Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Eco-Friendly Gardening: Planting Seedlings In Eggshells

I'd read somewhere that you can actually grow seedlings in eggshells. Would it really work? I finally decided to simply get started and see what happens.

eggshells filled with dirt in an egg carton

Photo: Yvonne Maffei

I'd read somewhere that you can actually grow seedlings in eggshells. Could it work? Would I have to have special soil? What if I don't clean the eggs out well enough, will that affect the growth of the seeds? I finally decided to simply get started and see what happens.

Behind us now is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a day in which we as a world community are reminded of the need to protect, save and maintain all aspects of a healthy Earth. Unfortunately, the day comes and goes quickly and we somehow need to remind ourselves how important it is to keep on being green in our everyday lives.

In an effort to keep the energy and momentum of Earth Day day in full swing, I decided to go very green while balcony gardening this year. I didn’t want to invest in more clay or even plastic pots because I know I have some around here in storage and I don’t need any more. Besides, I’d read somewhere that you can actually grow seedlings in eggshells.

Could it work? Would it really work? Would I have to have special soil? What if I don’t clean the eggs out well enough, will that affect the growth of the seeds? I finally decided to simply get started and see what happens.

Getting Started

Because it’s still not quite the right time to plant warm weather crops outside in my Chicago living space, I knew I needed to grow warm weather plants like tomatoes indoors. I decided on sugar lump tomatoes and tomatillos, or green tomatoes.

Here’s what I did.

Every time I made eggs (which is a lot in my house), I rinsed out the eggshell with water and then placed them back in the refrigerator in the egg carton until I had a carton full of clean, empty eggshells.

Place the tomato seeds into the eggshells with tweezers to make sure you don’t lose the seed. I planted 1-2 seeds per eggshell to make sure once they grow, they will not be overcrowded. I used a permanent marker to label each of the shells so I can remember what type of seed is in each one. It really helps when transplanting.

Next, I watered the seeds gently, careful not to drown them, and covered them with more planting soil. The last thing I did was to keep the egg carton open (you can cut the lid off if you like) and placed an unused shower cap (I get packets of ten at my local dollar store) over the top of the eggshells.

I then placed the entire container in front of a sunny window in a relatively warm area of my home. During the day the seedlings get some sunlight and because they are covered, they are retaining heat and gaining necessary moisture.

small seedling in an egg shell

Photo: Yvonne Maffei

What I'm most excited about is seeing the first seedling sprout up into the air, leaning towards the direction of the sunlight.

Transplanting Seedlings

So what do you do when the plants are strong and ready to be transplanted to another, more permanent container or in the garden?

The eggshells can be taken directly to the container and crushed into the new soil, as it will be a great compost. Alternatively, if you have two seedlings that need to be separated, you can crush the eggshell to get to the soil and send the shells to the compost. No toxic materials used or disposed of and your ‘container’ is 100% recyclable.

After my eggshell containers were snugly placed in front of a sunny window and nurturing my seeds, I took another trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden, one of my favorite local spots to get inspiration and relaxation.

tomato plant at the chicago botanical gardens

Photo: Yvonne Maffei

I visited the herb garden to see how their tomatoes are planted and growing vibrantly already.

I hope mine will also grow to be that happy and healthy – and a continuous reminder that actually, every day is Earth Day.

Yvonne Maffei

Yvonne Maffei is a culinary educator and the founder and Editor of My Halal Kitchen, a halal food and cooking blog showcasing culinary tips and healthy halal recipes. She is also a regular contributor for Indiana Public Media's Muslim Voices project.

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  • http://www.youtube.com/user/sporque?feature=mhee Teflon Dave

    I’ve also used (cardboard) egg cartons for seed germination. You can cut the sections apart and plant the container right in the soil. The roots will penetrate the cardboard, and the cardboard will return to the earth.

  • Charm_star_22

    I love this idea!!!!! i am going to try it.

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