Is Epsom Salt good for Tomato Seedlings?

Canyon Lake, TX(Zone 8b)

Will feeding tomato seedlings a weak solution of Epsom salt help them to have stronger stems? Say like 1/4 tsp of Epsom salt to a gallon of water fed daily? They get wimpy on real windy days (20 mph).

These seedlings were seeded 1/14/09 and have been outdoors during the day just about every day since about 80% germination. The tallest plant is 3".

Thanks

Jerry

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Boca Raton, FL(Zone 10a)

Can someone please tell me where they have read that Epsom salt helps to create strong stems? I thought by putting seedlings close to a light source and a very, very weak solution of fertilizer is the right way to go. That's what I do and I have little "trees" growing in my seed starting trays.

BocaBob

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Canyon Lake, TX(Zone 8b)

Outdoor sunshine is my light source, but I have not fertilized them yet. They were doing great until yesterday when the wind came up.

I plan to repot them this weekend into 4" sq plastics and coir. I'll feed them daily with a 1/4 tsp water soluble fert mixed in a gallon of water until then and continue there after with the fert.

I am a little behind schedule with finishing the deerproof garden fence, else, I would go straight into my grow bags & coir with the maters.

I thought I read some where on this forum about tomatoes needing epsom salt. I dunno, that's why I asked.

Bob, Nice plants you got their.

Jerry

Boca Raton, FL(Zone 10a)

Thanks Jerry,

This is what I know (have learned). The fertilizer that I'm using has all the nutrients needed by plants including calcium but not magnesium sulfate (epsom salt), which I add. So ES is just one of the important ingredients in a complete fertilizer.

BocaBob

Louisville, KY

Perhaps the following information and Link may answer your question.
Gary

Question: Epsom Salts and Plants - Is it Worth Using Epsom Salts as a Plant Fertilizer?
Gardeners have been using Epsom salts as a plant fertilizer for generations, but is there any evidence there's a real benefit to the plants? There is little research to prove conclusively that Epsom salts have any effect on plants, but many seasoned gardeners cite their own gardens as proof that Epsom salts help certain plants grow stronger and produce better.
Additional Information Here ---
http://gardening.about.com/od/organicgardenin1/f/Epsom_Salts.htm

Canyon Lake, TX(Zone 8b)

Thanks VGMKY

Bob, After having read the information behind the link VGMKY provided, I am going to have to kid you just a little here. Now we know why you plants look like beautiful little dark green trees - it's the Epsom salt you add with your fertilizer. Just kidding!

Jerry

Boca Raton, FL(Zone 10a)

Dem healthy little babies, and it's true. Look at your fertilizer and see what's in it. Does it have every nutrient plants need? The only reason why I'm saying this, is because container gardening needs all the nutrients applied unlike garden soil that has some of the goodies in it. I think Miracle Gro assumes you are planting in the ground because they are short on nutrients.

BocaBob

Audubon, PA(Zone 6b)

Stout stems?? I swear by this method---- start seed and wait until the first set of 'true leaves' form...not the cotyledon (embryonic leaves that form first)--- then, transplant into good quality potting soil while burying the seedlings up to the top set of "true leaves". Put them under
ordinary fluorescent light... 2 inches above the leaves... and watch them grow. As they get taller, raise the fluorescents to maintain 2 inches above top leaves for the remainder of their seedling life. THEN.... TWICE a day ...EVERY day... brush the plants the plants with your hands. A biological reaction called "" Thigmotropism"" will set in to produce strong stems. CHECK it out on the Internet if you don't believe it. It DOES make them stronger!! My fluorescent lites are on a timer for 16 hours ON and 8 hours OFF. After 7--8 weeks harden them off and 1 week later plant tem in the garden.
LDD

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

"They get wimpy on real windy days (20 mph)"

Jerry, also keep in mind that your seedlings are barely 3 weeks old and any seeding that age will be affected (blown over, wimpy) by 20 mph winds. A gentle breeze will help them grow stronger trunks but a strong wind just irritates them and if they are under that kind of stress you won't get the growth that you are looking for. Maybe a wind break of some kind while they are outside would be helpful.

