Start Seeds In Eggshells Now For An Easter Gift That Keeps On Giving
There is no denying the fact that we all love Easter candy. Peeps, chocolate bunnies, crème-filled eggs–the list is endless, and so are the tummy and tooth aches that accompany the baskets crammed with candy. Try something different this year, and fill Easter baskets with something that will provide long-term satisfaction. If you start seeds in eggshells now, you will have herb or flower seedlings to share in time for Easter. Nestle them in baskets, sprinkle them in arrangements with other plants, or personalize tags and use them as place cards at your holiday dinner table. Just in time for Easter, you can create an eggshell garden and gift your loved ones with flower and herb seedlings that will grow and give enjoyment in the upcoming season.
Why Use Eggshells
There are many benefits to starting seeds in eggshells. For starters, you can transplant the seedling in the shell into a pot or your garden and the shell will eventually decompose. This is a good way to use something you would have just tossed in the trash or, hopefully, in the compost pile. Eggshells are almost entirely calcium carbonate, an essential nutrient for healthy plants. As the shells break down, they enrich the soil with calcium and nitrogen, which will be absorbed by the roots of the plant as it grows.
What You'll Need
You only need a few items for this project. As you use up the eggs you have on hand, gently rinse the shells out and save them, along with the egg carton (cut off the lid portion). Don't worry if you didn't crack the eggshells perfectly: just select the pieces you think will act as a good holder for the seed and soil.
You will also need seeds and seed starting mix, which can be purchased at your local nursery or garden shop. Since space is tight in your eggshell pots, choose seeds of smaller flowers and herbs. Zinnias, basil, thyme, and oregano are good options to start with.
How to Start Your Eggshell Garden
Start with your empty egg carton (reminder to remove the lid), and place an empty shell in each slot. Next, fill each shell with the seed starting mix, leaving just a fraction of space between the soil and the edge. Using your finger (or the handle of a spoon), create a small hole in the soil, and drop two seeds into each, gently covering them with a sprinkling of dirt.
How to Care for Your Eggshell Garden
The best spot for your eggshell garden is on a windowsill where there is plenty of warmth and sunlight. It's important to keep the soil moist without overwatering your seedlings. To prevent overwatering, use a spray bottle to gently mist each eggshell. Remember that the shells do not have drainage holes, so just a few sprays every two or three days is more than sufficient.
After a few weeks, you should start to see the seedlings sprout (depending on what you decided to plant, some seeds will sprout sooner than others). Since you planted two seeds in each eggshell, you can snip the smaller of each pair with scissors if you'd like.
How to Transplant Seedlings
When the seedlings have reached a couple of inches in height and/or have developed a second pair of leaves, it's time for them to be transplanted to a larger space where they have room to grow. (Note: Do not allow the seedlings to get so tall that they begin to droop. If this happens, transplant immediately.) Before the seedlings have even reached this stage, however, you should have a plan. Will you transplant them into pots or into your garden? If you decide to move them to a garden, you will need to carry out an extra step called hardening off your plants. This practice involves leaving your eggshell garden outside for longer periods of time to gradually expose the tender plants to the wind, sun, and rain, toughening them up by thickening the cuticle on the leaves so they'll lose less water when exposed to the elements.
When it is time to transplant, fill an appropriately sized pot or your garden bed with the same soil used for the eggshells. Take the eggshell (with the seedling still inside) and gently squeeze the outside of the egg. You want to create some cracks in the shell so the roots of the plant can grow out of the shell, otherwise the plant will become root-bound. Place the eggshell inside the new pot or garden, making sure the top of the shell is completely buried. The eggshell will naturally (albeit slowly) decompose in the soil, giving your plants extra nutrients.