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Eggshells in the Garden: 5 Ways They’ll Help You Grow Food

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Do eggshells help in the garden? Absolutely! Using eggshells in the garden can boost your garden’s productivity — and it won’t cost a dime! They are a free byproduct of cooking in most households. Instead of tossing them in the trash, use eggshells to improve your garden soil and to deter pests.

Compost is another great way to boost your garden’s productivity. Check out this beginner’s guide to composting if you’re new to the idea!

brown eggshells in a teal bowl

Using eggshells in the garden

Each time you crack an egg open, instead of tossing the shell into the trash, drop it into an open container that you keep in the fridge. I’ve always saved my shells, but my friend Susan suggested keeping them in the fridge; it works beautifully. The cold air in the refrigerator helps to dry them out. As the shells fill the container, I simply push down on them to crush them and make more room. Once the container is at capacity, here’s how you can use those eggshells in the garden.

Even when the winter weather keeps you inside, you can collect egg shells for use in the springtime.

Do you need to pasteurize eggshells for use in the garden?

No. However, I know a lot of people do. If that floats your boat, it’s certainly not going to hurt. If you do decide to boil them before using eggshells in the garden, save the boiling water. It will have trace elements of calcium that’s good for watering tomato plants.

eggshells on a hexagonal plate, some halves, some crushed

Using egg shells to improve soil

Eggshells can add calcium to the soil. Calcium is especially appreciated by tomato plants. To get a calcium boost from the eggshells, you’ll want to run them through a blender until they’re very, very fine. Add a small scoop of finely ground eggshells directly to individual planting holes when you’re planting your garden.

You can also use them to make water-soluble calcium as detailed here.

Boost compost

Can eggshells go in compost? Absolutely! Adding eggshells to your compost will boost its mineral content. Eggshells that are crushed will break down relatively quickly, but don’t hesitate to use the compost in your garden if the shells are still intact. If you put egg shells in the compost nearly intact — in halves, say — they will retain their shape for a surprising amount of time.

Related: Your Guide to Using and Safely Storing Fresh Eggs

red wiggler worms over a worm bin

Create worm housing

I add “stacks” of eggshells to my worm composter pretty regularly and I’ve noticed that in time, these become chock full of worms. Now, I don’t speak worm, so I’m not entirely sure what they’re doing in there, but the shells must provide them with some sort of habitat they need.

Supplement chicken feed

This is kind of a roundabout way to use eggshells in the garden, but they’ll get there eventually. I feed crushed eggshells back to my hens instead of buying oyster shells to supplement. They add calcium to their diet and it has never caused my hens to peck at their eggs. It just makes sense.

And those eggshells will make their way to your garden in the form of chicken manure.

Seed starting pots

To make your own seed starting pots from eggshells, fill each half with good potting soil and set them in an egg carton. Plant seeds in these DIY ‘pots’ and care for them as you would any other seed. When the seedlings are big enough to go out in the garden, simply give the shell a little squeeze. This cracks the eggshell and allows the seedlings to send roots out through the eggshells and into the garden more easily.

Deter slugs and snails

Crush the shells into small bits, roughly 1/8″ in size. (This is an excellent job for kids.) Just give them a rolling pin or wooden spoon and let them go to town. Sprinkle these crushed shells around the base of your plants. The sharp eggshells are said to deter slugs, snails, and other soft-bodied bugs from nibbling on your garden.

Does this actually work? 

Well, I know people who swear by this method and others who say it doesn’t work. I’ve found the method to be a bit hit or miss, but if you’ve got eggshells a plenty and more slugs than you want to deal with, it’s worth giving it a shot.

left hand scattering eggshells in the garden soil in a planter

Eggshells in the garden to deter deer

Eggshells are said to deter deer. I can’t speak to this as I don’t have a deer problem (anymore). But placing eggshells around tempting plants is supposed to deter deer as they don’t like the smell. Using eggshells in the garden like this might protect your crop from being nibbled!

brown eggshells in a teal bowl

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

77 comments… add one
  • Jessica Mar 24, 2011, 1:04 am

    You can give yourself a GREAT facial w/ what’s left inside the egg shell. Just scoop what’s left of the egg white out and rub it all over your face. You should not eat, drink, speak or smile while this is drying (my sweet children make it their goal to make me laugh whilst I’m doing mine). I usually will let it stay on for about 30 minutes, then rinse off w/ lukewarm water. It’s a little thing but it makes me feel like a million $$.