Someone else on DG recently mentioned using Epsom's for "strong stem growth". I would have to do a search for that thread where it was previously mentioned but will note again that magnesium is required for when plants get to the seed production stage. And yes, it'll certainly green up plants, too, (Chlorophyll has Mg as its main ion.) Lastly, keep in mind that while magnesium helps 'build cell walls' (most likey those 3 words is what make people think it helps build strong stems) it doesn't mean it'll help them build stronger/bigger/healthier cell walls, those things will be up to an overall feeding diet and environmental factors.

Wishing everyone a successful tomato crop! I sure do like looking at ya'lls pics; nothing here like that yet!

Shoe

Canyon Lake, TX(Zone 8b)

Ok, I'll get them a wind break, but they still go outside cause they sure like the sunshine. This morning they had straightened up after yesterday's blow. Today's wind is a little more than yesterday's, however.

Thanks for all the advice.

Jerry

Canyon Lake, TX(Zone 8b)

It's amazing what three days and a good feeding will do for tiny hungry seedlings.

They just needed a good feeding (still no Epsom salt).

Now they are starting to look like little dark green trees.

Now they are about to make a trip to a new home for a few weeks, 4" pots filled with coir.

Coir is fun to play in as others have said. This is my first time getting to play in it. It has a nice fragrance.

Notice in the picture the coir is draining on an old window screen stationed over a Home Depot concrete mixing trough. I got the concrete mixing trough idea from Tplant. Thanks

I just happen to have the trough from when I was setting fence posts around the garden the last couple months.

I look forward to next year when I plan to early sow seed directly into coir. I learned this from BocaBob. Thanks

Jerry

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Boca Raton, FL(Zone 10a)

Jerry,

You just taught me something. Thanks. I've been using a kitchen strainer. Never thought about a window screen to drain the coconut coir. Brilliant. Just happen to have a couple of those hanging around.

BocaBob

Canyon Lake, TX(Zone 8b)

Bob, I thought about the kitchen strainer and even a colander, but knowing how clumsy I am I wanted more space to catch the bits and pieces that I would drop while filling the little pots. I work from the center of the coir pile and fill the pots holding them over the whole mess. As you probable know I still have to squeeze some of the coir a little and I do this over the hole in the center so the juice runs straight trough the screen into the trough.

Working with coir is just like working with my African Violet soil less mix....just fill and gently tap the pot down on the concrete step. This settles the coir nicely around the plant. Love this stuff!

Jerry

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Boca Raton, FL(Zone 10a)

Ain't the stuff just great? And I'm not saying it, I mean it.

Salem, NY(Zone 4b)

What I'd like to see is someone do some real studies on the possible effect of Epsom Salts on stems and any other part of a plant and that means doing controls, and I've never seen that kind of data anywhere.

Grow X number of varieties using Epsom Salts and the same varieties not using Epsom Salts.

That's really the only way to know if there is any effect at all.

Yes, the central molecule in Chlorophyll is Mg++ but we're talking molecular amounts here which are present in sufficient amounts in any soil, and most folks add fertilizers of one kind or another to container grown plants. Probably a shot of seaweed or fish emusion as a foliar feed is the best way to get micronutrients to the foliage when using artificial mix.

And I certainly do agree with Larry about thigmotropism and brushing the tops of the plants on a regular basis.

The thigmotropism thingie discovery with tomato plants, for it's nothing new that touch can effect plants, was kind of interesting. It was noted that the flats of plants that grew along the narrow aisles in commercial greenhouses grew stockier plants than others. The connection was that workers going down thru those aisles to water plants brushed up against the plants on the aisles and it was that touch that helped the plants grow stockier.

Having a fan blowing gently over the seedlings can also help as I think someone above did already say.

Other than that I think Epsom Salts is best used when a soil test indicates low levels of MG++ in the soil until and unless there's data from controlled studies to show otherwise.

Carolyn

Canyon Lake, TX(Zone 8b)

Carolyn, Thanks for your input. It's always a pleasure to learn from such a knowledgeable resource.

Yes research would be good on the ES thing. I would like to see cross sections of the stems of tomato plants that have been fed different amounts of Mg and S.

