Author: Katrina Savell

Good old Epsom Salts, even being as youthful as I am (!) I do recall my grandmother and even my mother using it as an alternative to medicines for sore and tired muscles, and other common ailments such as insect bites. Passed down from generation to generation, many have made claims about its potent medicinal applications, as well as the usefulness of epsom salt for the garden.

In the garden, Epsom Salts has earned a reputation as a wonderful alternative to chemical fertilisers as well as an insect repellent. Or has it?

That depends on whether you are a gardener or a researcher! Gardeners for decades swear by it, saying it enhances the growth of their gardens, promotes green foliage and pest free plants, as well as luscious, tasty vegetables. Yet time and time again there are researchers that can find no scientific basis for these claims. Many even say that Epsom Salts can be detrimental to vegetables and gardens.

So who is correct?

Well, before we answer that question based on our own personal experience and research, let’s have a look at what this chemical compound comprises of – basically the two most important fertiliser compounds – magnesium and sulphur. Magnesium’s role is to support the growing process and assist in the production of the plant’s fruit. Sulphur accelerates the development of plant protein and therefore greatly enriches the nutritional value of your vegetables.

Nearly all plant chemical fertilisers will have these two compounds mixed in with a whole bunch of other ingredients, which to be honest, may not even be required for plant health.

In answer to the question, we do believe there is a role for Epsom Salts in the garden. From our experience, there are signs when vegetable plants are magnesium deficient, particularly if there has been depletion in top soil or erosion from the elements. These signs include:

  • Leaf discolouration (yellowish) or curing
  • Stunted growth
  • Decrease in the production or size of fruit

We have found that if your plants show signs of magnesium deficiency, then Epsom Salts are a safe, cost effective and organic way to complement your vegetable garden, if applied properly. Like manysupplements, if you do not follow the directions for attending to your plants with Epsom Salts, it can be harmful.

Application of Epsom Salts for Your Vegetable Garden

It is recommended when establishing plants to mix in one tablespoon of Epsom Salts into the soil at the bottom of the planting hole.

For ongoing maintenance, dilute 1 tablespoon of Epsom Salts into one gallon of water and spray the leaves of the plant when it starts to flower. This is a time when additional magnesium is highly beneficial.

It has been reported that the key vegetables to benefit greatly from the application of Epsom Salts are tomatoes and peppers (capsicums). Feedback suggest it takes the “bitiness” out of them and produces larger, sweeter and luscious fruits!

Conclusion

Look for signs of magnesium deficiency in your vegetable garden or times of flowering/fruit bearing before applying Epsom Salts. Please ensure you follow the dilution requirements, and you should be very happy watching your vegetable garden flourish with a safe, effective and economical organic fertiliser.

Feel free to post your comments on any experience you’ve had with Epsom salts in the garden.

Katrina Savell is a freelance writer and Director of The Word Depot, a media and communications consultancy.

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