Afterlife for Eggshells

Gotta hand it to eggs. You can use EVERYTHING, including the shells, an extremely sharp-edged material that is almost pure calcium.

In the house:

* great for cleaning narrow-necked bottles and vases. Crush a shell, working it between your fingers so the bits aren’t stuck together. Stuff it into the bottle, add a small amount of very hot water and swish/shake vigorously until all looks clean. Pour out, catching the shell in a strainer in case you missed a spot and have to shove it back in.

In the garden:

* Dig one or two thoroughly crushed shells into the soil around tomato plants. The lack of calcium that causes blossom end rot is usually a result of inconsistent watering but a little extra insurance never hurts.

* Rinse and dry shells, then crush to roughly rice grain size bits and spread a carpet of them under hostas and similar plants to discourage slugs and snails. Many advisors say “sprinkle” the bits, but a sprinkling won’t have much effect in the deterrent department. This carpet is not beautiful. You can make it a little less sock-in-the eye by soaking the crushed shells in strong tea for several days to stain the white parts brown.

* Excellent in the compost. No need to crush if you don’t want to bother, but as with everything else, the smaller the piece the sooner it rots.

* substitute for peat pots. NOT. In An Island Garden (1894), Celia Thaxter charmingly describes starting poppies in halved eggshells. It sounds like a great idea: Biodegradable, easy to transport and free. In my experience, however, it’s difficult to get the shell halves reasonably even, even when you hard boil the eggs so you can slice them across. Then you’ve got to bore a drainage hole ( darning needle better than icepick). They don’t hold much soilless mix, so they won’t support plants for long. And then you’ve got to fracture them before planting so the tiny roots can get out. Applying just the right force to the squeeze is an art all by itself.

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