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Epsom salts

Posted by coriander z5PA (My Page) on
Sun, May 15, 05 at 6:05

A local nursery owner told me she always puts a ring of Epsom salts around her tomato and pepper plants. Said it makes the stem very sturdy. My soil tests OK for magnesium and I assume by adding dolomitic limestone, I have been amending the garden with some magnesium.

Does anyone else add this extra to their tomato plants?

coriander


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Epsom salts

There are many people that add Epsom Salts to their plants and soil often without a soil test to indicate whether they are really needed or not and the placebo effect takes over and they see results that are not there because they want to. If your soil test indicates adequate soil levels of magnesium add more will upset the soil chemistry enough that calcium could be unavailable to the plants.


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RE: Epsom salts

  • Posted by peggy_g Melbourne 9/10 (My Page) on
    Sun, May 15, 05 at 10:15

I add about 1 tsp to each hole when I plant tomatoes and peppers. Rodale's book suggested it for tomatoes and I started using it for all the nightshades. Never have done a test, some with and some without. Maybe someone else has and will tell us the results.


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RE: Epsom salts

  • Posted by PaulNS NS zone 6a (My Page) on
    Sun, May 15, 05 at 17:41

Kimmsr, I do believe what you describe is what happened to our tomatoes last year. I'd read 'epsom salts good for tomatoes' and watered them with some, not thinking of the soil test which showed our soil is low in calcium, medium/high in magnesium. Then wondered why the tomatoes had so much blossom end rot. I'd also put ground eggshells in the planting holes but that was probably too slow acting to make a difference.


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RE: Epsom salts

  • Posted by jean001 z8aPortland, OR (My Page) on
    Sun, May 15, 05 at 23:00

it was said:
"I'd also put ground eggshells in the planting holes but that was probably too slow acting to make a difference."

Yep. Waaaay too slow.


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RE: Epsom salts

I add a bit of epson salts to my compost tea when I brew it up.

Has anyone ever used tums? or an antiacid tablets made of calcium? Just curious, should be more readily available than egg shells to the soil?! sorry for complicating the issue.


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RE: Epsom salts

Plain old garden lime is a heck of a lot cheaper than antacids, and works faster than eggshells. A soil test is an absolute MUST though, because you can definately poison your plants if you already have high levels of magnesium on board and then you add more. And, you don't need to be adding lime as a magnesium/calcium source if your soil is already alkaline. You need to know exactly what you are starting out with so you can know exactly what to add to get optimal results.


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RE: Epsom salts

Interesting idea - what about using calcium supplements - some vitamin kind that's supposed to be easily absorbed - if there are any without magnesium?

Calcitic lime is supposed to have less or no magnesium compared to dolomitic lime. Can't find calcitic lime at the farmer's co-op here.


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RE: Epsom salts

Thanks guys,

I guess we will see what happens, as I added the Epsom salts to some of the plants. I would think bone meal is the best source of a quick, easily absorbed calcium?

coriander


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RE: Epsom salts

Bone meal, antacids, egg shells, plain old lime, all are very slow ways to get calcium in the soil because it takes the soil bacteria time to digest them and then make the calcium into something the plants can use.
Blossom End Rot occurs for a number of reasons, one of which might be low soil calcium levels, but most often is simply because the calcium moves so slowly up the plant that watering is the usual problem. While you want to be sure there is a good balance of Calcium and Magnesium, being sure the soil is well endowed with organic matter so it is evenly moist but well drained is more important. Slow even growth is also important since often if there is a sudden growth spurt those tomatoes also have BER.


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RE: Epsom salts

How long does it take for soil to return to normal after adding epsom salts? I added a tablespoon to each tomato hole along with a handfull of dolomite lime. I have acid silt soil, but I hope I didnt overdo it! Should have tested first, ugh! Paul.


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I consider Epsom salt to be a nonselective poison for soil fungi. Any ingredient that reads like this, blanketyblank SULFATE, I stay miles away from.