One reason it may seem to benefit plants in my area is due to the amount of calcium in our water and soil. Since the ES tends to be some what of an acidifier, it may allow plants to take up other nutrients that were locked out due to the calcium.

Well on to the transplanting of the little maters into coir. Yesterday I used coir for the first time so I wanted to get my feet (hands) wet by easing into it in a small way. I started by soaking a small brick I had bought back in the Fall. Last night I wanted to soak a bale so I had to up size the operation to an old 104 quart cooler I had stored out in the barn. (see picture)

I know now that a bigger operation will be needed in order for me to get the 40 or so grow bags I have planned for the growing season ready in time to plant. I am thinking that the five 55 gallon drums I have tucked away will be needed. Two bales should hydrate nicely in each one.

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Kannapolis, NC

Sweet little seedlings, y'all, and so healthy looking! I've sowed several varieties of tomato seeds but not sprouts yet. Too soon.

Livingston, MT(Zone 3b)

Are you transplanting directly into the coir and nothing else? I had no idea. I've always transplanted into potting soil.

Kerrville, TX

Jerry........This texas wind is tough. I must be downwind of you cause I thought I smelt 'maters the last few days.

I bought these little black dishpans for $1.00 each at the dollar store. They work good for me. I just sit the 5 gal coir bags in a container and then run a hose on the top of the coir block. This helps wet and break up the block from the top while the pan is filling. I run the hose untill the pan is full of water. You can watch the water recede in the pan as the coir sucks it up and the coir hydrates in about 15 minutes. Im not growing in the gro bags themselves right now, I just need the coir hydrated and ready to go when I wont it and I keep 5 of them hydrated all the time.

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Canyon Lake, TX(Zone 8b)

Lookin' good, Jay.

My original plan was to cut the bales into 4 pieces and put each piece in a five gal gro bag inside a 5gal pickle bucket and hydrate. I have change my mind and decided to hydrate in 55 gal drums to get a larger volume of coir quantity faster. I now plan to transplant the maters from the 4" pots direct to a half filled gro bag and do the thang that BocaBob is doing with his maters.

Jerry

Barnwell, SC

Question: Am I the only person NOT using COIR? (smile) ? Living in a small South Carolina town I do not even know where to purchase it. Am surely willing to give it a try however. I make my own potting soil which I keep in two 40 gal. containers. It is simply a mixture of equal amounts of perlite, vermiculite, and spahgnum. I use it quite successfully for seed starting and general potting of most plants. Until transplanting them into my garden I water with 1/2 tsp Miracle Grow per gallon of water. Right now I have over 100 beautiful tomato plants and other flower and vegetable plants ready to put into my garden about April first. Do you feel that using coir would benefit me in the future?

Kannapolis, NC

John: I haven't used it either, so you're not alone. But maybe it's something I should be using. I'm still very much in a learning curve here, even after gardening for over 30 years.

(Karen) Frankston, TX(Zone 8a)

John, we (coir users) have started a thread here on the Self Contained Box Gardenening forum if you'd like to look and ask questions.

http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/957336/

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

John, WELCOME TO DG! You'll love it here!

100 tomato plants, sounds like you love tomatoes! Your mix is a nice blend (you could probably cut back on the vermiculite and save some money). Coir is easy to work with and barring any disease getting into it you can use it over and over, unlike peat moss which will tend to break down faster. When I first used it back in the late 80's it was new to most folks; today's 'new and improved' is a much better product. I bet it'll finally start showing up in stores in the next year as it gains in popularity.

Shoe

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Here's a great site on using epsom salts in gardening. Click on the tabs on the left for more info

http://www.epsomsaltcouncil.org/garden_benefits.htm

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I know I posted this some place else but Epsom Salts Magnesium sulfate (not Sodium) are used as a fertilizer,laxative, and to soak sore muscles in. I was told by my MD that it breaks down the surface tension of the water which allows for better absorption, which would explain why it is good as a laxative, it moves more water into the bowels. I don't believe it has as much to do with the addition of Magnesium or sulfate but more to do with increasing the usability of the fertilizer itself.
Lisa

Canyon Lake, TX(Zone 8b)

Right on..I think it's the sulfur that helps to unlock nutrients allowing the plants to take up what they need to stay green and healthy. There is so much calcium in our soil and water that it causes the plants to shut down. Some of the nurseries around here sell fertilizers such as 13-13-13 with sulfur added and you can always find liquid iron on store shelves.

