Lessons from Grandma – How to Start Seeds without Plastic Pots

seedling-growing-in-an-eggshellI remember as a girl, looking forward to summertime each and every year. I grew up in Massachusetts, and we only gardened in the summer. The time that I spent with my grandma in the garden each summer is one of my fondest memories from my childhood.

My grandma taught me a lot of useful tips and tricks about how to start and maintain a garden. Grandma saved all of her kitchen scraps for the compost pile, and I loved playing in that pile, discovering all of the critters that lived there. But my favorite part of gardening was starting the tiny seeds in spring that we would plant in the ground together after the last frost had passed. Realizing how much I loved this part, my grandma showed me an easy and sustainable way to start seeds, using only things that we already had at home.

She taught me to crack all of the chicken eggs carefully when we cooked. We cracked them towards the top, so that the remaining shell could be saved intact to use later. We set all the best shells aside, so that we would have plenty to use in the spring.

When spring came around, we mixed up a batch of special soil mix with peat moss and fertilizer, and we divided it up among all of the eggshells that we had saved. We buried one seed in each shell, right near the top, and then we misted the soil mix to get it nice and moist. When they were done, we lined them up in egg crates for safe keeping. After a couple of weeks, when the seedlings had grown some leaves, grandma started moving the egg crates outside during the afternoons to harden the seedlings off.

When the last frost had passed and school had let out for the summer, grandma and I would finally get to move our little seedlings out to the garden. We dug small holes, just big enough to hold an egg shell. Then we set each seedling in a hole, egg shell and all.

There were no plastic pots to throw in the trash, so this was a completely sustainable way to start our seeds each year. The egg shells also serve as a source of calcium for the soil, and help to keep slugs away among other things.

I still use this method today in my garden. I use egg shells that I get from my local farm where they have free range chickens running around outside. I take my son to the farm with me each time I can. I love showing him the animals and the gardens. We start our seeds in eggshells, and I hope that he will value these memories as much as I value my special memories with my grandma.


Thanks to Amanda Harden for participating in the [Grow] Network Writing Contest. We have over $1,500 in prizes lined up for the current writing contest, with more to come. Here is a list of the current pot of prizes:

– A 21.5 quart pressure canner from All American, a $380 value
– A Survival Still emergency water purification still, a $279 value
– 1 year of free membership in the [Grow] Network Core Community, a $240 value
– A copy of The Summer of Survival Complete Collection from Life Changes Be Ready, a $127 value
– 2 copies of the complete Home Grown Food Summit, valued at $67 each
– 3 free 3 month memberships in the [Grow] Network Core Community, valued at $60 each
– The complete 2014 Grow Your Own Food Summit interview series, a $47 value
– 4 copies of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD video set, valued at $42 each
– A Bug Out Seed Kit from the Sustainable Seed Company, a $40 value
– 4 copies of the Alternatives To Dentists DVD video, valued at $32 each

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6 Comments
  • Dena

    What kind of fertilizer did you grandma use in the egg shell? Great story!! 🙂
    Thanks, Dena

  • Carole Barrett

    Thank you for sharing. Love the idea and the pleasant memory. I miss my grandmothers and my Mother. They had a wealth of knowledge and good old common sense.

  • Yes, learned that eggshell trick from my gramma too. Course, that too went out of ‘style’ as eggs became ‘unhealthy’ from the misinformation of our ‘experts’ on health proclaimed. Used to have eggs at least 6 days a week for breakfast…now mostly cereal. :-p

  • Gina

    Love the memories – I had heard about egg shell starter “pots” before – this story makes me want to do it! Saving the shells already any way (to grind up and add to the compost); now i will save the “good ones”; makes a lot of sense! Though I do not buy plastic pots, I use what I happen to have, and it has not worked really well. Thanks for sharing!

  • Diana Smith Hill

    Thanks! I was already using the egg crates but no eggshells. Did you poke holes in the eggshells to rid of excess water?

  • Chris

    I thought this egg shell idea sounded great, so I gave it a go (I did poke two small holes in the bottom of each one). Everything was going well, until I went out one morning and found the egg carton on it’s side, and only one shell left in it. And then noticed little piles of dirt, and fragments of egg shell everywhere. I was devastated, they had been in there a month, and I had already left it a little late getting them started.
    Luckily on closer inspection of the dirt piles I found seedlings that looked ok, and I was able to recover most of them and replant them.
    I’m pretty sure it was a brush-turkey, which can be a bit of a garden pest around here.

    I now make sure to protect my egg shell pots.

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