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I use a tablespoon of Epsom salts on my peppers when the first bloom appears on the pepper. I have found that it adds the right amount of magnesium to make big blocky peppers that taste right. It was sucessful with both sweet and hot peppers. (California Wonder, Anaheim, and Hungarian Hot)

I was gardening on porceline clay soils that with limestone edgers, and I still got blossom end rot in my peppers. I asked the extention service why I needed it, and he said that even though it shouldn't be a problem, peppers need such a big rush of magnesium that the soil sometimes can't keep up, or the roots simply can't grab enough from the soil, no matter how correct the tests come back. Modern peppers are huge compaired to the original.

I got this idea from the magazine Organic Gardening, and then one of the farm catalouges came out with a side dressing schedule that I used to nudge my vegetables along, and it called for a side dressing for peppers at first bloom. Sure everyone laughed at me for giving my peppers a foot up, but it worked.


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allrawpaul - not to worry - I've been adding epsom and dolomite to my tomato plantings in this acid PNW soil for years, and always have great crops

Bill


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RE: Epsom salts

Great posts. I'l going with the positive ones on adding the additional magnesium and hope for the best. Let's remember to post some results in late summer on our tomato and pepper crops!

coriander


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I should have thrown those old Tums into my compost pile!


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Does anyone have any recomendations about the application of epsom salts to peppers and tomatoes in containers. I did a soil test yesterday and found that my soils are high i all of the major nutrients NPand K. Any suggestions would be great. Thanx.
Ki


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RE: Epsom salts

The History and Science of Epsom Salts

This natural mineral, discovered in the well water of Epsom, England, has been used for hundreds of years, not only to fertilize plants but to treat a range of human and animal ailments. Who hasn't soaked sore feet in it at least once? Chemically, Epsom salts is hydrated magnesium sulfate (about 10 percent magnesium and 13 percent sulfur). Magnesium is critical for seed germination and the production of chlorophyll, fruit, and nuts. Magnesium helps strengthen cell walls and improves plants' uptake of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur.

Sulfur, a key element in plant growth, is critical to production of vitamins, amino acids (therefore protein), and enzymes. It's also the compound that gives vegetables such as broccoli and onions their flavors. Sulfur is seldom deficient in garden soils in North America because acid rain and commonly used animal manures contain sulfur, as do chemical fertilizers such as ammonium sulfate.

The causes and effects of magnesium deficiencies vary. Vegetables such as beans, peas, lettuce, and spinach can grow and produce good yields in soils with low magnesium levels, but plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and roses need high doses of magnesium for optimal growth. However, plants may not show the effects of magnesium deficiency until it's severe. Some common deficiency symptoms are yellowing of the leaves between the veins, leaf curling, stunted growth, and lack of sweetness in the fruit.

Magnesium tends to be lacking in old, weathered soils with low pH, notably in the Southeast and Pacific Northwest. Soils with a pH above 7 and soils high in calcium and potassium also generally have low magnesium levels. Calcium and potassium compete with magnesium for uptake by plant roots, and magnesium often loses. Sometimes, a soil test will show adequate magnesium levels in soil, but a plant grown in that soil may still be deficient because of that competition.

Gardeners add magnesium when they apply dolomitic lime to raise the soil's pH. However, this product (46 percent calcium carbonate, 38 percent magnesium carbonate) breaks down slowly, and the calcium can interfere with magnesium uptake. For soils with a pH above 7, many gardeners use Sul-Po-Mag (22 percent sulfur, 22 percent potassium, 11 percent magnesium) to increase magnesium. Although dolomitic lime and Sul-Po-Mag are inexpensive ways to add magnesium, Epsom salts' advantage over them is its high solubility.

When diluted with water, and especially when applied as a foliar spray, Epsom salts can be taken up quickly by plants. Epsom salts' magnesium content, high solubility, and ease of application as a foliar spray are the main reasons for the positive results many gardeners see in their plants.