I've been feeding my seedlings every watering with a weak solution of fert mixed in filtered well water. They were doing beautifully until two days ago when I let them get a little too dry. I grabbed up the hose and gave them a quick watering. This morning the pepper plants were showing signs of yellow leaves with green veins. So, I hit the whole batch of plants with a mix of one tablespoon of Epsom salt to a gallon of water and a 1/4 teaspoon of MG added for good measure.

Here is a picture of the plants that will start getting planted the later part of this coming week. The seeds for these plants were planted in peat pellets 1/14/09. Soon after they were up they went outdoors every sunny day when the temp was 60 or more. After they were transplanted in the 4" pots they stayed outdoors covered at night except when the temps were predicted to be under 40.

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Canyon Lake, TX(Zone 8b)

Another...like little trees.

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Canyon Lake, TX(Zone 8b)

Still Rockin'! Today's effort.

Jerry

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Evansville, IN(Zone 6b)

Epsom salts = magnesium sulfate. Magnesium and sulfur are micronutrients and help in the overall health of tomato plants by assisting in the absorption and implementation of the macronutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. You need the micronutrients, in other words, to maximize the use of the essential NPK.

Potassium, K, is the macronutrient essential for strong structure in the tomato plant.

A weak dose of Epsom salts in the fertigation of seedlings or maturing plants will not hurt a thing, but the more essential elements ... N, P and K ... are what your plants need more.

Nitrogen = leaves and shoots (new and verdant growth)
Phosphorus = roots and fruits (root mass and flower development)
Potassium = overall health and structure of the plant

A balanced tomato food, whether synthetic, organic, or a combination of both, will contain all the macronutrients and the micronutrients in a balanced formula. If the one you are using isn't balanced, find a way to amend it so that it is.

It's my opinion that tomato plants need feeding from the time the cotyledons yellow until the time you want to cut off production of flowers and development of new fruit.

The key is to measure and schedule the feeding appropriately.

Bill

Boca Raton, FL(Zone 10a)

http://www.epsomsaltcouncil.org/garden_benefits.htm

Albersbach, Germany

During the seedling stage I use a 1.8-1.0-2.3 with micros until I transplant the Jiffy 7 seedlings to 4" CowPots and let the "Light Warrior" potting mix take over until I plant them out. Ami

West Warren, MA

Thanks Boca, I put a fan on low for new seedlings I am starting...also went to Epsom salt site....will definitely try this!!

Canyon Lake, TX(Zone 8b)

The tomatoes have had Epsom salt twice since this thread was started. It didn't seem to hurt any of them.

I finished their cages today.

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Canyon Lake, TX(Zone 8b)

another

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Boca Raton, FL(Zone 10a)

Sweet set up Tex

West Warren, MA

Wow, Texas, liked how you did your fence for climbing...planning on doing the same thing for the morning glories...use fence posts and building grid right??

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

I think they're cattle panels. I know other folks who use them to great effect.

My only concern with the 5 gallon grow bags is that in June, they may run out of water from the time you water in the morning until the time you get home. Have you looked into timers and soaker hoses or drip irrigation?

(Karen) Frankston, TX(Zone 8a)

feldon I know that BocaBob uses the timers and spray turret irragation system on his (so will I be this summer) and he says the 5 gallon bags have to be watered twice a day during the really hot season.

West Warren, MA

Figured how to use 'tags'! Am getting 4X7 steel mesh panels and 5 ft. fence u-posts.
Texas showed me how to attach it to posts with clips used in barbed wire or wire to small openings on u-post...morning grories comming up in my window, did buy a heat blanket in camping dept. ( it's aluminum and should help reflect the light )..
Can't wait to get out to rake and plant...35 now with a frigid wind...this has been a loong winter in MA.. Will take pictures when done and learn how to post them!!
Thanks all..

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