My introduction to recycling came in my grandmother's garden. Granddad was a big-city veterinarian who, years ahead of this century's homesteading movement, decided to buy a farm and leave urban life behind, turning to the treatment of cows and horses rather than cats and dogs. Reluctant at first to leave her familiar environment, Grandma eventually adapted. In fact she thrived in the country, raising border collies and cultivating her own organic vegetables.
During a summer visit to the farm as a curious five-year-old, I loved to follow Grandma as she tended her garden. When I asked why she was sprinkling "smushed" eggshell around the base of her tomatoes, she explained that it helped the plants to grow. Wow! I was amazed by the notion that food - in this case, the fledgling tomatoes - also needed to be fed.
A lot of summers have passed since that July day and the benefit of using eggshells as garden fertilizer is now widely known. In fact, gardeners and green homemakers have discovered many more ways to repurpose this humble item. Here are a few that would make Grandma smile.
Whether mixed with your compost pile or deposited directly into the planting hole, crushed eggshells will nourish your fast-growing vegetables with calcium. Addition of this mineral helps prevent blossom-end rot in tomato plants and brown spots in both tomatoes and peppers.
As a would-be farmer limited by the fact that I live in a fair-sized city, I riff on Grandma's time-tested idea with my houseplants, mixing coarsely broken eggshell into the potting soil. These larger bits break down more slowly and provide drainage as well as nutrients.
To give garden plants a head start while the weather is still wintry outdoors, sow seeds in eggshell halves with a little earth. The seedlings that sprout may be transplanted directly into your garden, "container" and all.
Chunks of eggshell spread in the garden are also an effective slug and cat repellent ... due not to any chemical properties but rather to their sharp edges! (Obviously the pieces will need to be replaced as they wear down.)
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