You can start seeds in almost anything these days… peat pots, seed trays, toilet paper rolls, newspaper rolls, paper towels, perlite, vermiculite, or even that good old-fashioned thing called the ground.
But have you tried starting seeds in eggshells?
It almost seems like an urban myth, with rumors that it’s possible, but little proof of people who have actually done it successfully.
Well, I can say with absolute certainty that it works, it’s ridiculously easy, and yes, it’s even practical. It’s also a fun way to save money and repurpose kitchen scraps before they go in the compost heap.
What types of seeds to plant
Kids love this activity. It’s crafty yet constructive, and it won’t turn into another one of those artistic masterpieces you need to figure out what to do with.
If your kids are curious about gardening, starting seeds in eggshells is a good way to teach them how to plant and water seeds so they can nurture their very own garden.
Make it themed and get them excited about growing their food!
Here are a few ideas for garden themes you can try with your family:
- Pizza garden (tomato, bell pepper, onion, basil)
- Salsa garden (tomato, hot pepper, onion, cilantro)
- Burrito garden (black bean, tomato, onion, cilantro)
- Herbal tea garden (chamomile, lavender, echinacea, lemon balm, mint, stevia)
- Single-color garden (I’m a fan of purple, so I’d do purple basil, purple kale, purple bok choy, or a variety of purple flowers)
While you can’t feasibly start a whole season of vegetable seedlings in eggshells, it’s perfect if you just want to start a few plants indoors (especially herbs and flowers) and you have limited space in your house.
Small seeds work best. Don’t try to tuck a pumpkin seed in there—the seedling and its roots will outgrow the eggshell “pot” too quickly.
Each egg goes right back into the egg carton, which is just the right size to place on a sunny windowsill. By the time you’re ready to transplant the seedlings, everything goes back into the earth by way of planting, composting, or recycling.
How to start seeds in eggshells
Step 1: Gather your cracked eggshells.
Rinse the cracked eggshells before using them. It’s perfectly okay to use unevenly cracked shells, as long as you have at least half the shell intact.
Step 2: Fill each eggshell with seed starting mix.
Arrange your eggshells in a paper egg carton. Using a spoon or mini trowel, fill each eggshell pot with pre-moistened seed starting mix.
Place a couple of seeds in each “pot” according to your seed-sowing instructions.
Leave the egg carton in a sunny south-facing window in the warmest room in your house.
Step 3: Keep your seed starting mix moist.
Lightly mist the soil with a spray bottle every couple of days as needed.
Since there are no drainage holes, take care not to overwater. A fine mist is all that’s needed for seed germination and new growth.
Step 4: Thin your seedlings.
Once all your seedlings have emerged, snip the weakest or smallest ones to allow the largest seedling room to grow.
After your seedling develops its first set of true leaves (these are actually the second set of leaves to appear, after the cotyledons—learn more about seedling anatomy here), you can transplant the seedling into a larger container, or directly in your garden after a period of hardening them off.
To transplant, gently crush the shell with your fingers and remove a few shards around the bottom. You can plant the whole thing this way, and the eggshell will decompose in the soil, feeding extra nutrients to your seedling.
Tear apart the egg carton and toss it into your compost pile, or add it to your recycling bin.
Then… start your next batch of seeds with your next empty egg carton!
This post updated from an article that originally appeared on August 3, 2011.