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Eggshell Pots for Starting Seeds

Jill enjoys cooking, abstract painting, stewardship & learning about gardening through the MD Native Plant Society.

Eggshell Pots

Eggshell pots and other pots that rot make start seeds and transplanting seedlings easy.

Eggshell pots and other pots that rot make start seeds and transplanting seedlings easy.

If you frequently start plants from seeds indoors, you probably already appreciate the advantages of seed starting in biodegradable pots like peat pots and pots made from old newspaper.

Lately, I've fallen in love with using eggshells as seed-starting pots.

They cause less mess than other biodegradable pots, they're a cool way to re-purpose old eggshells and I love the way they look. In fact, they're so cute, I sometimes give them as gifts!

And pots like eggshells that rot make the transplanting process easy: simply plant the seedlings, pots and all, in the ground when they're ready.

These eggshell pots hold cilantro seedlings.

These eggshell pots hold cilantro seedlings.

Eggshell Pots--Really?

I first saw pictures of eggshells used as seed pots on Pinterest. Although I liked the way they looked, as a gardener I wasn't all that impressed.

The shells were so shallow—less than an inch deep! That's not enough room for seedlings to establish a good root system. Although they looked clever and cool in the pictures, I had a feeling that those seedlings would soon expire once they were transplanted outdoors.

Then one morning when I "mis-cracked" a large egg, sheering off only the very top of it, I thought: "I could start a seed in that." The shell was over two inches deep, enough room for a seedling to set down a good mass of roots.

Select a large egg & break off just the very top.

eggshell-starter-pots-for-seedlings

If you have an old egg carton, use it to hold your eggshell seed-starting pots. Egg cartons are narrow enough to fit neatly on most windowsills, and if you use a carton made from cardboard, it will absorb any water you spill.

I usually wait until I've collected an entire egg carton of empty shells before I sow any seeds, but you could easily sow a seed or two at a time.

Clean out the eggshells.

eggshell-starter-pots-for-seedlings

After emptying an eggshell, rinse it thoroughly with water or water and vinegar, scraping away the membrane on the inside with your finger to make the shell more porous. Then throw the broken bits from the top into the shell into your egg pot. (Hey, they can't hurt!)

Sow your seeds according to package directions just as you would in any other seed-starting pot.

Fill the eggshells with moistened seed-starting mix.

eggshell-starter-pots-for-seedlings

You could use regular potting soil, but seed-starting mix (either store bought or your own mix) is light enough and airy enough that water can drain easily and new roots can easily spread.

During germination, it's important to keep the soil warm (not hot) and moist (not wet).

Plant at depth recommended on the seed package.

eggshell-starter-pots-for-seedlings
If starting seed you've saved, follow this general rule: planting depth = seed width.

If starting seed you've saved, follow this general rule: planting depth = seed width.

If you're sowing seed that you've saved yourself, you're probably familiar enough with the plant that you know the preferred planting depth of its seed. If not, the general rule is to sow seeds at a depth equivalent to their width.

If you're starting packaged seed, follow the directions on the label for planting directions.

Sow two to three seeds per pot. (If you tend to spill, no worries. You can always clip off extraneous seedlings later.)

The photo above is of cilantro seed, which only needs a light covering of soil, about a ¼ inch.

Place the eggshell pots in a sunny windowsill & keep moist.

eggshell-starter-pots-for-seedlings
I like to leave one eggshell empty so that I can use it as a makeshift watering can.

I like to leave one eggshell empty so that I can use it as a makeshift watering can.

Place your carton of eggshell pots in a sunny windowsill and keep the soil moist. When the seed sprouts, you'll probably have to water more than once per day.

As you can see in the picture above, I'll soon have to thin a few of these eggshell pots of cilantro, as I spilled too many seeds into some of the shells. So as not to disturb the roots, I'll clip off the extra seedlings at the soil line with a pair of nail clippers.

Harden off & transplant new plants in their shells.

Last spring, we started lavender, rosemary & various succulents from cuttings in peat pots and eggshells.

Last spring, we started lavender, rosemary & various succulents from cuttings in peat pots and eggshells.

