Recycling eggshells in the garden

Eggshells washed then dried in the sun, waiting to be recycled.

Eggshells washed then dried in the sun, waiting to be recycled.

I like to compost and recycle as much as I can in the garden, and one of the things I decided to recycle are eggshells.

At first, I thought I’d put them to use, crushed, as snail deterrents, but on some research, heard that they are not really effective. Snails secrete a special slime that they “pave their way” with – should I say glide upon? Well, whatever the case, they are able to move fairly easily over crushed eggshells and other dry and poky surfaces. Snails are sneaky things!

My next option was to use the eggshells as a soil amendment. Eggshells comprise around 96% calcium carbonate crystals bound together by proteins, so using them is a great way to add calcium to compost. And that’s what we did.

Crushing the eggshells into powder and pieces with a mortal and pestle.

Crushing the eggshells into powder and pieces with a mortal and pestle.

The first thing to do with the eggshells is to rinse the insides so there’s nothing that will attract ants and other insects. I usually accumulate them on a ledge where they can dry out in the sun and wait until we’re ready to use them.

The next thing is to prepare to add them to compost. Some people throw them in as they are, but if you’ve ever seen a person poke through their ageing compost pile, you’ll see that the eggshells take quite a while to break down. So, some folks crush the eggshells by blitzing them in a blender or some such gadget.

I decided to go old school and use a mortar and pestle. This gave me a combination of small pieces of eggshells as well as a very fine powder that I think is perfect to toss into the compost pile. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

Crushed eggshells.

Crushed eggshells.

If you don’t want to compost the ground up eggshells, you can also sprinkle and dig them into the earth around tomato and pepper plants, which need more calcium.

Isn’t it great to recycle things in such a useful way? Yes, you can use them in various ornamental ways, but what’s more useful than feeding your plants?

© 2016 curiousgardener.com All rights reserved.


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The sweet potato saga continues

Some of the sweet potato slips growing more roots before getting planted out.

Some of the sweet potato slips growing more roots before getting planted out.

I can’t believe it’s been six years since I first tried growing sweet potatoes. That maiden voyage did not end well. Yes, we had an impressive sweet potato patch with lots of leaves to harvest, but did we have a potato harvest? Nope. Only one slightly fattened root that was the beginning of a potato. However, by the time I’d found that, I had already decided not to waste the space on growing the crop again.

Fast forward to early last year, and the bug had bitten me again. Yeah, I’m a sucker for punishment, I guess. No, not really. I just wanted to try a new way of starting sweet potato plants, and I wanted to try growing the red Japanese sweet potatoes this time. Growing the sweet potato slips went well, and we managed to grow several before the sweet potato started rotting in the water. I planted that last bit of potato and the cuttings, giving us three slips in a styrofoam box next to the house, and four in a big pot that I placed on the lawn.

A nice thick woody-like stem that made me think there were sweet potatoes just waiting to be found...

A nice thick woody-like stem that made me think there were sweet potatoes just waiting to be found…

Okay, so I lost track of time, and the plants in the box grew slowly but didn’t produce potatoes, but the plants out on the lawn had a massive growth spurt and took over the lawn, part of the driveway and kept looking for more things to grow over. I drew the line when they began to grow over the swing, and have been keeping them off the paved area. At the back of my head, I thought the pot where the plants rooted must be filling up with potatoes because I saw nice thick stems protruding from the earth in there. But, like I said, I lost track of time and the plants have been growing for about twenty months.

Twenty months??

Yeah, time flies, doesn’t it? :(

Well, I didn’t touch the pot, thinking it was getting loaded with potatoes. What surprised us, though, was that potatoes were beginning to grow in the lawn where the spreading vines had taken root!

Peekaboo! A sweet potato making us aware of its presence in the lawn!

Peekaboo! A sweet potato making us aware of its presence in the lawn!

Those first few were a real surprise because we hadn’t been expecting them, and only found them because they were peeking out of the earth! Some had been discovered by insects and were partially nibbled while others had rotted because it had been raining at the time. Did I get a clue? Nope. I didn’t touch the big pot because I thought it was getting jam-packed with potatoes. So when I just finally decided it was time to check out our treasure trove of sweet potatoes, we started digging down those nice, thick woody-like stems sticking out of the pot – and we dug and dug, but there were no sweet potatoes to be found! I finally gave up, although I had to wonder if any of the roots had grown out through the bottom of that pot and were producing potatoes in the ground beneath the pot.

Well, at least the story ended up better this time – we’ve dug up a few scattered sweet potatoes over the last couple of months and know there are a couple more still growing in the lawn. I’m starting to control the vines more now, and wonder how that will affect the production of potatoes. However, I have to admit that it’s been nice having that supply of fresh young leaves as an occasional veggie dish. Success!

Our first, surprise sweet potato harvest!

Our first, surprise sweet potato harvest!

© 2016 curiousgardener.com All rights reserved.


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Secret Squirrel

The squirrel scampering along the top of the chain link fence.

The squirrel scampering along the top of the chain link fence.

We have a new garden visitor – and it has possibly been here for a while. The thing about it is, it’s really quiet. My mum is the one who discovered it, spotting it while she was watching the birds in the mango tree. You can imagine her disbelief when this new creature came into view for the first time…

Running along the wall and looking for a likely place to get up to the curry leaf tree above.

Running along the wall and looking for a likely place to get up to the curry leaf tree above.

I wanted to see if it was a Plantain squirrel like the last one, but it was almost two weeks before I finally saw and got some photos of the squirrel. This time, it was busily darting all over our large curry leaf tree. I guess it was attracted to the berries on the tree, like most of the birds that visit our garden.

Running along rain-slick branches is not a problem for this squirrel!

Running along rain-slick branches is not a problem for this squirrel!

It moved extremely fast and the lighting wasn’t good, so I wasn’t able to get a nice clear identifying shot of it. However, it seems to have the white stripe running down its sides, which Plantain squirrels have, but I was unable to determine if it has the distinctive orange underbelly. Oh well. I wonder where it came from and how it will affect the ecosystem here…

© 2016 curiousgardener.com All rights reserved.


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Little dragonfruit plants

4 month old dragonfruit plants grown from seed.

4 month old dragonfruit plants grown from seed.

Remember the dragonfruit seedlings I started in March this year? Well, I started a new set of plants at the end of May when a colleague gave me a nice, ripe dragonfruit that came directly from Vietnam. She swore that the fruits over there are sweeter than those sold here, and gave me the fruit to taste for myself. She was right. So, I naturally tried growing another set of plants.

I repeated my germination method of placing some seeds on damp cotton wool and sealing them in a small ziplock bag. This time, I put the germinated seeds into bigger containers than the first time. It took a few months, but they finally hit their stride and are growing vigorously, looking like long green hairy caterpillars to me. A few of them have already begun to branch out, too! It won’t be long before I have to transplant the plants to bigger pots and start propping them against a vertical support.

© 2016 curiousgardener.com All rights reserved.


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