Apply 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts mixed with a gallon of water as a foliar spray to plants at bloom time and again 10 days later.

Before you try Epsom salts, test the soil to determine its magnesium content. Don't rely on Epsom salts to correct large soil magnesium deficiencies, but rather use it as a supplement to soils with adequate or slightly low magnesium levels to boost plant growth, flowering, and fruiting. For severely magnesium-deficient soils, use dolomitic lime or Sul-Po-Mag.

Personally, I like to use compost and amendments before the season starts to balance my soil.


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RE: Epsom salts

  • Posted by el34 Z7 - NC, USA (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 29, 06 at 17:32

I added some epsom salts to my 5 gallon container soil garden plants a couple weeks ago and they look great.


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Plamts, and people, can look really great and still have a nutrient deficiency that is going to cause problems later. The single best means of growing good healthy plants is to have a good, reliable soil test done periodically, add organic matter to your soil, and make sure the soils nutrients are in balance (and only a soil test can indicate if that is true) so the plants can grow strong and healthy without imbalances in the diet.


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So how good is a soil test in a 6 month old lasagna bed? It's not really soil yet. Lots of organics I'm sure. N-P-K magnesium, calcium, etc. how would I know?

Lee


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My sandy, nutrient deficient soil tested so high for magnesium when I was trying to straighten it out 10 years ago that I was advised not even to use dolomitic limestone--only High carbonate limestone. Soil tests are invaluable.


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In a very interesting post, termater said...Sulfur, a key element in plant growth, is critical to production of vitamins, amino acids (therefore protein), and enzymes. It's also the compound that gives vegetables such as broccoli and onions their flavors. Sulfur is seldom deficient in garden soils in North America because acid rain and commonly used animal manures contain sulfur, as do chemical fertilizers such as ammonium sulfate.

Sulfur is also a non selective fungicide and great for forming sulfuric acid when you want to acidify your soil. I live on pure limestone rubble and would never purposely use any sulfur or sulfates on my pH 8+ soil.

I wonder if the greening seen when you use Epsom salts is due to magnesium or due to the release of iron from the increased acidity?


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  • Posted by byron 4a/5b NH (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 6, 06 at 21:01

Magnesium is used by the plant for the manufacturing of chlorophyl ( so is sulpher) Iron is also used by a plant

RE Organic Gardening, Geoff Hamilton, is one source.


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RE: Epsom salts

Jeez... I love using epsom salt in my garden. The plants turn green and sturdy, and the slugs stay far, and away. It is also good at irritating soft-skinned grubs.

I do not dilute it in water first, oddly. I sprinkle it right out of the bag. That and fish emulsion really make a noticeable difference

Wanda


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Any good, organic gardener is going to know what the nutrient levels of their soil is and will not simply throw something at the soil n the hopes it will correct a perceived problem. Plants will show nutrient deficiencies even if there is enough of that nutrient in the soil if one that interferes with the nutrients uptake is in too large a supply. To an organic gardener the soil is the single most important part of the garden and the only way to know what the available nutrient supply in the soil is would be by a good, reliable soil test, one that gives numbers and tests for all the major nutrients, not just NPK.


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I've been following this discussion thread regarding the use of Epsom Salts in Organic Gardening. I've recently started using this product, very lightly, here and there in my garden, as it seemed like something that would be of value to the plants.

I especially like the idea of spraying a diluted solution of it on plants that are being eaten alive by various caterpillars and other chewing insects. Maybe I'll do a test on a row of hybrid sunflowers...treat half of them with the Epsom Salts spray and the other half with a basic homemade soap solution and sit back and watch to see which plants fare better over the next two weeks?