    • Carol S Gibson May 19, 2017, 7:49 pm

      This was my mom’s favorite trick, too! I use it often.

  • Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi Jan 27, 2012, 10:45 am

    I’ve got these around my zucchini plants at the moment. It definitely does help!

  • Miranda K Jan 27, 2012, 10:56 am

    Does this work for indoor plants?
    We should rinse them first right?? I’d hope so.

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 27, 2012, 11:12 am

      It works primarily for crawling pests (think: slugs and cutworms) that you probably don’t have in your indoor plants! And wash them? I don’t.

    • MBH Jun 11, 2012, 7:53 pm

      I was concerned about the safety issue too, especially if storing the crushed shells for long amounts of time, so I bake them. No fuss, I don’t turn on the oven just for egg shells. Whatever temperature is called for in the recipe I’m making, and for however long it says to bake it is more than enough to kill any harmful bacteria on the egg shells.  I just toss them on a cookie sheet and slide it onto an unoccupied rack while other items cook; it doesn’t impact the flavor of the food at all. 
      A few times I forgot the egg shells for a few hours but they didn’t scorch or burn, they just made a cozy crackling sound as they cooled.
       

      • DEBRA BRANUM Apr 30, 2017, 6:01 pm

        I have been saving my eggshells for a long time. I put the empty shells on a paper plate then microwave them for a minute or so. Cool. Then I add them to my apothocary jar, smashing them down. I use as needed. They never smell. I also grind some in my coffee grinder and feed them to the birds. Then to clean my grinder I grind a fresh piece of soft bread in it to miraculously clean it. I cut my banana peels into inch pieces and throw them into a freezer bag, adding as I get them. When I need them, I thaw and add to my compost pile or use for my roses and other plants. I have another freezer bag for my ripe bananas that I also keep in the freezer until I make my banana bread.

    • LeAnn Feb 28, 2015, 9:42 am

      We don’t wash ours, either. It’s going out into the garden and the thin layers of egg white won’t hurt a thing. They dry quickly and don’t stink. You crush the shells down anyway so it just mixed in and adds some trace nutrients into the soil.

  • Joy A. Jan 27, 2012, 1:22 pm

    Mine go into my bird’s food for extra calcium and the garden

  • Tanya Wicht Jan 27, 2012, 3:14 pm

    If you carefully peel the skin off the inside of the raw eggshell, it can be used to draw out prickles that are too small to tweeze out. it creates a strong suction when applied, wet side down, on skin, then left to dry. if you try it on a bit of skin you will feel the pull.

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 16, 2013, 1:24 pm

      What a great tip!

    • Marty Rigwald May 5, 2014, 3:18 am

      A little off topic for eggshell uses — but another way to remove slivers is to use bacon.  Put a small piece of uncooked bacon over the sliver and cover with a bandage.  Overnight (or several hours) the sliver will be pulled out.  No pain, tweezing, or digging at the sliver to remove it.  I wore a lot of bacon as a child!

    • kerry taylor Apr 29, 2020, 7:10 pm

      So lovely you were able to regenerate your Grandma’s tree. I sprouted peaches by tossing the pits in my garden last Fall. I now have one tree about 2 inches tall. Hoping it thrives tbis season.

  • char Apr 4, 2013, 3:31 pm

    if you start seedlings for your garden, you can use the egg shell as a pot to put them in…when they get big enough, you can just give the shell a gentle crush when you plant them.

