Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Free Sea Shells = Free Mulch & Calcium

I took a walk with some friends last week at Manhattan and Hermosa Beach. Washed up shells were all over the waterline. Manhattan had broken pieces of larger stronger shells that were worn smooth by the sand and waves. Hermosa had tons of perfect little half shells in many different colors. Remembering that I need to mulch several containers and that crushed clam & oyster shells are sometimes used as a calcium source for tomatos of course I gathered some up!

There's a mix of the large beautifully weathered shell pieces mixed with decorative glass pebbles. They are proving very good at trapping moisture in the soil without heating it up in the sun. The Lemon Cucumber should do well with them... BTW that's another tomato cage painted red with Rust-O-Leum for contrast.

I am saving the smaller half shells for crushing when I'm ready to pot more tomatos. John also collected some of them when I told him why I was gathering them. We crushed his straight away since he's been planting so many tomatos he might mix them into the surface. The shells were placed in the mortar I bought at Fiesta Hermosa from Mystic Bottle Studio Pottery. I' ve been admiring his work for some time and finally had a purpose for it :) It's really worth checking out.

First just press the pestle down on them to break them into smaller bits, then grind them by rocking the pestle back and forth with some pressure. It takes some effort but finally a small handful of shells grinded in several little batches turned into about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of fine crushed shell and powder in about 20 minutes. Not bad.

It would be wise to sanitized any shell used for adding calcium to the soil. Either soaking it in a 10% bleach solution (before crushing) like other garden equipment or baking at a high temperature for several minutes should do it. Personally I'm gonna try baking it.

Any other home recipes for enriching tomato soil anyone know of?

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