My parents kept a huge flower garden for many years. All the old standards were to be found there: roses, lilies, poppies, lupines, phlox, snapdragons, dahlias, marigold, pansies, peonies, irises, delphinium, zinnias, glads, sweet william, carnations, daisies...you name it, there was an abundance of it. My mother had so many flowers in her yard each spring and summer, she'd send me around to the neighbors with armloads of cut flowers as gifts.

My parents were into organic gardening, and they never even knew it. Their secret to a great, long flowering garden was regular applications of manure tea. My mother kept the manure in a large galvanized tub with a large board on top of it; she'd cover the manure with water early in the season and just let it steep 'til it was needed. You should have seen the size of the dahlias they grew...they were absolutely gorgeous. Every week or so, Mom would draw off that lovely brown "tea" and all the flowering plants got a drink...one or two cups worth around the base of each plant. The plants loved it, and it cost my parents absolutely nothing. The only other items I saw them add to their soil were some wood ashes, on occasion, when they could get them and bone meal, which was used when planting bulbs, etc. I bet my folks would have used a little of the Epsom Salts, too. They would have felt, as I do, that it makes sense to replenish the salts that are leached out of the soil by rainfall and the appetites of the growing plants depleting the soil year after year. To me, it's just a question of good, common sense.


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I bought a bag of epsom slats at the garden center--and it doesn't dissolve at all! I didn't want to sprinkle it dry over the plants and risk getting granules in the leaf axils. I tried cold, hot, warm water, stirred and stirred and stirred, and finally gave up when the sludge in the watering can clogged the rose. I dumped the sludge out on the compost heap over a month ago, and it dried into a pinkish rock that will not break down. What's going on?


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I used the Epsom salts and crushed egg shells when I put my tomatoes in the hole.I added several tablespoons of non-fact dry milk for calcium.It dissolves very quickly.I haven't had any trouble with end blossom rot since I did this.


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What's going on?
I'm sure some of it dissolved, but it sounds like you tried to use too much. Once the solution has reached the point of saturation, the solute (in this case, epsom salts) stops dissolving.


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What's funny is no one seems to mention that soil tests cost $15/pop minimum of 2x a year to stay consistent and from several different areas of the garden to be done accurately(In a garden like mine that could run about 400 bucks a year, maybe not a whole lot but I could find better things to use with that, say something like drilling a 3 point irrigation well[yes I can do it for around $400].

Soil ph can vary from spot to spot and even within just a few square feet.

With compost and compost tea I can grown just about any plant just about anywhere regardless of ph and soil nutrient. This is not an exaggeration either. I also get great yields. I do this by maintaining plants that are hardy for my zone. If you want to grow exotics it can be done and then soil ph and other control methods are important as these weren't designed to grow certain places

If you plant cover crops such as hairy vetch, or clover you can repair the soil naturally on the off part of the growing season. Then rotate your crops.

Add epsom salt as a foliar spray but in moderation, while crushed eggshell may be slow, it is still beneficial and acts as a barrier for slug and some other garden pests that can't cross the shells as they cut themselves open and die from it.

You ever wonder how soil tests were done back in the ancient days? They couldn't look at the number of beneficial microorganisms the way we can today. They did everything by look,feel and smell.

Do your own look feel and smell test. Does your earth smell deep and rich and earthy? Or does it have a slight metallic smell and is not as rich looking.

Don't bother with soil tests, I can grow hardier healthier plants with all natural means of growing than the person who concerns themselves with having to know the soils ph, and blah blah blah. Not bragging but it is true.

I have never done any test and have used foliar sprays wiht epsom salt,fish emulsion,seeweed,compost tea and just use dry compost from my own compost pile And always have big beautiful tomatoes,corn ears,squash,cucumber,okra,etc..... I could go on for days but I won't.

It simply comes down to what you feel is right for you.


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"Don't bother with soil tests".

