Last week marked the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a day in which we as a world community are reminded of the need to protect, save and maintain all aspects of a healthy Earth. As Muslims, we know that every day is Earth Day because Islam is deeply rooted in ecological conservation and biodiversity. Read more on this topic in the article I wrote for Muslim Voices called Green Earth, Green Islam: Be Eco-Friendly the Halal Way.
I decided to go very green while balcony gardening this year. I didn’t want to invest in more clay or even plastic pots because I know I have some around here in storage and I don’t need any more. Besides, I’d read somewhere that you can actually grow seedlings in eggshells. Could it work? Would it really work? Would I have to have special soil? What if I don’t clean the eggs out well enough, will that affect the growth of the seeds? Then I just decided to say “bismillah” (In the name of God) and get started.
Every time I made eggs (which is a lot in my house), I rinsed out the eggshell with water and then placed them back in the refrigerator in the egg carton until I had a carton full of clean, empty eggshells.
Because it’s still not time to plant warm weather crops outside, there is time to grow things like tomatoes indoors. I decided to plant sugar lump tomatoes and tomatillos, or green tomatoes.
Place the tomato seeds into the eggshells with tweezers to make sure you don’t lose the seed. I planted 1-2 seeds per eggshell to make sure once they grow, they will not be overcrowded. I used a permanent marker to label each of the shells so I can remember what type of seed is in each one. It really helps when transplanting.
Next, I watered the seeds gently, careful not to drown them, and covered them with more planting soil. The last thing I did was to keep the egg carton open (you can cut the lid off if you like) and placed an unused shower cap (I get packets of ten at my local dollar store) over the top of the eggshells. I then placed the entire container in front of a sunny window in a relatively warm area of my home. During the day the seedslings get some sunlight and because they are covered, they are retaining heat and gaining necessary moisture.
What I’m most excited about is seeing the first seedling sprout up into the air, leaning towards the direction of the sunlight. Subhanallah!
So what do you do when the plants are strong and ready to be transplanted to another, more permanent container or in the garden? The eggshells can be taken directly to the container and crushed into the new soil, as it will be a great compost. Alternatively, if you have two seedlings that need to be separated, you can crush the eggshell to get to the soil and send the shells to the compost. No toxic materials used or disposed of and your ‘container’ is 100% recyclable. alhamdullilah.
After my eggshell containers were snugly placed in front of a sunny window and nurturing my seeds, I took another trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden, one of my favorite local spots to get inspiration and relaxation. I visited the herb garden to see how their tomatoes are planted and growing and here is the result. I hope mine will also grow to be that happy and healthy, insha’allah.
Beautiful, healthy plants at the Chicago Botanic Garden
Cold frames at the Chicago Botanic Garden. I really hope to have one of these some day, insha’allah.