  • Sheri Apr 23, 2013, 2:49 am

    OOOOOOHH…….Be very careful putting eggshells in the garden. Although it may be a deterent for bugs, Skunks Love Them and will dig up your whole garden

    • Kris Bordessa Apr 23, 2013, 6:41 am

      We don’t have skunks here (YAY), but even when we were in prime skunk territory we never had problems with skunks getting into the garden. Curious to hear if others have found this to be a problem!

      • Trisha Feb 21, 2014, 11:03 am

        We have skunks but even though I save a lot of egg shells and put them in the garden, they never bother the garden at all. I suppose they would if we put whole eggs in the compost or didn’t dry them out first. We usually just store them in the egg carton and when we use it up, put the shells in a little bin to dry out. Then crush. No cooking necessary. Don’t worry, your garden is not going to get salmonella poisoning….nature has this stuff all taken care of. I also run some through the grinder and feed them to my red wiggler worms in my indoor compost bin. 

  • Jennifer Gaytan Jul 13, 2013, 7:24 pm

    I feed mine back to my chickens. Makes their egg shells less brittle. I noticed your comment on the side bar about cartons and asking for eggs in a basket. My customers get a discount on my eggs when they recycle the cartons back to me. I have never bought egg cartons to sell my eggs, all are just recycled ones people had from store bought eggs in the past.

    • Stuart Oct 18, 2015, 6:53 pm

      It may be illegal to recycle used store egg cartons in your state, especially if you resale the eggs. Check and be sure. If you sell eggs in used cartons and there is a health problem with the eggs, it can be a problem for you. If you have a health problem with your eggs and you used a name brand carton, that could come back and haunt you. Just be careful.

      • Kris Bordessa Nov 4, 2015, 11:14 am

        Good point. For sharing neighbor to neighbor, though, I’m not gonna tell! 😉

    • Ann Light Jul 24, 2020, 4:43 am

      I never buy eggs from someone I know is recycling egg cartons. You NEVER know how they were handled and how clean of a kitchen they were in before being brought back. It’s not worth the risk! Do these people always wash their hands before handling the cartons … I have seen some pretty bad kitchens : ( I love to reuse things but if it can’t be washed and it is absorbent material – nope.

      • April Aug 17, 2020, 7:15 am

        About used egg cartons;
        If you buy unwashed eggs they have a natural substance that keeps them safe until ready for use.
        You will want to soak them in vinegar water to kill any bacteria.
        The used carton is don’t going to be the issue as long as you keep this in mind.
        After eggs are washed the pores are open on the shells so technically you are more at risk when purchasing eggs from your local stores.

  • rachel Aug 29, 2013, 4:18 pm

    how long can you save the shells in the fridge?

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 29, 2013, 4:20 pm

      MONTHS. I leave them uncovered so the shells dry out, then I just keep pushing more into the container as I crack eggs.

      • deborah Jan 11, 2014, 7:35 am

        Make sure you rinse them out first before storing as they will begin to smell bad. Found this out.

      • [email protected] Talk Feb 22, 2014, 10:00 am

        I stored mine in a container and they ended up going bad.  So, I wash them and let them dry.  A day later I crush them a little and put them in a glass jar.  Don’t crush them into a high speed blender like a Blendtec.  They will ruin the plastic container!

  • Denise 'small 1enterprises' Sep 18, 2013, 4:03 pm

    I’ve always crushed them and boiled them, let them cool and used them on my indoor plants. The calcium and nitogen is great food for them too.

    • deborah Jan 11, 2014, 7:34 am

      There is NO NITROGEN in egg shells.

  • Marilyn Oct 19, 2013, 4:08 pm

    Definately boil them! Salmonella will survive in the garden and you’ll be harvesting sickness instead of healthy foods. Crush shells, boil 5 minutes, let cool and use the water to give an immediate calcium boost to citrus plants like tomatoes and lemon trees. They will reward you with better harvest and your family will not be exposed to salmonella sickness.

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 19, 2013, 4:49 pm

      I guess I shouldn’t tell you that we eat raw cookie dough, eh? 😉 (Eggs from my own healthy hens, though.)