Starting Seeds

Because they're in their own handy carrying case, hardening off seedlings in eggshell pots is easy: simply place the egg carton of seedlings in a shady spot a few hours per day for a week or two until they become acclimated and strong enough to survive outside.

Planting the seedlings is a snap, too. Just crack the bottom of the shell against something hard, like a rock, the sidewalk or the beams around your raised bed garden, and plant it, eggshell pot and all.

A study conducted by agronomist and soil specialist Charles C. Mitchell through Auburn University shows that hand-crushed eggshells (as opposed to finely ground shells) leach little calcium into the soil and have almost no impact on soil pH.

But even if eggshell pots don't provide much plant nutrition, in my personal experience, they do improve soil texture—and if your soil is part clay like ours is, that's a good benefit.

Basic Tips for Improving Germination

eggshell-starter-pots-for-seedlings

Growing Now

As you can tell from the photos, I'm currently growing cilantro from seed to overwinter outdoors. In our Zone 7 garden, cilantro is one of those culinary herbs, like parsley, that can be sown in summer and either harvested in the fall or late winter.

Because it's still hot here, I opted to start our cilantro indoors. (Sometimes seeds won't germinate when direct sown in hot weather.)

Once the seedlings are more mature, I'll plant them in our raised beds and, when temperatures drop, cover them with row covers.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Jill Spencer

Comments

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on July 08, 2021:

I've used the eggshell starters before and really liked them. Now that I live in an apartment, I have no space for gardening and really miss it. I've been tempted to buy the hydro systems I see online but they are really expensive. What do you think of them for indoor gardens?

Blessings,

Denise

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 07, 2021:

Thanks, Brenda and Peggy! My only issue with using the eggshells is that they're not very deep. I think duck eggs would work even better, especially if you're trying to start something with a taproot, like milkweed, to give away. I just don't have access to any duck eggs!

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on July 07, 2021:

Such an interesting idea.

I collect seeds each year but I've never thought of this one.

I usually use yogurt containers.

Your article is great. Love the pics too.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 07, 2021:

We always add our crushed eggshells to our compost pile. This is a clever idea to use eggshells as containers to start seedlings for the garden. Thanks!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 07, 2021:

Thanks . . . I think. lol

Laxmi Patil from Dist:- Satara, State:- Maharashtra, country:- India on May 24, 2021:

What an idea........

Val Karas from Canada on February 20, 2017:

What a great idea! Who would ever think...eggshells for planting pots.

Ashley Ferguson from Indiana/Chicagoland on February 15, 2016:

I've used eggshells as fertilizer for years on my plants, but I never thought to make them the seeding ground! Great hub, love your gardening tips. :)

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 02, 2014:

Thanks, Soumya!

Soumya Mukherjee from India on July 02, 2014:

Wonderful idea!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on June 17, 2014:

Hi Msmillar! Hope your daughter has fun starting seeds in eggs! (: Thanks for stopping by. --Jill

Joanna from Wilseyville on June 17, 2014:

This is so cool! My little girl loves to start seeds, I can't wait to show her this idea! Thank you Dirt Farmer

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on April 18, 2014:

Thanks, Dolores! Wouldn't they be cute to hand out at Easter or use at the table at place settings? Appreciate your comments. All the best, Jill

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on April 18, 2014:

This is such a wonderful idea! And a great way to recycle egg shells. I used to break them up and thrown them in the compost. Your pictures are gorgeous!

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on April 18, 2014:

What a great idea! I love this! Not only are you recycling the egg shells but it all looks so darn cute. Your pictures are awesome!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on November 04, 2013:

Nice to hear from you, ElleBee! I'm wondering if the sharp edges of the eggshells deter the worms from tomatoes. A good idea to try! Thanks for stopping by, Jill

ElleBee on November 02, 2013:

Very cool! the calcium benefit of the shells that you mentioned sounds like a big benefit as well. I remember that as a kid my mom always crushed up egg shells to put around her tomato plants, she said that the shell kept tomato worms away. I'm not sure if it had anything to with the calcium, but it certainly seemed to work, and I bet it would work even better if the seedlings were actually started in eggshells.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on November 02, 2013:

