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How To Use Epsom Salts In the Garden

Graphic of Epsom Salts package Epsom salt is also known as magnesium sulfate. It's a chemical compound made up of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. It gets its name from the town of Epsom in Surrey, England, where it was originally discovered.

Despite its name, Epsom salt is a completely different compound than table salt. It was most likely termed "salt" because of its chemical structure. It has an appearance similar to table salt and is often dissolved in baths, which is why you may also know it as "bath salt." While it looks similar to table salt, its taste is distinctly different. Epsom salt is quite bitter and unpalatable.

Epsom salt is a popular remedy for many ailments. People use it to ease health problems, such as muscle soreness and stress. It's also affordable, easy to use, and harmless when used appropriately. What many people don’t realize is that Epsom salt also has several uses in organic gardening for healthy plants. This article shares 7 of the best ways to start using Epsom salt for the benefits of your plants and garden.

It is almost impossible to use too much Epsom salt in your garden. Magnesium sulfate is pH neutral, so it won’t harm your soil. The crystals break down into water, magnesium, and sulfur – three components which are beneficial in some way to most plants. Epsom salt is safe, easy to apply, and works fast to correct a variety of problems and increase the overall health of your garden. As if that weren’t enough, Epsom salt is also inexpensive making it one of the most perfect tools for the health-conscious, responsible gardener

1. Improve Seed Germination

Spreading Epsom Salts in the garden Using Epsom salt as a soil amendment before seeding will give your garden a powerful boost right from the start. Magnesium aids in seed germination and helps to strengthen cell walls, leading to more and stronger seedlings. For best results, incorporate 1 cup of Epsom salt per 100 square feet of tilled soil or mix 1 – 2 tablespoons into the soil at the bottom of each hole before dropping in seeds.

2. Increase Nutrient Absorption

Many commercial fertilizers add magnesium to help plant roots take up vital nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur.) For those using all organic materials to feed their gardens, adding Epsom salt to soil will improve absorption naturally, eliminating the need for processed chemical fertilizers.

3. Counter Transplant Shock

Overcome transplant shock with Epsom Salts We’ve all seen how our plants and seedlings wilt when we move them from a small pot to a larger one, from indoors to outside, or from greenhouse to ground. Try feeding transplants with Epsom salt once they’re in their new environment to help injured roots overcome transplant shock. Remember to add a layer of soil on top of salt sprinkled in holes so roots don’t come into direct contact with these concentrated minerals right away.

4. Green Up Foliage

Plants that aren’t getting enough magnesium can be identified by their yellowing leaves. This is because magnesium is an essential component in the production of chlorophyll. Try sprinkling Epsom salt around your plants to achieve healthier foliage. About 1 tablespoon per 12 inches of height once a month will benefit the plants in your vegetable garden, as well as any trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses you want to green up.

5. Prevent Leaf Curling

Leaf curling may also be caused by magnesium-deficiency in plants. Again, add Epsom salt to the soil around the base of the sick plant. Alternately, for faster absorption you can mix 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt in a gallon of water and apply directly to the leaves.

6. Deter Garden Pests

While Epsom salt won’t dehydrate slugs and snails like table salt (sodium chloride), it can still be used to deter pests. Hydrated magnesium sulfate crystals are sharp and when sprinkled around plants, they can scratch and irritate the bodies and feet of unwanted critters in much the same way as diatomaceous earth. (Keep in mind that Epsom salt dissolves very easily in water, thus any amount of rain will likely wash them away.)

7. Grow Sweeter Fruit

Using Epsom Salts in a potted plant The production of fruiting bodies is the most taxing process in the life cycle of a plant. Apply Epsom salt to fruit and nut trees, bushes, and vines using the same methods and quantities stated above to boost chlorophyll levels inside the plant cells. Increased energy means more sugar, allowing the plant to produce higher yields of sweeter, healthier fruit.

7. Sweeter, Tastier Tomatoes

For Potted Tomatoes: Dissolve around 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt in 1 gallon of water. Use the solution to water your plants. Use the solution once a month and switch to regular watering for the rest of the days.

For Tomato Seedlings: When first planting seedlings in the garden, take 1 cup of Epsom salt and sprinkle it liberally over the plot. Ideally, 1 cup of Epsom salt will cover roughly 100 square foot. Make sure you distribute it evenly. When you’re done, work the epsom salt into the soil.

For Established Tomato Plants: The ideal solution ratio is 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt per foot of plant height. If your tomato plant is two feet in height, you’ll be feeding it two tablespoons of Epsom salt at least twice a month!

Soil Drench or Foliar Spray: If your tomatoes need a boost, mix and dissolve about one or two tablespoons of Epsom salt in a gallon of warm water. Drench at the base of the tomato plants and allow the water-salt solution to soak into the ground. Apply as a foliar Epsom salt spray for plants using the same 1 or 2 tablespoons in a gallon of water, every 2 weeks for a boost.

Further Information

The Life Cycle of Plants: Fertilization
The Spruce: How to Make Your Own Fertilizer
Pollination and Fertilization