I’ve never quite managed to keep a garden alive. I have all the best intentions, a potent bloodline of earth-working women to draw knowledge from, and a deep and abiding love for all things green – but most of my gardening experiments end in sad, wilted shoots that I pull up for the neighbourhood jackrabbits.
I don’t know why the green thumb gene skipped me. My mother has a gorgeous carpet of thyme in her garden that I jealously run my fingers through every chance I get, and buxom white peonies every June. My aunt is an absurdly talented florist. When I was young, my grandmother’s little house boasted a wilderness of flowers in the front, and a tangled, fairy-tale mass of pumpkin vines in the back. By all accounts, I should be an ancestral earth sage, Radagast-like, with herbs tucked behind my ear and dirt on my knees.
Alas. I just don’t have the knack. But I dearly hope to challenge that this year – I’ve meticulously sorted through seed packets of five-colour beets and heirloom kohlrabi to find creatures that might actually cooperate with me (torpedo onions and black cherry tomatoes). I’ve consulted the Farmer’s Almanac, the moon phases, the historical weather patterns, and several lovely women in my life who have beautiful gardens. Mark my words – I’ll be eating those onions come August.
I’m starting my seedlings in last week’s leftover eggshells. I love this no-waste alternative to plastic seedling trays, and once the seedling has outgrown its nursery, it’s easy to crack the egg a little and plant it right into the ground. The eggshell will decompose and provide a lovely source of calcium for your plant-babies.
What you’ll need:
Seed starter mix
Seeds of your choice**
* When cracking your eggs this week, make sure to break them near the top for maximum growing space.
** Read your seed packets! Some seeds are best started outdoors – you want varieties that should start indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost.
1. Rinse your eggshells well immediately after cracking.
2. Boil the eggshells to remove any residue. These little fellows will most likely foam up your water a bit – this means it’s working!
3. Let your shells dry completely. With an awl, scrape away any remaining membrane from the inside of the shell.
4. Swiftly poke a hole through the bottom of the shell with the awl for drainage. (Poking from the inside causes less cracking!)
5. Fill your shells with your starter mix. Distribute one or two seeds into each eggshell, making sure they’re well-spaced.
6. Push the seeds down gently about ¼ inch into the soil.
7. Keep your eggshells on the windowsill for maximum sun exposure, and remember to move them away every evening if it gets chilly. Keep your seedlings moist and warm.
** A note: my little seedlings were a bit wilty at one point, and after some consultation with a dear friend’s garden-savvy mother, it looks like the little guys weren’t getting enough sunlight. If you live far north like I do, make sure to move your seedlings to the sunniest window possible!
8. Once your sprouts reach 3 or 4 inches tall, it’s time to transplant to a larger container, or even outside! Crack the eggshell with a spoon so the roots can grow through it, and place it directly into the soil.