Hi Thelma! Thanks so much. It's a fun project! I wonder what you're growing. All the best, Jill

Thelma Alberts from Germany on November 02, 2013:

What a great idea! I´m planning to use those eggshells for my seeds this afternoon. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and awesome hub. Have a great sunday!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on October 21, 2013:

Hey Lee, don't blame me now if your cholesterol skyrockets, especially as you've let it slip that you've already been using eggshell pots. Uh-hu. Caught you! But seriously, thanks for the affirmation. It sounds so unlikely--eggshells?-- but they really are great seed starting pots. Great to hear from you! Take care, Jill

Lee Raynor from Citra Florida on October 20, 2013:

Hey Jill

I tried this out and it works really well. I used to like peat pellets for seedlings but the roots still get tangled and have to be ripped apart, the eggshells keep everything in one neat little bundle. Now if my cholesterol skyrockets I'll have to blame you for all the eggs I'm eating!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on October 19, 2013:

Hi sallybea. lol re your comment. If only I had an ostrich! Great to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by & commenting. (: --Jill

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on October 19, 2013:

What a great idea. Guess it would be even more so if you could find a few ostrich eggs for bigger plants!! Super project for the kids at home or school.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 29, 2013:

Hi Glimmer Twin Fan! Hope you guys have lots of fun growing seedlings in eggshells. We have a dozen marigolds coming up in eggshells now. It's so temperate here that I'm hoping they'll last outdoors into December. Thanks for commenting! All the best--Jill

Claudia Mitchell on September 29, 2013:

My daughter is going to love this one next spring. We eat a lot of eggs and dump the shells. Now I have a good reason to save them. Thanks Jill. Another lovely hub.

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on September 13, 2013:

Thanks Jill, appreciate that info greatly! Like you I want the herbs for some beauty products and for food recipes, love my herbs!

Kim Lam from California on September 12, 2013:

What an awesome idea!I hope this gets Hub of the Day. ;-)

Pinned and shared.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 12, 2013:

@MysticMoonlight--Hope you do try it out! It's lots of fun. Thanks for commenting & sharing the hub.

Hi ThompsonPen--Thanks so much for the shares & the kind words. --Take it easy! Jill

Nicola Thompson from Bellingham, WA on September 12, 2013:

I clicked on this initially because I thought it was a cute idea. It's truly a brilliant idea, actually. Thank you for such an informative hub!

I shared it on Facebook as well as on one of my facebook pages, voted up, interesting, awesome, and useful!

MysticMoonlight on September 12, 2013:

This is fantastic. I love this idea. Really, really great Hub here and awesome pictures! This is definitely something that is right up my alley and I now plan to try out, thanks so much! Voted and shared!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 12, 2013:

Hi Stephanie! It made my husband laugh, but I carried a carton of eggshell seedlings around as we traveled this past spring. The seedlings did just fine, but then I didn't have to contend with a frisky cat! All the best, Jill

Stephanie Henkel from USA on September 12, 2013:

I love the idea of starting plants in eggshells on my window sill...if I can keep my cats away! I may even try to use this idea when we travel in our RV. I's like to have some fresh basil for cooking! Voted up and pinned.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 12, 2013:

You could start any of those indoors and grow them in pots in the winter. When the days get short, put them in the sunniest window you have or use a grow light so they get about 6 hours of full light.

You could start parsley indoors, too, and grow it outside over the winter if you're in zone 7 or above. (You're in 9, right?) You'll have to give it protection from freezes and then uncover it when it snows so the row cover doesn't squash it--just like you would fall and winter vegetables.

Great to hear from you! I'm always happy when there's a new hub from you, too.

Thanks for all the votes & sharing!

Jill

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on September 12, 2013:

Hi Jill,

Love the eggshell idea! have used the carton but not the shell! You always come up with great ideas and loved your photos to show the seedlings growing merrily on their way. I was only looking for some herb seeds yesterday at a garden center. Glad to see that you started off some in this way as I will definitely do that now! Could I just ask you are most herbs okay to start now? I know it is not the right time of year but would the likes of mint, oregano, rosemary and basil grow inside as that is what I want to do in pots?

