You see this just about everywhere on the Internet: a photo of seedlings sprouting in eggshells. Usually the text that accompanies the photos promises excellent results. Often it’s even recommended as a great school project. And it seems to make sense: you just punch a hole in the bottom of an eggshell (for drainage), then fill it will potting soil and add a few seeds. Water a bit and you’re off to the races! Then, at planting time outdoors, all you have to do is to crack the shell, drop the young plant into the ground and its roots will slip out through the cracks into the surrounding soil, allowing it to grow normally. It sounds like a great idea!
There’s just one problem: it doesn’t work.
First, hen’s eggs are too small for most seedlings. Tomatoes, peppers, marigolds: almost any seedling you can imagine is going to find itself growing in cramped quarters very quickly if you plant them in a hen’s egg, enough so that its development will be seriously impaired. Even an extra-large egg contains less than half the sowing mix of a typical 3-inch (7.5-cm) seed pot. If you want healthy plants, you’re soon going to have to remove the little babies from the eggshell leaving the rootball as intact as possible (have fun with that!) and this, at a stage when they are very young, fragile and difficult to handle, then repot them into a larger container so they can finish their development. Wouldn’t it make more sense to sow your seedlings, from the start, in an appropriately sized pot?
Also, I hope that your entire family loves soft-boiled eggs, since you’re going to have to eat plenty of them over the months before sowing season begins!
Of course, if you have access to larger eggs, this “eggshell technique” would work better. Turkey eggs are a bit small, but swan eggs are just about perfect. However, where to find them? And how to get them away from the angry mother swan?
Moreover, the idea that cracking the shell before transplanting so that the roots will slip right through is a bit simplistic, don’t you think? If the membrane that lines the shell is not thoroughly punctured in several places, the roots will still remain prisoner inside and then the plant will not be able to grow properly. So, logically, you have to remove the shell at planting time and especially the inner membrane … that’s tedious work, especially when a seedling’s rootball easily slips right out of a more classic seedling container fully intact, saving you a lot of effort.
Other Repurposed Containers
If you are looking for recycled containers in which to start your seedlings, there are plenty that are of more acceptable dimensions: yoghurt and margarine containers, milk cartons, toilet paper rolls, pots and cell packs recycled from previous gardening experiences, pots made from newspaper, etc.
But eggshells … nope. They’re not really such a great idea.
Article adapted from one published on March 19, 2016.
There are so many plastic food containers that can be used for seeds before they are thrown away, you never need to buy seedling trays again. Egg shells are amazingly strong abd can really cramp roots if the seeding is left in it when planted out, so I agree leave them for the instagramers!
Just about everything I grow gets sown directly. However, I use eggshells for a few seedlings just like I did when I was a kid. I use half shells from frying eggs, which are not as big as three quarter shells with the tops taken off. Not all of them are big enough of course, since eggs do not break right in half all the time. I use the biggest of what I get. Anyway, I do not even bother putting drainage holes in the bottom. I just water very lightly. The seedlings are not in there too long. Crunching the shells at planting is no problem either, since even plants grown in plastic six pack should be squished a bit if their roots are bound. Of course they are smaller than four inch pots, but I would not plant anything from four inch pots anyway. They are about as big as cell pack seedlings, which is what I would get if I were to purchase them.