There’s an old garden legend that recommends planting a whole egg along with your tomatoes and other vegetables. How worthwhile is that?
By Larry Hodgson
Sometimes you think an old garden myth is so deeply buried that it has been long forgotten. Then, suddenly it’s back and all sorts of people are claiming it works. Well, such is the case with the idea of planting a whole egg in a planting hole as a nutrient supplement for your plants. I hadn’t heard this one in decades, and yet, all of a sudden, there seems to be a dozen websites, most repeating the same text word for word, that claim that a whole egg is just what your plant needs.
Here is the myth in an eggshell:
Before you plant tomatoes (the example we’ll use here, although it would also apply to other plants that like rich soil), dig an extra deep planting hole, drop a whole egg into the bottom and cover it with soil. Some sites say to leave it intact; others, to crack it open. You choose!
Then plant your tomato plant as usual and it will produce more and better fruit, plus be more resistant to disease. One variant says you need to place more than one egg per plant: up to 9 or so.
This seems very logical. After all, eggs contain nutrients of all sorts (phosphorus, calcium, potassium, sodium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, selenium, and zinc, among others) and when the yolk and white rot, they’ll release them so you plant will be able to take advantage of them. Plus, eggshells are very rich in calcium, as they are 98.4% calcium carbonate. It all sounds perfect! What could be wrong?
Well, there is the stink, for starts. The real reason you have to plant eggs so deeply is because they give off horrible odors when they rot. So, the deeper they are covered in soil, the less you will be bothered. But it’s not always enough.
At lot of animals love eggs. Even stinky, rotting ones. Dogs, rats, raccoons, skunks and various other creatures will often trash the garden looking for them. Another reason why you have to plant the eggs deeply.
Not That Many Minerals Make It to the Plant
Plants are best at retrieving minerals near the surface of the soil, where their fine root hairs are most abundant, not so much so at dragging them up from the depths. And one egg, especially, really doesn’t deliver much of a fertilizer punch: there’s about a pinch of minerals (and a small pinch, at that) in each one. If you already routinely add compost and an all-purpose organic fertilizer to your soil at planting, as most gardeners do, an egg really won’t make a huge difference.
That said, if your soil is poor and you aren’t putting much effort into improving it . . . well, a rotting egg, weak as it may be, is certainly better than nothing!
But they’re good at supplying calcium, right? Aren’t eggshells supposed to give a distinct boost of calcium to plants? Well, eggshells would do so if only they decomposed, but they don’t. Not to any discernable degree within the first year. The calcium carbonate that makes them up can take years to break down, even decades. Eggshells usually need to be ground up into fine particles to make a truly interesting calcium additive … and even then still take take years to break down. But whole eggs won’t be getting that treatment. The big pieces of eggshell they leave will probably last decades.
Also, do your plants even need more calcium? It’s one of the world’s most widely available minerals and is rarely lacking in garden soils. The only way to truly find out is to have a soil analysis test carried out. Otherwise, unless your soil is highly acid, you can just assume that it contains plenty of calcium, even more so if you’ve been adding compost and other fertilizers to it over the years.
But Eggshells Help Prevent Blossom-End Rot, Right?
Actually, blossom-end rot, a disease of tomatoes and peppers, won’t get much help (if any at all) from eggshells. This deficiency disease is mostly due to irregular watering. A fruit needs a supply of calcium as it forms. If the soil is too dry, the roots can’t absorb the calcium already present, and blossom-end rot results. You can read more on blossom end rot here: Preventing Blossom-End Rot on Tomatoes. But the best way to avoid it remains watering as needed.
A Waste of a Good Egg
Given the rising cost of food these days, it seems a waste to give a good egg to a plant that doesn’t really need it. If you want to experiment with planting an egg in your garden, might I suggest using a cracked one you dare not use or eggs that have passed their expiry date.
And unless you raise your own chickens, using an egg as fertilizer costs more than an equivalent amount of all-purpose fertilizer.
So, be prepared: garden influencers of all types will be promoting using whole eggs as fertilizer this summer. You might want to keep your nose plugged!
Top photo: Carmen Dorin & Sergeeva Leka, depositphotos