I started a few plants in eggshells this year. The eggshells were supposed to disintegrate in the soil after planting. I've had such bad luck with my tomatoes, I dug up all the really pathetic ones (once again), but this time I washed the soil from the roots. Guess what I found? A whole lot of bunched little roots unable to break free from the eggshells--and this held true for every single plant!
I may have created the problem by sterilizing the shells (3 minutes on high) in the microwave prior to planting. I guess it hardened the shells and made it impossible for the roots to break through. Today I went to plant a pepper plant, and sure enough, it had the exact same problem. I carefully peeled away the shell before planting and have my fingers crossed it will survive.
All my tomatoes are now back in the ground minus their eggshell prisons. No more eggshell planting for me, not unless I take the plant out of the shell prior to putting it in the ground.
I grew tomatoes and herbs last year, I did use eggshells in the soil but crushed them after sterilizing for less than a minute. I didn't have any problems, maybe you did microwave too long, did you leave the shells in large pieces?
I didn't crush the shell at all, just put the plant into the hole, eggshell and all. My tomatoes have been in the ground since April15th, and after digging them up, the shell was 100% intact. What's more, the membrane inside the egg was still intact. If I try planting seeds in eggshells again, I microwave the shell for less time and crumble the shell prior to planting out.
I save all my eggshells, then microwave them before I pulverize them in the blender. I put the pulverized shells in an old Parmegian cheese container (it has the holes on top so I can sprinkle the shells around or any other container I have saved. When I plant the tomatoes I put a spoonfull in each hole. I sprinkle some around the plants because they discourage slugs. So that might be an alternative to actually starting them in the shells.
I microwaved the shells because I was afraid they might have salmonella. I didn't want that stuff in my soil. From now on, I'll remove the plants from the shell (or crumble the shell) prior to planting. I have some pathetic looking tomatoes right now. Very stunted, but I'm hoping they'll catch up. I REALLY don't want to go buy tomato plants.
I wash them out to get rid of the stickiness (membrane) and microwave for the same reason once they have dried. If you planted your tomatoes deep enough the stems in the soil should sprout more roots. Have you fed the plants at all? Did your plants have much of a root system at all when you checked them?
Salmonella is in garden soil naturally,at least to some degree. I would just gently crush the shell, yes tomato plants will root up the stem but they will be slower to grow if they have to wait to reroot and other plants don't produce roots up the stem. The roots need to be able to grow.
This may sound like a silly question, but, do you all put your egg shells on a plate or in a bowl before you microwave them? Or do you just set them directly on the turn-table to nuke them? And, approximately how long per egg shell?
I have only grown tomatoes once, last year, and in a container... with so-so results. This year I plan to put them in the ground, and I was thinking I'd add egg shells as well.
I was only suggesting that the tomato stems would set some roots as a possible redress for the problem Karen was having with the roots not forming in the shell. I heartily agree that the shells should be crushed before planting. In fact I would probably recommend that she start her tomatoes in something else like toilet paper rolls cut in half and filled with moist starting mix if she doesn't want to spend money on pots. (I have done that many times) Or use the tiny peat or coir ones that expand. Then add the shells when planting.
When I microwave the eggshells they are in a bowl and partially crushed. Once they are microwaved and brittle I put them in an old blender to pulverize into a semi powder. Just wait for the dust to settle before opening the blender! The finer the shells the more useful they will be in terms of producing calcium when water is added or for putting them in the soil.
Thanks for the responses. Now to answer the questions. My tomatoes top growth was good, I didn't take them out of the eggshells to check the roots. When the began to atrophy in the garden, I pulled a plant, washed off the soil, and discovered the roots couldn't break though the shell, but had started bunching up to conform to the shell's interior. That's when I yanked all the tomatoes I'd planted in shells and all had the same condition. The top growth (new leaves) on these plants are tiny, almost non-existent.
About fertilizer: I broadcast fertilizer 10-10-10 and mixed it into the top few inches just prior to planting. We have had a very soggy and cold spring, and that could be a contributing factor. I also mulch around the tomatoes with wood mulch, but DO NOT mix it in. I pulled the mulch back thinking it may be holding in too much moisture.
I'd heard about planting in eggshells before and it sounded like a great strategy for potting up. I mean, how great would it be to simply drop your plant, still in the eggshell, into a larger container? I didn't know that microwaving the shells would harden them! So far, my tomatoes (the ones I pulled, removed the shells, and replanted) look really horrible. You know what? I'll take some pictures so you guys can see the difference.