I used to feel that way as well. After 14 years of gardening I have come to realize that never getting a soil test is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. A full test once in a while, maybe every 5 years or so, is very informative. A common problem with organic gardens is some nutrients getting low, because they tend to be heavily cropped, and compost and other OM additions are mostly locally-grown materials which can and usually do have nutrients missing or very low. Seaweed has a wide range of nutrients and so is very good if available. The extract is expensive but probably well-worth the money as an occasional input.

Without doing a test I would never have known that my B was vanishingly low, for example. The simple addition of borax over the winter resulted in the most amazing blooming ever on my fruit trees, and so far they are holding on to the fruit better than usual. No amount of compost would have done the job, and enormous amounts of seaweed would be required to bring up that much B. When the traces are very low there is no effective way to bring them up without using the element itself. Once up it can be maintained with seaweed, compost, etc.


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There is no reason to have a soil test done 2 times a year, once every 5 years is probably adequate and it is much less expensive then dumping costly, and often unneeded, "fertilizers" that because they are not needed cause pollution of our ground water. Back in the 1960's and 1970's many proponents of organic gardening told us to pour large amounts of rock dusts, manure, etc. on our soils to "bank" these for the future until we found they did not stay in the soil but flowed out with the water into the ground water causing pollution.
Many people today still spend money on "fertilizers" they don't need which wastes their money and contributes to the poisoning of the water we drink.


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RE: Epsom salts

  • Posted by jolj 7b/8a-S.C.,USA (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 10, 11 at 19:19

I grew crops for years by ear/seat of my pants, & never had a soil test.
The Furniture maker I did my apprenticeship with always said " If it is worth cutting, it is worth sanding".
So now I get a soil test about 2-5 years.
Now I will know that this new problem is management or a bug & not the elements in the soil.
As much time & money that I put into gathering leave,straw & manures for the garden.
I think I can waste $50.00 on a few soil test.
Sometimes I put in a little Epsom salt in the Nightshade plants, sometimes, I do not. Most of the time I can not tell the difference.


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"What's funny is no one seems to mention that soil tests cost $15/pop minimum of 2x a year to stay consistent and from several different areas of the garden to be done accurately(In a garden like mine that could run about 400 bucks a year, maybe not a whole lot but I could find better things to use with that, say something like drilling a 3 point irrigation well[yes I can do it for around $400]. "

First, soil tests aren't the same price in all areas of the country. Mine only cost $6 ea.
Second, you must not be taking them the right way if you feel you have to do so many! Samples from different holes (about 6"-12" deep) through out an area & mixing them before taking out the amount for a test...is how it should be done.

Yes, PH can vary every few feet but we aren't trying for rocket science....we are trying to get soils better in the entire area not just in one spot. And I have found that when the samples are taken deep enough...there isn't that much difference!


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Why would ph vary every few feet? Other than highly disturbed ground from construction or industry that is hard to imagine.

Native ph is determined by the mineral composition of the soil, which is itself determined by vast geological processes (even in the case of areas on the margins of glaciations, like where I am, there isn't much variation in a scale of feet). The other main factor is amount of precipitation, which of course does not vary on a scale of feet.


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RE: Epsom salts

  • Posted by jolj 7b/8a-S.C.USA (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 13, 11 at 20:57

Take a 5 gallon bucket or large pail & put pint of soil from each end of each bed. Then mix this up, until It is consistence. Then take out what you need for the test.
This will gave you an over all review of the garden.


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RE: Epsom salts

Eggshells are slow release, to speed that up crush your eggshells and dissolve them with distilled vinegar (I use 48 oz. of vinegar per dozen large eggshells). Let this sit for a few days to allow complete reaction.

This yields highly soluble calcium acetate (sold in Ag supply stores as Foli-Cal). Strain the resulting solution and dilute 5oz. solution to 1 gallon of water and foliar feed.


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Here is a very fascinating, moe scientific article on the use of epsom salts on your garden. Don't forget to read the link within the link. The original question was about hydrangeas, but morphed into something else entirely.

Here is a link that might be useful: Turning hydrangeas blue?