      • elaine Mar 5, 2017, 10:08 am

        I’d love to know how you make mayonaisse, if not with raw eggs? We eat mayo regularly and none of us have ever come down with salmonella

    • Trisha Feb 21, 2014, 11:06 am

      I eat raw cookie dough from store bought eggs. Raw eggs aren’t bad for you. 😉  raw milk isn’t bad for you either. 

      • Marianne Feb 22, 2014, 3:20 am

        I agree! I wash the shells (from my own hens), air dry and then make egg shell calcium for me. The rest of the shells go back to the hens or the garden.

    • gif Feb 21, 2014, 9:04 pm

      1 in 30,000 eggs contain salmonella…

      • sandie blackford Dec 19, 2018, 7:33 am

        I use crushed egg shells in my soups and stews to get the extra calcium into my diet. I do bake them first before crushing them but I don’t get bent out of shape if I happen to forget.

    • Marianne Feb 22, 2014, 3:28 am

      Commercial eggs are sprayed with bleach water before they’re packed for shipping. If there was salmonella inside the egg, no one would be eating them, right? Storing unwashed eggshells at room temp isn’t something I’d want to do, but rinsing them well and letting them air dry makes boiling or baking an unnecessary step–for me, anyway.

      • Gardener Nov 17, 2016, 1:29 pm

        Salmonella can live inside eggs. Inside chickens too. I don’t keep my eggshells in the fridge, but I do rinse them and dry them out. They live under the sink, no problems with odor.

    • Ann Light Jul 24, 2020, 4:49 am

      Salmonella is actually really rare on egg shells but also hot composting will kill the pathogen. No need to heat the shells.

  • Michelle Oct 31, 2013, 8:44 am

    We have a terrible slug problem where I live and I heard they can be put around your plants for protection against them. So, I just started saving mine for future use in my spring garden. I wash the shells out, save them up and plan to bake them when I have enough saved up.

  • janice Oct 31, 2013, 9:12 am

    I always put eggshells in the hole when I plant tomatoes along with an aspirin and some epsom salt..a couple teaspoon worth. I have never washed the eggshells when I do this or when I put them in the composter. I don’t have a skunk or racoon problem and my tomatoes always bear well.

  • Laura Johnson Nov 29, 2013, 10:52 am

    Oh no! Something else for me to hoard…..at least it’s for the garden…..

  • Madeleine @ NZ Ecochick Dec 8, 2013, 9:53 am

    I keep mine in a container then put them in the oven to dry out then I crush them up and feed them back to my chooks instead of buying oyster grit. Maybe I should put them in the fridge so that I can crush them up instead of putting them int he oven? Might try that thanks Mx

  • Joe Jan 1, 2014, 1:01 pm

    Why refrigerate them? I save shells in an open container at room temperature – they never go bad, never smell, so I’m wondering why the fridge?

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 1, 2014, 1:57 pm

      I don’t think refrigerating is absolutely necessary, but it seems like it dries the shells out more quickly (and they don’t take up my minimal counter space).

    • nerdalert May 20, 2020, 4:13 am

      Joe
      I agree about leaving egg shells at room temperature. I have a bowl in my prep area that I toss the shells into and then the next day when they are dry I (luckily) have a stainless bowl that just happens to fit perfectly inside of my eggshell bowl so I crush them down to make room for the next ones. I have NEVER had any odor problems. I think because I let the inside of the shell dry out first. I save them up in large ziplock bags and then use them in the garden. I too am guilty of eating raw cookie dough from time to time. If you weren’t supposed to eat then why does it taste so good? lol

  • Jean Jan 24, 2014, 12:26 am

    I too collect my eggshells and banana peels  and then when I use the oven (which is often on during the winter). Then when the banana peels are crispy, separately grind into powder (with a thrift store coffee grinder) and place into marked plastic bags. Each can be used for my plants and worm farm.  Helpful article……

    • Wendy Feb 5, 2014, 6:53 am

      Banana peels? How do you store them until ready to dry out in oven?

