Help -- too much Borax in garden

jjabs27June 20, 2007

Can someone help me -- I got some bad gardening advice and added borax to my 3 raised beds. 1 bed nothing is growing in, and the other 2 are struggling in a big way. What can I do to counteract the Mule Team Borx. Any help would really be appreciated.

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carol_71(Netherlands z8)

jjabs27, I highly recommend you to post same question in the soil forum. Not that there isnÂt knowledgeable people here! Because there are (not me). I think you might get some more orientation over there. Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 10:02AM
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anney(Georgia 8)

That certainly was BAD advice. You'd better call the Dial Corporation, which appears to be the parent Company for Mule Team Borax, and ask to speak to one of their staff scientists or researchers about how to cleanse your soil.

I'd pull up the plants and put them in the garbage. Borax itself is toxic, is used as an insecticide as well as a laundry detergent booster, and can be dangerous to humans if ingested. But it doesn't sound as if your plants will grow anything to be ingested, so maybe you're safe, if gardenless this year!

Really, I'd talk to somebody who knows the effects of borax in your soil, in the plants, and in soil organisms.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 10:20AM
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I read in 4 Season Harvest that boron is often used when planting beets and is delivered by sprinkling a little borax around the plant or mixing a little with the soil before planting.

Quoted from

"Beets are sensitive to boron deficiency, which causes blackspot, sickly growth, and poor taste. Only minute amounts are needed, and if you use compost, the soil will be adequate. If you're in doubt, sprinkle a little borax around the plant."

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 10:30AM
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This is one of those reasons why I rarely recommend 'home remedies' using products not labeled for garden use.

I think the advise you got to call the company is great advice. I am sure they will have someone who will understand how/if it is possible to remove the boron from the soil.

How much did you use by the way?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 10:42AM
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anney(Georgia 8)

Here's a GardenWeb discussion about Borax and Boric Acid, mostly for killing ants and roaches. There are a couple of comments about what borax does to the soil.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 10:44AM
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Here's a thread I found that might help a bit. Also check for info. I skimmed a couple things and you may find a way of "cleaning" your soil. Didn't see anything that specified toxic levels, but I did just skim.

Fingers crossed for you!

Here is a link that might be useful: borax in garden

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 11:19AM
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As with anything whether it be a chemical commercial product, and organic product, or a home remedy that can't be patented and therefore is never marketed because companies would never make money on it, it depends on the quantity you used.

So how much did you use in how large a garden area?
And what were you using it for? To be rid of ants or other?

Here is a link that might be useful: Lengthy thread on Borax and Boric Acid

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 12:07PM
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ruthieg__tx(z8 TX)

There is one method of Gardening ..I think Mittinger Method or something similar that encourages you to add some borax to your soil...I think it depends on the amount you have added and to how much soil.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 1:02PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)


How much did you add to what size area?

Also, which plants "struggling" and what do you see? Depending upon how much boron you added, the problems you see may have other causes.

So whatever is the conclusion of this situation, you now know that various chemicals should be added to the soil only after a professional soil test indicates a need for whatever element. Lab reports will also suggest a recommended dose to alleviate any shortages.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 1:10PM
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Before you amend your soil any further by guessing, get your soil tested. Your Extension Service can provide you with soil testing information. Mine was only $9.00, less than the cost of some strictly pH tests, and far more thorough. No guessing at what might need to be added, no money wasted.

Check with your state's Extension Service. Each county should have it's own Cooperative Extension Office which provides free publications and information for the asking. They will have valuable vegetable/gardening tables available specifically for your area determined by universities and horticultural research scientists who have collected data from growing those crops in your state. Your tax dollars are already paying for this service so you may as well get some use out of it.

Vegetable Planting and Planning Calendar for Missouri (download the pdf) complete with spring and fall planting dates (underneath the spring planting dates for appropriate crops), how much to plant per person, etc. They can also tell you the average last frost date for your area and ideal planting times for specific crops and varieties in your area.

See how detailed this example is:

    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 10:56AM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

No one knows more about Borax than the people who make it.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 11:15AM
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I just read an article about how food vendors in China add borax to food to be sold cheaply to poor people to preserve it, even though it is poisonous. They even use formaldehyde. I also read they used to use borax to preserve food in England.
Probably the only way to get it out of the soil other than remove the soil would be to flood the bed with massive amounts of water to leach it out to wherever the water goes, either into the storm drains, or run off onto your neighbors property, or down into the water table.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 2:14PM
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npthaskell(coastal oregon)

> If you're in doubt, sprinkle a little borax
> around the plant.

You may get too much that way.

A pinch of borax stirred into a 1-2 gallon watering can would be safer (and faster).

I grow beets / chard.

jjabs, how much borax did you add?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 12:17AM
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npthaskell(coastal oregon)

What are you growing? Beets, chard, turnips, rutabegas are more tolerant to boron.

What is the pH? Borate becomes more insoluble as pH is raised from 6.5 to 7.0. If you are in a hurry, use Hydrated Lime. Suspend a tablespoon in a 1-2 gallon watering can (it will be milky) and apply sparingly & water in. Add several doses of hydrated lime rather than all at once. If you are patient, sprinkle prilled powdered dolomite lime and mix it in.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 12:48AM
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There's a very fine line between boron deficiency and boron toxicity. If your soil was high enough in boron and you added just the tiniest teeniest amount than it becomes a toxic level. Never EVER add boron unless a soil test shows you need's just that fine a line! Also know that since boron is leachable it does cause toxic levels in ground water/well water but really the only thing you can do is leach it out if you want to save you plants. One of the first things I learned in my soil management classes on the topic of micronutrients.

Here is a link that might be useful: Article on Boron: Soil and Plant Laboratory

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 12:30PM
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