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Gardening 101: How to Add Epsom Salts to Soil

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Gardening 101: How to Add Epsom Salts to Soil

May 26, 2020

Here in Half Moon Bay on the Northern California coast where I live and design gardens, I have to admit my garden—and my clients’—all stay pretty happy without much help. Well, they did anyway. Then came the California drought.

With water cutbacks, the plants drooped. And so did I, because after a long day of being outside digging in the dirt, I find that soaking in a hot bath (with a bath tea blend of herbs and Epsom salts) cured achy muscles and tired feet. But I was on the verge of giving up my hot soaks until I discovered a solution: recycling the bathwater (with diluted Epsom salts) in the garden.

Diluted Epsom salts are actually quite a fantastic fertilizer (offering a gentle dose of magnesium and sulfur to the soil). If you want to conserve water and give the garden a boost at the same time, follow these simple steps:

Photography by Rob Co for Gardenista.

 I also am an apothecarian (see more about my shop at Shopper&#8\2\17;s Diary: Garden Apothecary in Half Moon Bay), and with a little research learned that recycling bathwater is an excellent way to give garden plants a dose of Epsom salts. With the water acting as a conduit, plants can easily absorb this solution, resulting in stronger cell walls, higher production of chlorophyll, and increased yield in foliage—and more blooms or fruit.
Above:  I also am an apothecarian (see more about my shop at Shopper’s Diary: Garden Apothecary in Half Moon Bay), and with a little research learned that recycling bathwater is an excellent way to give garden plants a dose of Epsom salts. With the water acting as a conduit, plants can easily absorb this solution, resulting in stronger cell walls, higher production of chlorophyll, and increased yield in foliage—and more blooms or fruit.
I have come to depend on my hot soaks each week, finding that it’s the one time I can actually pull out a book and relax without interruption. My recycled bath water (the average bathtub can hold 40 or more gallons) does double duty in the garden.
Above: I have come to depend on my hot soaks each week, finding that it’s the one time I can actually pull out a book and relax without interruption. My recycled bath water (the average bathtub can hold 40 or more gallons) does double duty in the garden.

I always suggest having a soil test done prior to fertilizing, but using diluted Epsom salts in water tends to be very gentle in any case. A good rule of thumb is to use 1.5 tablespoons of epsom salt in 1 gallon of water. I do this about every other week or so, circulating the water among my plants.

Here’s where my California hippiness really came to the surface—after every indulgent bath, I simply carried buckets of the bath water outside to my garden.  I poured two buckets on my ‘Benjamin Britton’ rose, on my Gunnera manicata, around my Daphne, my Meyer lemon, and a handful other established plants.
Above: Here’s where my California hippiness really came to the surface—after every indulgent bath, I simply carried buckets of the bath water outside to my garden.  I poured two buckets on my ‘Benjamin Britton’ rose, on my Gunnera manicata, around my Daphne, my Meyer lemon, and a handful other established plants.

I also put some of the solution in a spray bottle and applied it to the new growth of vegetables, like my tomatoes, peppers, and beans. After a few weeks of this, I was amazed that my plants grew a lovely lush batch of green leaves—and the roses were covered in healthy buds. The tomatoes matured much stronger than past years, with zero rot or weak stems. My peppers were sweeter and produced about a month longer then normal. I’m sure the extra heat helped, but I found that using Epsom salts in the garden has been a wonderful addition to my yearly organic arsenal.

Luckily, you don’t have to live through a drought or be a Northern California hippie to use Epsom salts in the garden. Every box or bag of Epsom salts I have ever bought has the instruction for how to use them for the body or in the garden. There are plenty of plants that need a little jolt of magnesium to help with growth.
Above: Luckily, you don’t have to live through a drought or be a Northern California hippie to use Epsom salts in the garden. Every box or bag of Epsom salts I have ever bought has the instruction for how to use them for the body or in the garden. There are plenty of plants that need a little jolt of magnesium to help with growth.
Do you have a unique trick for getting your garden to grow abundantly? Comment below, I’d love to hear about it!
Above: Do you have a unique trick for getting your garden to grow abundantly? Comment below, I’d love to hear about it!

For more recycled fertilizer tips, see:

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