      • [email protected] Talk Feb 22, 2014, 10:02 am

        Two ways. You can store them in the refridgerator on a plate.  They will dry out immediately.  Or your kitchen counter but that will take time.

        I use to store them in the freezer until I needed them but found the refrigerator option so much easier.

  • Leslie Call Feb 8, 2014, 12:17 pm

    There is also a cool craft I want to try with eggshells. You break the shells and glue them to a small piece of wood, paint with alcohol inks or transparent acrylic paint. After it dries add a coat of Tripe Thick and you have a nice piece of art.

  • Glenn Feb 21, 2014, 11:39 am

    I just throw mine on the compost pile.

    • Shirley Rose May 12, 2019, 4:22 am

      Me too! I periodically let my hens work over the compost and the crushed egg shells are a bonus treat. Saves me the work of turning over the compost.

  • Uragr8mom Mar 23, 2014, 9:51 am

    Do you think the cracked egg shells will detour the caterpillars that eat my tomato plants too? I just saw that they hibernate in the soil until the warm weather returns and the plants grow again. My sister heard from a friend that sprinkling cayenne pepper around your plants helps too. Not sure if it worked but I will tell you do not get it on the leaves of your plants, it burned my tomato plants leaves. I read somewhere once it’s helpful to plant unused match heads under your pepper plants for more sulfur nutrients. Back to the egg shells, I also read somewhere that you can grind them down into a body powder for yourself? I guess a homemade talc? I could not leave banana peels on my counter to dry, too many fruit flies!!

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 24, 2014, 8:19 am

      It can’t hurt to try it on those caterpillars!

      • Linda White Apr 16, 2020, 3:52 am

        I sprinkle diatemacious earth around the outside of my house and places that I want to deter insects.
        It is made from crushed coral so it is VERY important not to breathe it into your lungs when using it as it will never leave them. Wear a mask when using it. For insects, it tears up their bodies when they crawl over it. That’s my understanding. If anyone knows differently, let me know.

    • Melanie Feb 26, 2020, 4:53 am

      I use food grade DE to deter caterpillars, slugs etc. Works like a charm!

  • Chris Wisnoski Jul 22, 2014, 11:43 am

    i would recommend baking them to kill off any possible Salmonella or other bacteria, just a few minutes at 350 in a baking dish. Crush them first and more will fit in.

    Adding them to your soil early on will also help stave of BlossomEnd rot in tomatoes. 

  • diane Sep 2, 2014, 6:48 am

    I have been saving egg shells for awhile to grind into a powder for my dog.Before I put them in the oven I noticed teeny tiny bugs(some were brown some were white looking. the white ones moved) I don’t know if I should use them?

    • Kris Bordessa Sep 2, 2014, 7:21 am

      I couldn’t say! But the idea of grinding them for your dog is a good one!

  • NHWCenter Jan 3, 2015, 10:07 pm

    Love all the suggestions!!!
    There’s only a rare salmonella when the chickens are fed arsenic. The outbreak of salmonella came from commercial eggs. I get my eggs from a local farm and I make my own calcium solution when I don’t use them for my garden. I peel the inner film and let the shells dry out and crush the shells. When I have enough to fill my jar I add Bragg’s Vinegar and water and it breaks down the shells. Walla…homemade calcium of high quality. BTW you can make your Vitamin C by dehydrating the skins of lemons after you remove as much of the white pulp as possible. Then I put them in my vitamix and fill capsules. I keep them in my freezer to keep them fresh. Meyer Lemons are the best.

    • Catherine Upchurch Jun 23, 2020, 8:26 pm

      The small farm where I buy my eggs vaccinate the chooks for Salmonella, it’s not a problem.

  • Mulinah Jackson Mar 29, 2015, 8:25 am

    Hi. I have indoor plants and all year, especially through the winter, I’ve been dealing with tons of gnats and/or fruit flies. I’ve tried so many different things to try to rid the problem and nothing is working. Is there anything you can suggest to help me out!! Please please please I’m desperate!!

