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Does this feel familiar to you? You go out to the garden, ready to harvest your succulent vegetables. You head to your favorite tomato or cucumber plant for some lovely additions to your newly harvested greens, only to find that your vegetables are rotting. Why? You, my friend, may be seeing blossom end rot.
Blossom end rot can be a real discouragement in the garden, especially if you have diligently cared for your seedlings and plants. The goal of vegetable gardening, of course, is to get fruit, and it can be so exciting to see your plants producing. Equally as deflating is to see that fruit shriveling at the end, and eventually dying, never to make it to your family’s dinner table.
What is Blossom End Rot?
Blossom end rot is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s when the side of the fruit where the vibrant flower once existed turns yellow and begins to shrivel. Eventually that end turns brown or black, and by this time, the whole fruit is no longer usable. This can happen on some or all of the fruit on a plant. Thankfully, blossom end rot is not the result of a virus or disease, but can be classified more as a condition that can be corrected.
Why Does Blossom End Rot Happen?
For the most part, lack of calcium is held responsible for blossom end rot issues. Calcium is responsible for making tomatoes taste better, cucumbers crisper (especially when pickling), and it keeps fruit trees healthy. According to this article from Bonnie Plants, “When tomatoes, peppers, melons, and eggplant can’t get enough [calcium] from the soil, the tissues on the blossom end of the fruit break down.”
On another note, fluctuations in water supply can cause plants to get an uneven intake of those nutrients in the soil. Rain, humidity, and over-watering can cause fluctuation, therefore resulting in uneven intake on nutrients. This will affect where and how you choose to plant and water your garden.
Using Eggshells to Avoid Blossom End Rot
Eggshells, thought of as trash by most, can be a gardener’s best friend, especially when it comes to growing calcium-loving plants. If you have chickens on your homestead, then you have a sure-fire way to avoiding blossom end rot in your calcium-loving plants.
These findings by Kuvempu University tell us that the calcium in eggshells is 90% absorbable, and is “probably the best natural source of calcium” that we have available to us. This makes eggshells one the cheapest and best ways to heading off blossom end rot at the pass in your garden.
Preparing Your Eggshells
Getting ready to use your eggshells in the garden is very easy, but it takes a little bit of time to collect and process them for use. Make sure to process only dry eggshells–this will make storage and use much easier in the long run.
There are a couple of ways to dry your eggshells: the old fashioned counter method, or you can dry them in the oven. I use the old fashioned method for the most part, mostly because I’ve got a lot going on every day and don’t give my eggshells much thought beyond rinsing them. The oven drying method works great if you need to use your eggshell fertilizer right away.
This is definitely the easiest, least-resistance method you could use, and is great if you don’t mind eggshells on your counter for days on end.
All you need to do is rinse your eggshells out and allow them to dry on a paper towel, then transfer them to a large bowl on your counter. Process when your bowl is full.
If you would like to process a large amount at a time, you could crush the shells down when the bowl is full, then add more to the top. (Just know that the more you add to the food processor on processing day, the harder your machine will need to work, which could end in its demise. Be careful!)
This method is best to use when you are cracking a lot of eggs at the same time, and don’t want to store them on the counter.
With this method, rinse your eggshells, shake them off, and place them on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 200 degree oven for 30 minutes. Allow to cool, then process.
Processing and Storing
To process, add your eggshells to a food processor with the metal blade installed (I use this Cuisinart food processor). Fill your food processor with the eggshells. Lock the lid, turn the processor on, and process the shells into small pieces. The smaller the pieces are, the more available the calcium will be to your plants.
This is a dusty process, so you may want to open a window or leave the kitchen after you open the processor. Allow the dust to settle. Store these in a mason jar with your other garden fertilizers.
Using Your Eggshells in the Garden to Avoid Blossom End Rot
Use your eggshells at planting time to prevent blossom end rot by adding 1/2 Tbsp over the root ball of your calcium-loving plant before covering up with soil.
According to this article, crushed eggshells can be used in potting mixes for container gardens, when transplanting your seedlings up, and added to seedling mix (in small proportions) when starting tomato, pepper, and squash seeds.