Don’t Throw Out Your Eggshells
If you are growing productive, lush vegetable garden and trying to keep your expenses down, you want to be capturing as much fertility as you can from your household waste stream. After all, what sense does it make to throw away tons of free fertility only to go to the nursery in the spring and buy expensive garden amendments?
Not only that, the garden amendments that you buy will be of inferior quality compared to what you can save yourself. Among the strategies you could use are vermicomposting, collecting leaves in the fall, collecting eggshells and coffee grounds, and using your family’s urine. Generally, you don’t want to let any organic material leave your property, the only exceptions that I can think of are diseased plant material and feces from omnivores or carnivores.
Now for today, I wanted to highlight a particularly valuable item that gardeners should be saving from their waste stream: eggshells. They are simply fantastic garden fertilizer. Not only are they an organic source of a significant amount of calcium, but they also contain many other micronutrients that are often in short supply in garden soil, namely magnesium, boron, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, sulfur, silicon, and zinc.
There are a great many plants that require lots of calcium in the soil. It is an extremely important element to have an ample quantity if you’re growing peppers or tomatoes. The fruit these plants produce can develop a condition called blossom end rot. Blossom end rot develops when there is insufficient calcium in the soil, and it is a total bummer because these are long season crops, and it develops just as the fruits mature and are ready for harvest. It can completely devastate a crop.
The name ‘Blossom end rot’ describes the condition very well, because the fruits start to rot where the flowering blossom was before the fruit started to grow. The good news is that this problem can be completely avoided by simply throwing a handful of ground-up eggshells into the planting hole when you put these plants out in the spring.
Other plants that have high calcium requirements include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, melons, grapes, legumes, lettuce, and potatoes. If you have any fruit trees they will benefit from some extra calcium sprinkled inside the dripline of the tree.
There is one caveat though, and this is a general rule before you add anything to your garden soil: Get a soil test done to see what is already in your soil. It doesn’t make sense to add an element that your soil contains too much of already. I have already cultivated soil that had too much calcium, so this can definitely happen. I never added any calcium to that soil and I never had problems with blossom end rot.
To save your eggshells simply keep a bowl or old container in your kitchen that you can throw them into instead of throwing them in the garbage. Once the bowl is full, the eggshells will be mostly dry so you can get out the mortar and pestle and grind them up to a fine powder and you’ll have lots of room in your bowl to keep accumulating them.
Any eggshell powder that you don’t throw into planting holes can be sprinkled around the garden or around your fruit trees.