You might ask “Epsom salt in the garden?” And I’d respond with a resounding, “Yes!” If you’d like better seed germination, bigger, more vigorous growing plants, and more abundant blooms, especially in nutrient-deprived sandy Florida soil, then I would strongly recommend adding Epsom salt to your gardening supply list.
Epsom salt is a naturally occurring mineral. It was first discovered in England, in the town of Epsom, for which it is named. It is actually hydrated magnesium sulfate, and two chemicals that most plants require – sulfur and magnesium.
Essential Elements of Epsom Salt
Sulfur (S) – 12.9%
Sulfur is essential in the formation of chlorophyll, the plant molecule that absorbs sunlight and uses its energy to synthesize carbohydrates from CO2 and water. It is also necessary for nitrogen-fixing nodules on legumes. Brassicas, a large group of plants that include radishes, turnips, rutabagas, cabbages, cauliflower, canola, rape and kale, require sulfur fertilization for maximum crop yields. Plants use sulfur in the processes of producing proteins, amino acids, enzymes and vitamins. Sulfur also helps the plants in seed germination and formation and resistance to disease, and aids in vigorous growth.
Sandy South Florida soils can have problems with retaining sulfur, since the sand cannot retain the sulfur, and this critical mineral can leach to the water system. Another type of Florida soil, one that is more clay, also has issues retaining sulfur, since that type of soil can become easily water-logged. In this case, sulfur can be converted by microbial activity into a gas, and escape into the atmosphere. In addition, the sulfur in garden soil can react and bond with iron and become insoluble. In every case, plants become somewhat sulfur deficient.
Magnesium (Mg) – 9.8%
Magnesium is vital to growth and photosynthesis in plants, since it is the central ion in each molecule of chlorophyll. It also helps activate many plantenzymes needed for growth, and reacts with other vital plant nutrients and enzymes. Magnesium improves the metabolism of phosphate, and promotes the synthesis of proteins. A continual supply of magnesium is necessary to maintain photosynthesis and optimize plant growth.
Lack of magnesium reduces photosynthesis. This is especially common in areas like South Florida where there are sandy soil and heavy rains that leach away essential nutrients. Where the soil is dense with clay, too much potassium or nitrogen may make it difficult for plants to absorb magnesium. Since magnesium is a mobile nutrient, it will relocate from older to younger plant tissue. Yellow patches on plant leaves often indicate magnesium deficiency in the soil, where the magnesium within the plant has moved to the newly formed foliage.
How to Use Epsom Salt in Gardening
Epsom salt makes an excellent fertilizer and can be used as a solid additive or diluted. Epsom salt can also correct problems when the soil contains too much natural salt – a common South Florida problem. This condition can clog the root cells, making it difficult for plant roots to absorb water and nutrients. So don’t be afraid to use Epsom salt in coastal areas.
Here are my recommendations for use:
Garden Startup: When preparing my planting beds, I use about 1 cup of Epsom salt per 100 square feet, and rake it into the soil, distributing it evenly throughout the dirt, prior to planting, and water well after the seedlings have been installed.
Shrubs and Trees: I fertilize three times a year, and sprinkle two tablespoons of Epsom salt around root base of all my trees and shrubs.
General Gardening Application: In established garden areas, I sprinkle about a half cup of Epsom salt per 100 square feet, and follow with ample watering. This is part of my gardening regimen every four months.
Tomatoes and Green Peppers: This method is said to work on roses as well, but my husband is highly allergic, and I have no roses in my garden. For these vegetables, I dilute 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt in 1 gallon of water, pour it into sprayer bottles and apply it to the tomato and pepper plants every two to three weeks.
So, don’t be afraid to use this miracle mineral when gardening and you’ll be certain to see great results.