my “eggshell tea” about once a month. The best thing to do is mix them into the soil before you actually put your plants into the ground. Supplementing your soil ahead of time will ensure your plants start off right.
Chances are you use and eat eggs all year round. Keep them, dry them, and pulverize them! Even in the winter. Store them in a plastic container (I reuse a plastic jelly jar). They will keep all winter, and when spring rolls around again, you’ve got a great supply of calcium giving goodness in a jar!
On a side note, I’ve also heard that eggshells in the garden helps to deter slugs, but that is only a myth as far as I can tell. I tried that one year, and the slugs kept coming anyway.