A very common question that people ask in regard to composting is if it is ok or possible to compost egg shells in the home composter? I can understand why some may ask this because, after all, eggs are a dairy product, and we aren’t supposed to put dairy products in the compost bin. So, what gives? Can you or can you not compost eggshells?
Yes, you can use eggshells
in your compost pile!
The reason you don’t want to add whole raw eggs to the pile is that they are perishable items much like meat, fats and dairy like cheese or milk and don’t break down the same way as items such as grass clippings or leaves will.
All these items will eventually break down, but they generally rot and create foul smells that both deter people from the area and promote animals like rats and mice to come in for a free meal.
Unless you keep a large and very active compost pile, I would recommend
that you do not add raw eggs to the compost.
Unknown to many, eggshells could end up being the magic ingredient needed to raise a bumper harvest in the garden. Whether you are growing food for your hone or ornamental plants in the yard, composting egg shells is a sure-fire way to nourish the soil for optimal growth and productivity.
However, getting everything you can out of the egg shells and as quickly as possible, can be the tricky part.
what is it about eggshells that make them so darn good for composting?
Well, Eggshells have plenty of calcium that can make your compost even more powerful. Plants need calcium to grow fast. The mineral is necessary for cell formation, and in some plant species, it helps to prevent blossom end rot.
In addition to calcium, egg shells contain many other minerals that are beneficial to plants. These include carbon and a low percentage of phosphorous and nitrogen. The eggshells also contain small amounts of copper, sodium, potassium, zinc, iron, and manganese.
Nitrogen is an essential part of the living cells, and it helps with rapid plant growth. It increases the metabolism involved in the synthesis of food in the leaves. Nitrogen improves the quality of the leaves and facilitates the transfer of energy.
This mineral is needed in larger amounts than all others except for calcium and nitrogen. Potassium helps in the building of proteins and photosynthesis. Potassium also assists in fruit formation and prevention of diseases.
Zinc is a constituent of many plant enzymes and proteins. It helps in many processes such as hormone production and elongation of internodes. Zinc deficiency causes stunted growth, distorted leaves, interveinal chlorosis and brown spots on leaves.
It is an essential component of chlorophyll. Magnesium activates all the vital enzymes needed for growth and photosynthesis. Magnesium deficiency leads to low crop yield. Because the mineral is very mobile within the plant, the symptoms will first appear on the lower and older leaves. You will notice pale leaves with purple or reddish spots. Phosphorous
Phosphorous helps in the conversion of nutrients and is a building block that facilitates growth in plants. Many commercial fertilizers contain phosphorous as a constituent. Phosphorous deficiency can cause low or zero flower production, a weak root system, and a bright green cast. If you are gardening plants for their flowers and fruits, replenishing phosphorous is very necessary.
Instead of using commercial fertilizers, you can quickly improve your soil’s phosphorous content through eggshell manure. Adding eggshell compost to the garden help the plants better absorb the phosphorus amounts in the land.
Copper is a micronutrient needed in small quantities by plants. Copper plays a role in the activation of enzymes required in lignin synthesis. The mineral also comes in handy during photosynthesis. It helps in plant respiration and the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates.
Copper deficiency causes leaf chlorosis, improper formation of leaves and wilting. Lack of copper can also inhibit the growth of lateral branches. Another telltale sign of copper deficiency is a shorter stem length between the leaves.
Manganese is an essential nutrient needed for plant growth. Many plant processes depend on manganese, including photosynthesis, chloroplast formation, nitrogen metabolism and the formation of some enzymes.
Unlike magnesium, manganese is not a component of chlorophyll. However, its deficiency symptoms are very similar to those of magnesium. These include yellowing of leaves and interveinal chlorosis. The symptoms appear first on new leaves.
Eggshells in soil aeration
Beyond supplying your plants with all the mentioned nutrients, egg shells also enhance aeration of the soil. Due to animal and human traffic the soil might become compacted and lose its ability to hold oxygen. That impairs the growth of the plant’s vascular system, and in turn, the roots will be unable to absorb water. If you compost eggshells without crashing, the big pieces will prevent compacting and make it easy for the exchange of oxygen and water between the soil spaces.
Preparing eggshells for composting
So now that you know egg shells can play an essential role in your compost, how best should you include them, crashed or whole? Either can work, but generally like all things going into the compost pile, the smaller the pieces are will greatly help speed the process in which they break down.
Wash eggs shells
It is advisable to wash your eggshells before composting them to keep pests at bay. Many chickens live with the Salmonella bacteria that are often transferred to the egg. Without cleaning the egg shells, these bacteria will be transferred to the soil where it can negatively impact plants health.
Dry eggshells before crushing
By the time the compost is ready, you may find that the eggshells didn’t break down and are still visible. That is no cause to worry; however, if you want to reduce this unsightliness, you can first dry your eggshells before crashing and compositing them. Drying the eggs shells allows them to decompose quickly.
Here’s a great tip: If you use a lot of eggs throughout the week, save the shells up for several days and then put the eggshells into your food processor and grind them in into a fine powder.
Eggshell compost is the best natural treatment you can give to your garden. The manure will help to nourish your plants and moisturize the soil. The other advantage of this type of manure is that it helps in aeration and maintenance of proper and consistent soil texture.
Better still, compositing eggs shells can help in the disposal of household waste. You need
Composting involves layering of eggshell powder and organic waste to create a mixture that decomposes into the perfect finished compost mix.
For more on the proper steps to creating compost see our “How long does it take to make compost” page for step by step instructions.
Now it is finally time to start getting some of the fruit from your labour. It’s time to use the finished, eggshell enhanced compost in and around the garden.
Time to feed your garden
Successfully decomposed compost is dry to just slightly moist, dark in color and has a crumbly texture. You should not feel any heat or odor emanating from it.
Apply a thin layer of the finished compost to your garden or lawn when planting. You can see our section on how to properly work your compost into the garden for more information.
Composting For A New Generation is a fantastic book outlining all that is required for composting. Including lots of photos and illustrations, this book has the latest information on new composting methods and equipment. Get it here.