Epsom Salt in the Garden

As many active people know – including gardeners – epsom salt is great for a relaxing foot soak or a hot bath to soothe aching muscles. I’m sure there are more than a few of us out there who have turned to this remedy after a weeding marathon! But did you know that epsom salt is not just for sore gardeners? It’s also for sore gardens.

Even though I fertilize my garden with fish emulsion and compost tea on a regular basis, I still felt like something was wrong. Some of my plants had weak stems, and many of my plants’ leaves weren’t as green as they should be. They also didn’t seem to be maturing as quickly as the seed packages said they should. My soil testing was for the major nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK) only. Did my soil need something else?

While I was researching these problems, I found several articles about magnesium deficiency in soil. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Chlorosis (yellowing/insufficient chlorophyll) of the lower, older leaves – especially between the veins
  • Very pale green older leaves
  • Some plants’ leaves curl up and may turn red-brown to purple
  • Premature leaf drop
  • Weak stems
  • Stunted growth
  • Decreased yields

Thinking back on last season’s crop, I also experienced slow growth, small fruit, yellowing leaves. Without a professional soil test, I couldn’t be sure; so I looked for a remedy that wouldn’t harm the plants should I be wrong. That remedy was epsom salt in water, used as a foliar spray.

Chemists know epsom salt as magnesium sulfate. (Sulfur is also an important micronutrient for plants.) After reading several articles on the use of epsom salt in the garden, I decided to try it.

To be on the safe side, I chose to use the weakest recommended dose: 1 tablespoon of epsom salt per 1 gallon of water. I poured the epsom salt into a gallon jug of spring water, shook well to dissolve, then poured it into a spray bottle. Off I went to spray my plants. The small, newer plants got a full squirt, which got on the leaves and the surrounding soil. The larger plants, like my onions and garlic, got a spray on the base of the plant as well as a spray on the surrounding soil. Because this is the weaker dose, it can be applied every two weeks. (You can also mix 2 tablespoons of epsom salt to 1 gallon of water, but apply only once a month.)

Stay tuned to my Sanctuary Gardener Updates to see how it’s working!

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