By Jackie Rhoades
Kids love to play in the dirt and starting seeds in eggshells is a great way to let them do what they like and learn a little about gardening while they’re at it. It can be fun for grown-ups, too, and you’ll be amazed at how many lessons can be taught without groans or eye-rolling from your kids.
Plants in Eggshells
Starting seeds in eggshells begins with re-using both eggshells and egg cartons, and reuse is one of the three ‘Rs’ of conservation: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. See how easy this is! You’ll reduce landfill waste by not using disposable plastic seedling starters and you’ll be recycling those cartons, too.
Eggshell seed pots are economical. For a few weeks before you begin your project, start cracking your eggs a little more carefully so that one half to two thirds of each shell remains intact. Already you have a math lesson in basic fractions and when you point out how much money you save – growing your own plants, not purchasing fancy supplies, etc., you’ve got a little lesson in economics. Supply and demand can be another mini-lesson when Junior wants 82 eggshell seedlings of arugula just because he likes the sound of the word!
Wash those eggshell seed pots out with warm, soapy water. Use an ice pick or heavy sewing needle to punch a drainage hole in the bottom and let your kids have at them with non-toxic markers. Who wants to grow plants in plain white or brown containers? Be creative. Draw faces of people who’ll share in the bounty, pictures of the plants the eggshells will hold, or how about the things a plant needs to grow? I smell a science lesson coming on. Plants are beautiful and deserve to be planted in something beautiful, too.
For older children, learning how to grow seedlings in an eggshell should involve reading the directions on the seed packet. Help them with unfamiliar words, but don’t read the directions for them. Allowing them to do this on their own is another teachable moment and a real confidence builder when they see the results a few weeks later.
Teaching Kids How to Grow Seedlings in an Eggshell
Everyone should know that eggs are rounded and will roll over unless it has something to hold it up. For toddlers, you can demonstrate. Remove the lid from the carton and place it beneath the egg-shaped portion to add strength and then set your eggshell seed pots inside.
Fill the shells with sterile potting mix and you’re ready to begin learning how to grow seedlings in an eggshell. Now figure out what kinds of seed will you plant.
- Almost all garden vegetables are suitable as starter plants in eggshells, and beans, squash and cucumber can be transplanted into the garden about a week after they sprout. Smaller seeds are probably more suitable.
- Herbs are fun and easy to grow. Try basil, parsley, and dill. Extra plants make excellent gifts for neighbors and family, and teach a little something about sharing and the pleasure of gift giving. Think about how much Grandma would appreciate her portrait adorning some eggshell seedlings.
- How about flowers? Did you know that marigolds are edible? Their flower petals make a flavorful addition to salads and may encourage those who wrinkle their noses to try a taste.
After the seeds are planted, and if you haven’t covered it previously, it’s time for a discussion about what plants need to grow. You’ve given your eggshell seedlings good soil. What about sunlight and water? For starting seeds in eggshells, a spray bottle is best to thoroughly dampen the soil without drowning the seeds. Now place your tray of eggshells in a sunny window, spray them daily, then watch and wait for them to grow.
Planting Your Eggshell Seed Pots
Once your eggshell seedlings have one or two sets of true leaves, they’re ready to transplant to larger pots or out into the garden. Transplant shells and all! Once the plants are settled in place, you can crack the shells around them to give the roots more room to grow or, if little fingers can’t manage that safely, leave them whole and let nature do the job. The eggshells will add calcium and other essential nutrients to the soil.
Learning how to grow seedlings in an eggshell is a great way to develop an interest in gardening for all ages of children with many lessons to be learned along the way, but maybe the best lesson for young and old is how much pleasure can be had in doing things together.
Oh! There’s one last lesson here that all children (and adults) should learn – Don’t forget to clean up your mess! Happy planting and good luck.