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  • Posted by SoTX 8b/9a (My Page) on
    Fri, Aug 26, 11 at 1:03

I use cheap calcium tablets--does a great job--along with a dash of Epsom salts.


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RE: Epsom salts

A tablespoon, or even a cup, of Epsom Salts applied to a garden (one source saya 1 cup per hundred square feet) is not enough to make a difference just as a tablet or two of a calcium antacid is not enough. Several pounds of Epsom Salts per hundred square feet, or a couple of bottles of the calcium antacid might make some difference next year but it is not very likely the soil bacteria will convert those minerals this growing season for plants to utilize.
The people at the Epsom Salt Council, a sellers organization, will tell you that adding the product their members sell is a good thing. However, few researchers will tell you that adding it in the amounts most people do will not do much.

Here is a link that might be useful: Epson Salts


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the average garden is unlikely to be low in mag. Much more likely to be low in N,P,K,S,B and others depending on soil type.


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RE: Epsom salts

For those who may not be inclined to get a soil sample, this map of Magnesium distribution from the US Geological Survey could be helpful:

http://tin.er.usgs.gov/geochem/map/image/lower48/mg_icp40.jpg


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RE: Epsom salts

For those who may not be inclined to get a soil sample, this map of Magnesium distribution from the US Geological Survey could be helpful:

http://tin.er.usgs.gov/geochem/map/image/lower48/mg_icp40.jpg


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RE: Epsom salts

A few years ago, the Washington Post had an article that had a formula for adding a combination of lime, epsom salts and I think one other ingredient to each spot where you were going to plant a tomato. You dug down so many inches, put in the ingredients, covered it and waited about a week before planting. I can't find the article and I don't remember the formula. Does this ring a bell with anyone?


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That sounds like something Jerry Baker might have concocted. The best thing one can do to grow tomatoes, or any other plant, that is strong and healthy is to make the soil they are growing in good and healthy.
Organic gardening is not, or should not be, about quick fixes.


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Please tell me where "quick fixes" came from? I did not mention quick fixes. I was just asking if anyone has heard of the articla or formula. Not asking for any judgemental responses.


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If my citrus are a bit yellowish I treat them (through soil or spray) with a little iron, nitrogen, and magnesium, the three most likely causes, and the last as Epsom salt. They will be fixed before I'd ever get a soil test. A little extra of any of these is no problem.

And soil bacteria are not needed to liberate calcium from lime. Respiration of plant roots even in sterile soil would dissolve plenty (adds CO2 to the soil water).


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what plants should be sprayed with epson salts? i know that pepper plants get a great birst with a sprits or two, but some have told me onions and garlic need it too. also is it ok to spray tomato plants with the epson mix? i have 4 that have began to die since i had to transplant them and figured i could make them my guinea pigs since i will probly have to grow more anyways.


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I'm very new and still learning, but I do spray all of my pepper plants with an epsom salt solution when they start to blossom. I've read that peppers typically do not always set fruit from each blossom and that this is helpful.

If sulfates kill fungus, I don't see any reason to ever put it into your soil......

But what about your seed starting medium? Is it possible we've been overlooking a potential ally in our fight against the dreaded damping off? Would the dose necessary to kill off the fungus be detrimental to the plant?

Looks like I've got a new experiment for the winter.


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RE: Epsom salts

Most everything I have seen touting the benefits of spraying Epsom Salts on your garden are from people tht have a vested interest in selling you something whether you need it or not. Most often a Magnesium deficiency in plants is from a nutrient imbalance in the soil, usually excess Calcium, but may also be because of soil pH which can hinder a plants ability to uptake nutients needed.
In the small quantities often suggested spraying on plants Epsom Salts will do very little. If there is an actual deficiency of Magnesium in your soil you would need much more then a cup of Epsom Salts in a gallon of water sprayed over 100 square feet.

Here is a link that might be useful: Epsom Salts in the garden


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