Yes, I know, lots of people are doing it. And yes, I'm late to the party, as usual. But hey, I couldn't NOT share this awesome garden tip, just in case someone out there needed a little persuasion to try it!
I give all the credit to my dear friend Jo over at Homestead Chronicles. You really need to go take a look at her website; Jo is a wealth of knowledge, and is always leading me in the right direction for all things gardening. When I asked for ideas on storing my kitchen waste before it goes out to the compost pile, Jo casually mentioned that she saves her eggshells separately, in order to make powder out of them. Say what? I had always just tossed my shells into the general compost--noticing that sometimes there'd be an intact piece of shell in the finished compost--but I had never thought to save the shells all on their own. Now I know that it's very simple and wonderful way to reuse those eggshells, and gives you a valuable resource for the garden.
What is egg shell powder good for? It's mainly used as calcium supplement in the garden. I've read that some people use it to supplement their pet's food (and some people even mix a little in their baking flour!). If you leave the eggs just crushed, and not pulverized, you can use the sharp little pieces as a slug deterrent around your plants.
Why do you need this concentrated source of calcium? I think every gardener has experienced that awful thing called blossom end rot. You walk out to your beloved tomato patch to check on the budding green fruits, and as you get closer, you see the telltale blemish on the bottoms, destined to grow larger and darker as the fruit ripens, ruining each tomato affected. You cringe, you panic, you plead with the tomatoes; 'Hold on, babies, I know you want calcium! Let me figure out how to get some for you!' Last summer a few of my peppers were affected, too. Though I didn't react quite as passionately with the peppers, I still frowned and promised I'd do what I could. ;)
What else does lack of calcium in your soil cause? I've had to battle blossom end rot almost every year I've gardened. But that's not the only symptom; stunted growth in general, for all your plants, can occur with a lack of calcium, as well as black heart in celery and internal tip burn in cabbages.
Note: Adding calcium to the soil is important, BUT, let me share something that I didn't realize for quite some time:
No matter how much calcium you add to the soil, the plants will not be able to utilize it unless they have consistent moisture in their soil. Now, I don't mean you have to water the garden every day, I mean you need to make sure your plants are not going from bone dry to soaking, over and over. To keep a consistently moist soil atmosphere, MULCH, MULCH, MULCH. Mulching is one of the best tips I ever learned in the garden, and helps keep the plants from stressing out. Stressed out plants tend to not be hungry for those nutrients you are adding!
All right, now. To get into the habit of keeping your shells and turning them into calcium rich powder follow along with Jo and I as we show you how we do it with little effort and NO stink!
1. Rinse used eggshells and let them drain a bit.
|Here is Jo giving some shells a nice bath to keep them from getting stinky.|
|I give my eggshells a rinse, scraping them out a bit with my fingers, then sit them upside down|
along the sink to drain while we eat. Omelet night gives me quite a few shells!
|Jo's eggshells, after being rinsed...|
|And mine. We both use an oven safe dish and keep them on the counter.|
Sometimes I tuck them under the sink.
3. Once you've filled up your dish (takes me a week or two), bake the eggshells for 10-15 minutes to further dry them out. The baking process ALSO kills any salmonella that may be lurking. Sometimes I just put my dish in the oven after I've been baking cookies or bread, after I've turned the oven off and it's cooling.
|Jo's oven is much cleaner than mine, so you get to see her eggshells baking, not mine. ;)|
|350 Degrees for 15 minutes will dry them out nicely!|
|I will sometimes place the dish over the vent burner while I'm baking something else.|
The heat comes through and really dries those babies out! :)
4. Stuff dried eggshells into a jar or container, crushing them down with a spoon.
|Each batch of baked/dried out shells can be compacted down a LOT in a mason jar.|
|Have a kid do it for you...they find it really fun to be TOLD to smash something up. :)|
|Once you've filled up the mason jar, you are ready to grind them up.|
|Eggshells pulverize into powder easily: Jo uses a spice grinder, I use a blender.|
You could use a food processor, too.
|Once these kids are finished, the eggshells are almost powder already!|
6. Keep the process going simultaneously...shells in a dish, shells baked and stuffed into a jar, and shells pulverized! You end up filling up a jar with magical calcium powder!
|My precious calcium powder!|
|Look how Jo stores it--in a reused Parmesan cheese container.|
Perfect for sprinkling; I love this idea!
|A few of the tomatoes and peppers, waiting transplant outside.|
They will love the eggshell powder boost!
Stay tuned for the transplanting of the tomatoes and peppers, and for an update on how they do with their eggshell calcium. If you haven't started making your own powder for this year, it's not too late! Just start making omelets often. :)