The first three pictures are of the tomato plants I started in eggshells. The last picture is of some of the tomatoes I started with those plastic seed starter packs. The ones I started in eggshells are 1/3 the size of the other tomato plants, but I'm still hoping they'll make it.
I think I'll give the little guys two more weeks to show signs of recovery. I hate pulling plants, but don't won't to risk losing space to under-producers (even if it's my fault, which it is). I've always hated being ruthless in the garden, but sometimes you have to make hard decisions as to whether to keep 'em or not. I'm staring at about 8 jalapeno seedlings right now, and trying to figure out where to put the little darlings. There's no more room, other than in the flower beds!
Got my little babies installed yesterday... didn't get pics taken, I was poooped, but I did have 3 'sterilized' smooshed egg shells to put out there with them. Since it was the shells from only 3 eggs, only 4 of the plants got a sprinkling. I can add more as time goes on, right? Just scratch the pulverized egg shells into the surface of the soil around the plants under the mulch and water in?
While I was outside playing yesterday, I decided I should built a trellis for the 4 that are in a row. I sure hope this works! I know the slats are not entirely straight, but I figure that's ok, soon it'll be so covered with plants ya won't be able to see 'em anyhow! :)
Speediebean, I like your trellis. I used bamboo stakes this year. My hubby and I went out and cut the bamboo, trimmed off all the leaves, drilled holes in the stems and placed them over stakes to keep the bamboo from touching the ground (you know, just in cast that stuff sprouts roots). Your trellis makes me think I could done something similar with the bamboo and saved a ton of work. I still have some bamboo so I think I'll try to attach a cross bar to two bamboo posts and make a trellis.
1lisac: some of my tomato plants do seem to be making a recovery. Our temperatures just went from low 60's to mid-80's, so I'm hoping the warmer weather will help my plants take off. I've got tomatoes planted in four different locations in my yard, so I've got to believe something's going to make a tomato! Heck, if I have to slice up cherry tomatoes to make a sandwich, I guess I'll do it!
Here's an update on my poor pathetic tomato plants: I bought a soil test kit and after around of low science I discovered I've got negligible amounts of nitrogen, but excessive amounts of potassium and phosphorus. The wonderful owner of a local gardening center took pity on me and recommended sodium of nitrate and lime, each to be lightly sprinkled around the tomato plants and watered in. I guess I "ruined" the soil by assuming I needed to add that 10-10-10 fertilizer at the beginning of the season. I will never again add any nutrient to the soil prior to soil testing.
Of course, if I'd gone organic, I probably wouldn't be fighting this problem right now anyway. Live and learn.
It's never too late to start going organic! You can always start slowly by composting your kitchen scraps and grass clippings. Blood meal is a great source of pure nitrogen. It is also good for discouraging rabbits and other critters in the garden. Once the plants seem OK I'd also consider using a good fish fertilizer or emulsion. It comes in many forms such as Neptune's Harvest. www.neptunesharvest.com/
Once they get going tomatoes prefer fertilizer with a higher number in the middle (phosphorus) for setting blooms and fruit. Sounds like you have the phosphorus just fine!
If you have access to any finished manure that would be a good amendment. Ask around. Check local rabbitries as well. I googled in my area and found a gal raising rabbits who was glad to give away the manure for free. I repay her with tomato plants each year. Rabbit manure is fantastic because it can be used right away and will not burn the plants. It has really improved my garden especially when mixed with my compost.
It is hard to believe that adding 10-10-10 would result in low nitrogen and very high potassium and phosphorus. Do you have any idea what you might have added to the soil before to get such high phosphorus and potassium? I don't use 10-10-10 so don't know what that would do to my soil. But it seems strange that there is so little nitrogen. I hope the sodium nitrate works. But if you haven't bought it already do consider the blood meal for a start which is organic although more expensive.
Some soils and areas are just higher in one then the other. I don't think you changed much of anything by not going organic. If the 10-10-10 was the issue you'd have equal amounts of everything, and you don't. My area is naturally high in Potasium so I never add that. You'll get it straightened out but it's not a quick process. Do you know what the ph is?
What did you plant in? I mean did you bring in dirt or is it an established area. The N could be low if the soil is not completely composted. Please becareful with manure some is contaminated with herbicide, yes even the organic compost can have tainted manure.
Do any of your local garden centers carry Dr. Earth brands of soils and fertilizers? They make an amazing array of products and I just LOVE them! We sell and use them at work, and I use them at home as well, just fabulous stuff. You can read all about their beginnings and processes and products and all that stuff at drearth.net. They've got a great acid-lovers fertilizer that I use for my Otto Luykens. YUMMY!! =) And all their fertilizers make a great tea as well... for the plants, mind you. ;) (and a "tomato and vegetable" one for... well, you know!) =)
OK, time for me to stop goofing around and get ready for work. Have a WONDERFUL day!!