Thanks for a useful and well put together article as always! You hubs are something I look forward to, you are my guru of gardening!

Up, useful, awesome, interesting, shared and pinned!!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 11, 2013:

Oh no! I can just see your cats batting around egg seed pots, especially if they're "plant lovers." Until my old cat passed away this year, I couldn't keep a fern in the house. He would become entranced at the sight of one, all glassy eyed and swaying, and he wouldn't rest until he'd eaten it. Of course, I'd rather have Gus still with us than a fern any day. He was a character!

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on September 11, 2013:

On reflection, I'm not sure I can actually use this great idea. First, our kitchen has no "sunny windows" due to the way our house is oriented; second, we have 6 cats, and nothing is out of reach of a cat. The only sunny windowsill is in the living room, low, behind the sofa...definitely kitty territory. ......they would eat the seedlings at best, and upset the containers at worst. :-(

I don't think outdoors on the deck would work over winter--even though we don't get snow--we do get some pretty doggoned cold snaps, during which some of our outdoor potted plants must be brought into the garage...

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 11, 2013:

Oh, yes, I remember your writing about them using rooting hormone to start plants from cuttings.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on September 11, 2013:

That's how I learned, Jill. A new neighbor moved to town that was a retired Burpee executive. My dad learned organic gardening from him.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 11, 2013:

Hi Deb. I was disappointed to read that hand-crushed shells don't do much to enrich the soil, but I sure do like the way they lighten it. Did your dad inspire you to garden?

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on September 11, 2013:

My father used eggshells, as well as the wax-covered cardboard milk cartons. Definitely a great article, as the shells can go back to the soil, instead of being thrown in household trash for the trash men to pick up. I have been tossing my shells in the back yard for quite a while now. I think I can actually plant the soil next year.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 11, 2013:

Hi ButterflyWings--Exactly! Those little half shells just don't allow the seedlings enough root room. Large eggs w/just the very tops cracked off should work for you next time. All the best! --Jill

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 11, 2013:

Hi Lee! The eggs are like little seedling "bombs" and easier to handle, I think, than peat pots. I've heard of people starting seeds in those little Keurig plastic cups as a way to repurpose them, but ... they seem too small to me, and they don't rot. Thanks for commenting! Good to hear from you. --Jill

Hey DzyMsLizzy --Don't wait, girl! Start some herbs in eggs for your winter kitchen garden! Thanks for sharing the hub. (: Jill

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 11, 2013:

Hi Ms. Dora! We started sunflowers and nasturtium from seed in late winter this way. Lots of fun! And a good way to use all those shells! So good to hear from you. Take care now, Jill

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on September 10, 2013:

What a clever idea! I'm definitely sharing this both here and on Face Book! Voted up, interesting, awesome and useful.

I must start cracking my eggs UNevenly. LOL But, then again, fall and winter are on the way in, so I'd best bookmark this for next spring.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 10, 2013:

Hi Eddy. Didn't think of that! Growing seeds in eggs would be a fun project for kids, especially w/big seeds they could handle easily. Wonderful idea. Take care! --Jill

Lee Raynor from Citra Florida on September 10, 2013:

Hey Jill

Outstanding idea, I'll use this one for sure

Thanx for sharing

Lee

Joilene Rasmussen from Ovid on September 10, 2013:

I've tried this method, but cracked the shells too shallowly, and had poor success with the seedlings. This inspires me to try again. Thanks.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 10, 2013:

Who knew that there were other uses for the eggshell? This is amazing. Your pictures are convincing. Voted Up!

Eiddwen from Wales on September 10, 2013:

Brilliant Jill and another great idea for when the grandkids are here.

Eddy.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 09, 2013:

Hi Pablo! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Deborah--Wow, that really would be homegrown. You're so lucky. I'd LOVE to have chickens. Bet you have awesome soil in your garden.

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on September 09, 2013:

What a cool idea, especially as a gift! I have 3 backyard hens. Using their eggs truly would make it truly homegrown gift!

Pablo on September 09, 2013:

Interesing idea! Thanks!

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