SummerStorm93

In the Brooder
Jul 28, 2018
7
13
24
So, I'm gearing up for an experiment in next summer's garden.

A recommendation went by from a nearby herb farmer to use eggshell mulch around herbs that need to be kept drier than our local climate allows. I did get clarification that they meant a mulch, not a scattering of shell like what some folks try to hold off slugs with. Supposedly, the crushed shells drain much more readily than wood mulch while still cooling the soil underneath. Almost as importantly, the white surface reflects light back up at the plants, helping them dry off faster after the kind of heavy downpours that are seasonal here.

We're working with red clay (terrible drainage, despite ten years of amendments) and high humidity (constantly moist foliage), so I thought I'd try it out to see if it really helps. I'd rather not lose another round of lavender plants.

My question is: do you all have any recommendations for sources of eggshells? There's no way my family and I will eat that many eggs in the next three months.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
Feb 2, 2009
26,535
17,937
797
Southeast Louisiana
That is a lot of egg shell. There are businesses that use a lot of eggs like bakeries or some breakfast restaurants but I would not hold out much hope from them. They have their kitchens set up and probably will not be willing to take the extra time or give up extra space to hold the shells for you. It won't hurt to ask but I would not expect much help. If you offer enough for the shells they might be willing to try.

There are only two businesses I can think of that might naturally separate egg shells and thus be willing to help you. Some pet food manufacturers use a lot of eggs in their mix. Do you have one of those handy to talk to? The other would be a hatchery where they hatch a lot of baby chicks. A hatchery probably doesn't mix the shells with something else so might be a possibility.

I don't know how much lavender you are talking about growing or why you want to grow it. It needs a well-drained soil with full sun. It does not need a lot of organic material, it usually does better in a poorer soil. Would it be realistic for you to put in a raised bed and use a sand-rich fill material?

Sometimes a round peg doesn't fit in a square hole. While you can sometimes create special conditions I've accepted that there are just some things that I can't grow because of my conditions.
 

SummerStorm93

In the Brooder
Jul 28, 2018
7
13
24
Thanks for the input, @Ridgerunner .

You're probably right about restaurants, although in 'the hippiest small town in NC' we may get lucky. I was thinking of posting an ask on the neighborhood forum to see if any of my neighbors would be wiling to keep back their shells from the trash for a few days here and there. If enough people helped out, I could at least cover enough of a bed to run a controlled experiment.

And yes, the major change for next year's garden is that we've been putting in raised beds whenever we've got time and scrap lumber. Filling them is more difficult because we're in a suburban area. Sand would be fairly decent cost-wise, but adding sand to clay soil doesn't break it up enough, especially once it's mud. A combination of organic material (generally leaf mulch) and actual rock works better (roughly 1/2" stones) and that's a lot more expensive. We may end up going there anyway...

The other thing I probably should have mentioned when discussing soil qualities is that we're on a fairly steep grade, for a suburban neighborhood. The up-and-coming herb garden is set up as a tiered series of raised beds. I'm hoping the tiers will help counteract mulch/topsoil washout in heavier rains without also retaining the water and leaving the plants with wet feet.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
Feb 2, 2009
26,535
17,937
797
Southeast Louisiana
I can sympathize with finding reasonable fill, especially in suburbia if you don't have something to haul a reasonable amount of material yourself. I just moved from the country to suburbia and put in eight beds 4' x 8' each for vegetables. I also have a noxious weed (nut sedge) that thrives in this climate and the former swamp muck that doesn't drain well at all. I cleared an area when I started preparing the beds and within two weeks it was a solid mat of nut sedge.

I dug out and disposed of the top 5" to 6" of the topsoil in hopes of getting those numbers down to a manageable level (I know I'll never get rid of it totally) and filled it with a mix of roughly 1 part sterile clay, 3 parts sand, and 5 parts organic materials (compost). I had the sand and compost delivered premixed because of the volume I needed but had to rent a U-Haul to get organic clay used for pottery to get sterile clay. That was not even close to inexpensive.

I wanted to start with just two beds as a learning curve but I could not get the amounts I needed for that without a trailer or truck, I'd have had to rent a U-Haul a lot. It's only $30 per day but that adds up plus it's challenging to just buy those amounts. I think I'm finally ready for spring.

I suggest you call your country extension office and chat about what it takes to get a soils analysis in North Carolina. In Arkansas that was free but here it is $16 per pop. If you have a lot of compost in the mix tell your agent to see if it makes a difference in which test to run. The agent here said it did, with that much compost in the mix the results of a regular test would not be right. I found out my pH was 7.8 so I had to do some major amending.

It sounds like you are on the right track with those raised beds. Good luck!
 

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