I did bring in dirt! We purchased something called engineered earth from the city. I used a PH meter earlier in the year and it said the soil was running about 7.5. That is actually high for this area, since our red clay tends to be acidic and everyone routinely uses lime. I don't know if I believe the meter; it was one of those inexpensive gadgets that measures light/ph/moisture. I did add sphagnum moss and a bunch of rock dust for mineralization. The rock dust was supposed to be from a granite source (I got it from a friend) and, as I understand it, shouldn't have affected nitrogen, potassium or phosphorus levels. I mulch my entire garden with wood chips but I don't dig it into the dirt. I have temporarily pulled back the mulch due to cold/wet weather
PH is running perfect for this area now, between 6 and 7. I do have some blood meal. I guess I could sprinkle it around a couple of plants to see if it adds any benefit.
I'll look up the natural/organic brands you guys have mentioned, and I'll definitely start doing things smarter. No more dumping this or that in believing it will help! Right now, I'm just trying to deal with the immediate problem so I have a chance at getting a few tomatoes this year!
Karen do not give up on your tomatoes. I planted about 100 tomato and 100 pepper plants the first nice weekend we had ..not at all a wise decision considering mother nature decided to drop 3 inches of snow on us the next day. Then a few days later a light frost. Nothing but stumps sticking out of the ground. I went out yesterday to see the damage, every single plant I had put out had new growth. They will bounce back, don't give up on them untill theres not even a stem in the ground.
My dumbarse jumped the gun went out and bought 100 new tomato plants since I thought I lost the ones I started in Feb and well now I have double. Just give it time they are stronger than you'd think.By some odd chance you lose your plants I'll be more than happy to ship you some lol
Speedlebean is correct that Dr. Earth products are also excellent. But they are harder to find locally for me than the Neptune's Harvest.
For me the best and cheapest source is Aggrand Products because they work and I become a preferred customer every couple of years and order by the carton to share with other friends who have also had good luck with their products. They have 4 liquid fertilizers: Regular 4-3-3 (fish base); Liquid Bonemeal; Liquid Lime; and Natural Kelp & Sulfate of Potash (potassium). The only problem is that you have to mix several bottles as the season progresses. (you can just use the regular alone and forget the rest but it is a 4-3-3 so higher in nitrogen and by the middle of the summer many plants need more bonemeal for good flowering) They have a fabulous chart showing exactly how to feed each kind of vegetable or fruit tree that you plant. http://www.aggrand.com/articles/g1292.pdf
This means that with the tomatoes you may feed the initial plants with a mixture of the regular, some bonemeal and kelp; the second feeding will be just the regular and bonemeal as they set the first flower; then the 3rd application at full bloom will be the regular and lime; the 4th will be just the kelp and sulfate of potash alone. I know this sounds complicated but it means the plants are getting what they need at the right time. My friend absolutely loves the bonemeal for her roses and her tomatoes are fantastic because she feeds even more diligently than I do!! Check out the site and see what you think. I have no vested interest in it for anyone but my small group of friends so this is not a commercial endorsement! www.aggrand.com/
There is so much to choose from at the moment but it does involve a bit of research to decide what is best for you and how much effort you want to make. I happen to be a tomatoholic so no work is too much if I get results!
I'm not sure how it works with retail stores but I believe it can only be purchased online or through private dealers. I go through a private dealer from Kansas who was or maybe still is a member of Dave's Garden. They are nice folks so I don't mind letting them get the commissions. You can order from the main site but I think you are then assigned a dealer who gets the credit. I don't care how it works as long as I can order without a hassle and get the preferred rate (you have to pay $20 a year but I save significantly on just one order!).
Sounds like a great deal, and like fun to do a little 'comparison growing', between that and some Dr. Earth stuff. I've always wanted to do a little testing on some products. This would probably mean containers though and all my containers are fulled up for this year. Space and $$ are at a premium this year as well! =/ Well, I have definitely saved their website for sure, I want to check them out, Thank You! =)
So far my tomatoes are still where I left them. The warmer weather seems to have helped one of the issues already--the hard brittle leaves. When I checked on the plants yesterday, some of the plants' leaves seemed less leathery/brittle, though the weather could be a contributing factor. I did sprinkle some sodium of nitrate and lime around the plants and watered in, but it couldn't possibly have made a difference in one day.
iowagardening, I've been sick over my little patch. I can't imagine worrying myself sick over 200 frail and struggling little plants.
