Thursday, May 5, 2011

Time To Get Crackin’!

I’m back.  Sorry to go AWOL for the previous blog post.  I got a little carried away with spring-cleaning and aggravated an old injury.  Sitting was just not possible.  As much as I love writing, it’s not easily done when lying prone.  I discovered that while attempting to post a “stand-by” blog meant for just such occasions.  First, I lost the file through some technical glitch – most likely user-error.  When I finally found the missing file, the data was irretrievably corrupted.  Sigh.  Time to rebuild that post...
Not today, though.  It’ll soon be time to plant our garden so I wanted to talk about using egg-shells for feeding plants in-home and in the yard.  I’ve found three fantastic uses for them.
Some people add egg shells to the compost however, I’ve read, proteins (which raw egg shells contain) should NOT be added to the compost as they create offensive odours and slow the decomposition process.  Still, egg-shells are an excellent and easily absorbed source of calcium for plants, so it would be a shame to waste this free, organic product.  I begin saving egg-shells a few weeks before planting time.
First, boil the raw shells in water to cook off any residual proteins.  (The shells of hard-boiled eggs don’t require re-boiling but should be cleaned of any remaining albumen.)  After boiling the raw shells for a couple/few minutes, strain the water into a jar and allow to cool.  Acid-loving houseplants in need of a little pH balancing  will benefit from waterings with this solution.
Next, spread the boiled shells on newsprint and allow to dry thoroughly.  Once dry, place a few shells at a time between two sheets of newprint and, using a rolling pin, gently crush the shells to a coarse crumble.  Store in a jar until needed.  Use this “first crush” as snail and cutworm deterent by creating small egg-shell berms around the base of susceptible garden plants (such as cabbages).  Soft-bodied pests will either avoid or be destroyed by the coarse and jagged shells.
But wait!  There’s more!  Egg shells are a rich source of calcium carbonate, commonly sold in garden centres as lime.  Plants like beans, broccoli, carrots and rhubarb thrive in more acid soils (pH of 6.0 or less) so, for these plants, make a “second crush”of shells by pulverizing some of crushed shells with a food processor or mortar and pestle.  When preparing to plant, sprinkle some of this powder in the prepared rows, cover with a dusting of soil, and plant as usual.  For perrenials like rhubarb, work a little of the powder into the surrounding soil by careful hand-tilling.
Throughout spring and early summer, I continue these boiling and crushing processes to ensure there’s enough crumble and powder for each successive planting.  Once the last planting is done, I add any remaining powder to the compost and quit until the next spring.  Through the fall and winter, if a houseplant looks in need, I’ll boil a few shells for the watering solution only – the shells themselves won’t store for long periods without smelling funky.
With spring-cleaning mostly behind us, yard-work is now pressing.  We’ve saved up a generous supply of toilet paper rolls, coffee grounds and egg-shells, and now it’s finally time to get our hands dirty.  None too soon, either.  I hear wild asparagus is sprouting!