Discovered in the well water of Epsom, England, from which the name "Epsom" salts is derived it has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of ailments, of people, animals and plants.
Epsom salts is comprised of magnesium ,sulfur and oxygen and in gardening it is used to correct a magnesium or sulfur deficiency in soil. Magnesium is necessary for seed germination, as well as the production of chlorophyll. It helps to strengthen the plants cell walls and improves plants absorption of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur.
Epsom salt will allow more minerals to be absorbed via the root system, adding to healthier and stronger trees for many years, it has also been shown to improve both flowering and fruit production. In the non-edible Garden it is suggested for use with roses.
Sulfur, is also an essential element in plant development, it is needed to produce amino acids, protein and plant enzymes.
Sulfur gives more pungent vegetables such as onions, garlic and even broccoli their distinct flavors. Sulfur deficiency is rarely a problem in garden soils as most commonly used fertilizers, as well as manure contain ample sulfur, as does ammonium sulfate.
Some vegetables have high sulfur requirements that is not routinely met by garden soils or standard fertilizers. Asparagus, Cabbage, cauliflower, kale, onions, radishes, Turnips and many flowering plants need a lot of sulfur to thrive.
Magnesium deficiencies are sometimes an issue. Some vegetables such as peas and beans, lettuce, spinach and many leafy crops will produce healthy yields in soils deficient in magnesium. Other vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant as well as fruit and nut trees need higher levels of magnesium for optimal growth.
Magnesium is the central element of the chlorophyll molecule and is essential for photosynthesis, as well as Sugar synthesis and the plants Nutrient uptake. Plants such as blueberry, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, Corn, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, onion, pepper, potatoes, pumpkin and squash, spinach, tomato, and watermelon respond very well to increased Magnesium .
Magnesium deficiency is not always evident until it becomes severe, in many cases at this point - it's too late. Common symptoms include stunted growth a yellowing of the foliage, leaf curl, and poor taste quality in the fruits - [sugars are not properly concentrated]- hence you get a lack of sweetness, a bitterness, and overall undesirable flavor in many crops.
Soils with low pH are more apt to be deficient in Magnesium, however a pH above 7, which is relatively high, can also have magnesium issues if they are high in calcium and potassium which competes with magnesium for uptake by plant roots. See - Nutrient Disorders in Vegetable Gardens
Epsom salts are highly water soluble, when diluted with water, and applied as a foliar spray it can be absorbed rapidly by plants. Epsom salts' magnesium content, high water solubility, and easy application as a foliar spray are the primary reasons for the great results many gardeners report.
Warning: Excessive foliar Epsom salt applications will cause leaf burn, especially when applied on a hot, summer day. Excessive Epsom salt use can also contribute to an increase in certain diseases.
Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants frequently suffer magnesium deficiency relatively late in the season, and display the telltale symptoms and lowered fruit yield when it is too late to correct. They will benefit from Epsom Salt applications at both ends of the plant life cycle as well as throughout the growing season. A study by the National Gardening Association revealed that tomato and pepper plants treated with foliar applications of Epsom salts produced more bountiful and tastier fruit.
When planting or transplanting adding a tablespoon per hole is advisable. As the plant matures, a light bi weekly foliar spray will work - 1 tablespoon of Epsom Salt per gallon of water. You can also work in a tablespoon of Epsom Salt per foot of plant height around the base of tomato plants , slightly less in eggplant and Peppers.
Flowers, shrubs and even lawns will benefit from Epsom salt. A modest amount when planting and periodic foliar spraying adds to the optimal aesthetic value of your landscape.
Epsom Salt for Pest Control
The jury is out on whether or not Epsom Salt actually helps control insects. Many Old Timers swear by it. Magnesium Sulfate is most definitely toxic to pests, they die after consuming it, as to which pests will consume it is uncertain as many are deterred by it. Epsom salts is believed to repel beetles, when sprinkled dry it will deter slugs and snails. Epsom salt sprinkled on your garden border will help to keep varmints such as squirrels, woodchucks and rabbits away.
Cleaning garden tools with Epsom salt will remove many oils from plants, poison ivy, poison oak and some fungal residues.
To get rid of unwanted tree stumps, drill holes in the stump and fill it Epsom salt, nature will work the salts into the stump and expedite its biodegradation.