For future gardening, I'm going to try to go organic, but for now I need to supplement and feed only what these plants need, which means NO potassium and phosphorus. I was told to plant legumes and corn to help clean up the soil. I haven't research that idea, it sounds like it would take up a lot of room, and my primary goal right now is to get these tomato plants back on track toward making some 'maters!
I'm so glad you're seeing improvement!! =) The only thing I could suggest at this point is, next time it's time for feeding, go organic, something that covers all the bases (since maters are such heavy feeders), from micro to macro nutrients, mycorrhizae, etc. Give that soil a balanced feeding and it will happily and healthfully feed those babies. :)
Since she's already posted that her soil has P and K a balanced fertilizer isn't called for. Nitrogen is low so that should be added man made and naturally occurring N have exactly the same structure so the plants can't tell the difference. She has already added the N and lime. This may not be the way you would do it but the thread isn't about you it's about Karen.
Karen if you are happy with the results you are getting then keep going. Too much N will make beautiful tomato plants but few flowers.
Thanks 1lisac and everyone. I am happy to report the first growth spurt of my tomato plants (I'll try to post a picture later). I added lime and nitrogen to the soil as the soil test indicated nitrogen was low. The lime I added per gardener's suggestion. We've had a gentle warm rain for a couple of days now and most of the plants have shot up with new normal looking leaf growth. Two little flowers have appeared, but they look stunted. I'm not too worried about that as I'm assuming the buds must have formed while the plants were suffering.
Even the "eggshell" tomato plants appear to be recovering (after I removed the shells and replanted). You guys were right. Tomato plants have remarkable survival skills!
On a side note: I've got baby snow peas on the vine and my cucumbers and teeny melon plants seem to be doing justa fine! Sometimes it feels less like gardening and a lot like parenting. Good thing my kids didn't require nitrogen or I might have REALLY messed them up.
They do eat like bottomless pits, don't they? My goodness, but it can be impressive to watch sometimes! .. until you realize that you'll want to eat something at some point too, and start to wonder if there will be anything left but crumbs! < ;^)
We're having another cool spell here in North Carolina. Ugh. All the tomatoes appear much, much better, including the cherry tomato a rabbit chewed down to a nub. I'd never thought a tomato plant with nothing left but the stem could recover!
Here's an update on my tomato drama. The crisis is over! Some of my tomato plants are 3 to 4 feet tall, and setting plenty of blooms and tomatoes. The plants I lifted to remove the eggshells are also catching up. They're not as tall, but are producing blooms. I expect tomatoes will follow.
My peppers are nice and dark green and, this year, my eggplants look fantastic (last year was terrible).
I really appreciate the help I received from this forum. I cant believe how many helpful gardeners came to my rescue. Thanks to all!
Like everyone else, I've been busy in the garden. After my initial tomato woes, things got much better. I've attached pictures showing an overview of my garden. Some tomatoes are doing better than others, and my zucchini (raised in planters are LOUSY).
I used bamboo to stake my tomato plants. We cut it ourselves, drilled through the lowest separating membrane and put a piece of two foot conduit through the drilled hole. We also didn't trim the side branches flush, but left about 1/2". This allows the side branch nubs to act as hooks for attaching tie ups. Hopefully, since the bamboo never contacted the earth, we'll be able to use the same stakes for a few years.
I'd love to see a few pictures of other folks' gardens.
Beauty-full!!!!!! Man, makes me hungry just looking at it!!
I'm saddened to say that I had to pull out all my tomato plants a couple weeks ago... I had only 1 place I could grow them, and as it turned out it was too near where Orkin came along to treat for termites. I didn't think it would be safe to eat the fruits after that treatment, so out they came. =( I had nowhere else to put them!! =(
... well, there's always next year, Lord willing.
Thanks speediebean and Cville Gardener. Hey speediebean, what about planting in pots? I was at Walmart yesterday and they had still had some good looking plants.
I went through the "pest control" mess last year. We told the company we'd hired to stay away from the vegetables and gardens, but apparently "the guy" thought everything looked like a weed. Somethings you can't control, neighbors throwing grass seed everywhere or spraying herbicides at random.
I just put some cukes and onions in a vinegar, sugar and olive oil. I'll let them sit awhile, if I can wait that long. I need to check through the forum and catch up, see what everyone's up to.
I have done tomatoes in containers before, but I have no unused pots (that are big enough to accommodate tomatoes) left this year, and I'm definitely not in the market for any new ones this year. Will just have to wait for next year.