    • Kris Bordessa Apr 6, 2015, 7:48 am

      Are you sure theyʻre not whiteflies? You might try taking outside and hosing off if itʻs not too cold.

    • Di Kershaw Oct 16, 2015, 8:07 am

      Mulinah, For the fruit flies. A little jar with some apple cider vinegar and a piece of banana at the bottom, covered with a lid into which a few holes or some cling wrap with holes punched, will do the trick. The fruit flies enter the bottle through the holes, but are unable to get out and drown. I do this all the time and it works very well.

    • Linda White Apr 16, 2020, 3:56 am

      I put a tiny amount of red wine in a container. Fruit flies love it and drowned in it.

    • tene Apr 29, 2020, 3:56 pm

      Your plants are likely too wet. Allow them to dry out as much as the plant can take. Yellow sticky traps will take care of the adult critters and allowing the soil to dry will rid your pots of the lava. You can also just unpot the plant, remove as much soil as possible and repot your plant with dry soil. Then be careful not to keep the plant too wet.

    • nerdalert May 20, 2020, 4:31 am

      Set out a small bowl of vinegar ( I used apple cider in a little pinch bowl from the Dollar Store) in the immediate area and then gnats be gone! They love the stuff and then seem to be overcome by the fumes or the cider itself and fall in and drown. Refresh the vinegar as needed. Works like a charm!

  • John Apr 17, 2017, 8:52 am

    Ground egg shells can also be used in making fermented beverages to make the water harder which can make the resulting drink fizzier.

    • Kris Bordessa Apr 27, 2017, 5:35 pm

      I did not know this!

  • Jan Dec 23, 2017, 3:37 am

    Deer don’t like the smell

  • Glaiza1021 Apr 14, 2020, 11:04 pm

    I definitely will do these! Late last year, I asked my co-teacher what was her secret to healthy plants and graden at the back of my classroom, she told me she used egg shells. Now that I’ve actually read this, am gonna do this for sure. Thanks to the author 🙂

  • Trish B May 14, 2020, 9:01 pm

    I break them up and use them in the bottom of pots for my ivy, palms, and violets, it makes great for great drainage material and are much lighter than pebbles or small stones. I also put them around the wisteria, does it help? No idea but it makes me feel better that I’m not trashing them! My folks use to crush them and feed them to the chickens as well.

  • Sue Toomer May 15, 2020, 11:12 pm

    We bake or grill all our egg shells to make the brittle, just do it while you are cooking, use in plant pots to deter slugs etc, crumble so much easier!

  • Deborah Altergott May 21, 2020, 7:40 am

    I am healthy again so am going back to my raised garden beds but cautiously because the last time the squirrels ate all of it before I could. I live in NM so I don’t have an over watering problem. I am wondering if my 1/2 gallon bag of counter dried, crushed egg shells in the ground & around the plants will help at all keeping those pesky critters away from my crop. I cannot eat tomatoes due to their adding pain to my arthritis but have planted butternut squash & eggplant for now & am going to try planting some sprouting potatoes as well. I use ojas (indian clay narrow neck pots that hold water to lower ground levels, the water leaches out & the roots get the water, plant roots gravitate to them for the water ) planted in the ground to help with water conservation.

    • Linda Collishaw Jun 22, 2020, 6:44 pm

      Love your idea of using ojas, where do you get them?

  • Dana Jun 23, 2020, 6:07 pm

    For fruit flies….I just caught 12 in less than an hour. I use a clear glass with a about 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, a couple drops of dish soap and a splash of water from the tap to help get suds on top. The soap bubbles with their wings down and they drown. I use a clear glass because I like to monitor how many I catch to be sure it’s effective. It’s very rewarding haha!

    • Dana Jun 23, 2020, 6:08 pm

      Weigh * their wings down, is what I meant to type!

  • Iris Sep 11, 2020, 6:18 am

    Hi! Is good to use eggshells in your smmodie 1/2 of spoon is good to for the bone. Put the eggshells in the blender into is very fine and the rest in the class jar and then in the fridge

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