Epsom Salt: cure for slugs?

My Mom was the first to talk to me about the miracle impact of Epsom salt on roses. Since then, longtime gardeners have said this naturally forming mineral helps plants grow, but I never understood why. Doesn’t salt draw moisture out of everything? Then how could it be beneficial?

What is Epsom salt

Epsom Salt is a naturally occurring mineral compound discovered nearly 400 years ago in the small town of Epsom, Surrey, UK, about 15 miles from London.

Epsom salt is a crystal compound, but it is not like table salt. High school chemistry taught us that table salt is mainly sodium chloride (NaCl). Epsom salt is a magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) compound. Magnesium sulfate salt looks like table salt, but it has a bitter taste. It is an external detox agent that dissolves in warm bathwater. Its minerals are absorbed through the skin to relieve sore and achy muscles.

Valuable uses in the garden

Magnesium plays a supporting role in plant growth. It helps the root systems take in beneficial nutrients from the soil and supports the development of chlorophyll in our green leafy plants. However, too much magnesium in the soil can lower the available calcium for plant growth, and any significant benefits are in identifying plants that typically need more magnesium.

Before you decide to add Epsom salt to the fertilizer and watering routine, first determine if there is a magnesium deficiency in your soil. Florida’s soil is sandy, and the acidic soil has an average Ph of 6.1. Most vegetables prefer a Ph between 6 and 7.

We grow plenty of plants in Florida that need extra magnesium, like palm trees. But a quality palm fertilizer adds magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, and manganese in the correct ratio to keep palms healthy.

My vegetable garden includes a small patch of pineapples, peppers, tomatoes, and bibb lettuce this year. Listed in the top three plants that benefit from additions of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts proper chemical name) are peppers, tomatoes, and roses. I have all three in the yard. But, I usually add extra magnesium with plain, old fertilizers.

I have, however, added Epsom salt to these plants every other month to test this theory. The ratio is one tablespoon to a gallon of water or two tablespoons around the base of the plant. This application will not yield more peppers and tomatoes but may produce better-tasting tomatoes. Who doesn’t want better-tasting tomatoes?

You can purchase Epsom salt at the local drugstore or grocery store. Amazon, of course, also sells various sizes. I buy in bulk since Epsom salt does not have an expiration date. Be sure to buy packages that are 100% pure with no fragrance or additions.

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