I asked why it suggests for tomatoes "1 tablespoon (of Epsom Salt) per foot of plant height per plant; apply every two weeks" when some soils, mine in particular, have too much magnesium in the soil.
Adding more in the form of Epsom Salt can harm plants by blocking calcium uptake among other things as well as contribute to the run off of an element my area of Connecticut has too much of as it is.
Never received a reply
Think I'll write again. This is starting to bug me. Adding Mg, K, P, N, Cu, B or whatever to soil without knowing what is there first isn't a good practice.
This year, because for three years now the Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory at the University of Connecticut has told me I have too much magnesium in my soil , I'm adding gypsum (calcium sulfate) to the garden. 80lbs of it.
What is supposed to happen is the sulfur in the gypsum will bind with the magnesium in the soil forming magnesium sulfate (Epsom Salt) and leach the magnesium out of the soil (leaving behind calcium--an element I could use more of).
David Paul: I had heard that if you added too much epsom salt (magnesium), it could be more harmful than not adding any at all also. You can't expect the epsom salt people to tell you that though, as they want to sell their product so are going to make sure you only see the up side of the equation and not the down side. It's always good to do a soil test too and apparently you have. I noticed that some of my potting mix comes from Vermont, which leads me to believe that Vermont, Conneticut must have good soil? I've been very interested in learning more about gypsum as I've thought about substituting it in place of lime later on.
Joy...Vermont might harvest peat from bogs or import it from Canada for its potting mixes. Generally the soil is not good in New England. There are areas of Connecticut with limestone and the pH is decent but the state in general runs 5.5 to 5.7. That is why Mountain Laurel is our state flower.
Rains leach phosphorus and potassium out of our soils. In the 19th century, potassium was in such demand, a landowner could recoup labor costs and perhaps make a profit by cutting down trees and burning them for the potash.
Yes, I do understand the industry wanting to push a product. And they do it well. Can't go to a gardening forum without reading that Epsom Salt is good for tomatoes and good for this and good for that with no mention of the fact that "good" doesn't mean needed. Plants need water too but not if they are sitting in it. And my tomatoes are sitting in magnesium.
Had an interesting talk with a horticulturist at a local nursery about magnesium. I had asked for calcitic limestone because I didn't want to add more magnesium to the soil by using dolomitic limestone. She was delighted. "You have to talk to the owners about that," she said, "I've been telling them soils around here have too much magnesium and we needed to carry an alternative to dolomitic limestone!"
Like Epsom Salt, dolomitic limestone has become (I think because Organic Gardening pushed it decades ago) a standard everyone should use. But its not. Not in all cases. Only in cases where magnesium levels are low or normal.
First year I had a soil test, I had 1 lb of phosphorus per acre and less than 50 lbs of potassium. Bad, very bad.
Below is what the soil tested 18 months later--after following instructions from UConn, I added 80 lbs of 10-10-10 and the same amount of limestone (I also added lots of compost).
Still not adquate amounts of P and K. I was able , however, to raise the pH from 5.7 to a nice 6.1.
David Paul: The soil in Florida is awful too; when studying about soils they say that clay and sand mixed together is good, as clay doesn't drain very well and sand drains too fast; and my soil is eiher clay or sand; clay in some parts, sand in others, too bad they can't get together hey? I have only lived here about 7 years but noted that friends of mine in south Florda have problems with nematoids, so, because of the difficulty of growing things in the soil, I decided to use containers. Now blueberries grow wild here, and people who do grow things in the soil here, have to have it limed and use limestone to do it, one reason the blueberries do grow wild here.
From what I have read about container gardening, the potting mixes don't have a ph level in them, you have to add lime to bring the PH to where it will grow anything, and if you are growing tomatoes, peppers, eggplants or potatoes you must add more lime. Then the following year you can add either gypsom or lime. I have thought about trying that. I do like epsom salts in my garden here in Florida, but in Florida, the heat depletes the soil really quick of needed minerals and nutrients and they have to be replaced. That is why I redo my flower beds every year. I have to dig them up adding compost, manure, and whatever organic material I can get my hands on and add it to the beds, then when I plant my flowers, I add a little epsom salts around the flowers. From my experience it makes the stalks or stems thicken up which on my flowers I need. After that, I fertilize once a week. I've thought about buying a composter for next year. LOL
Never thought of blueberries in Florida. That is neat. I gardened a little in Jupiter, Florida. It was a sand dune surrounded by muck. Area was once a mango plantation. Rutgers tomatoes did great one year and the next the leaves were eaten overnight by worms.
No doubt you need magnesium if you are seeing those results. Read a deficiency is not that uncommon in the south.
Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott at Washington State U. writes of when Epsom Salts are useful, more sustainable alternatives and the "Myth, Miracle or Marketing" of Epsom Salts here:
David Paul: When you said what you did about the New England states you scared me, as the self watering container mix I bought from Gardener's Supply for the hanging topsys and revolutionary planters comes from Vermont. Of course, they all have toms in them, so, toms love magnesium and calcium. My toms are starting to show little yellow flowers now.
joy...as acidic and low in N,P & K most New England soils are (not all...but generally) I will take them over the alkaline soils I had in northwest Arizona. Yikes. Talk about a challenge . When you shouldn't even drink the well water because of all the dissolved salts, you know plants are going to have a problem even without the added problem of the heat (heat which makes south Florida look cool). When I had the perfect climate and great soil on a mesa overlooking Pismo Beach, CA...it was the pests and critters. It's always something.
David Paul: I got 3 strawberries this morning and there are lots of flowers on the strawberries now, and the beans are starting to flower, so is the toms and some of the cukes. I got 4 boxes of corn planted thus far (16 ears per box), about 70 cukes and now will be finishing up this weekend, running out of room in the back yard.
The soil in Texas is also lousy so I built a garden & since that is full I have turned to container gardening. I am wondering if blueberries would grow in a container? I am told they would... we have an excellent place to buy composted soil.. I filed my big garden with it & after 4 yrs the soil test came back saying it was still great.. I have not had to add anything to it... it is a little high in nitrogen but that's good as I grow roses.
cindylove: Blueberries grow wild here and if we want tomatoes in this part of Florida we have to lime the ground to death as it is perfect PH for blueberries. Are roses acid loving or alkaline loving plants, that will give you the answer as to how blueberries will grow in your area, of course in a container you can control the PH in the potting mix.
Cindylove: I have 38 tomatoes plante and some are in self watering buckets, 2 are in square footers, 7 are in 5 gallon grow bags, about 20 are in lay flat grow bags one is in a cow pot and a tomato tree is in a huge nursery pot, 2 in topsy turvys and 4 in revolutionary planters. I love the ones in the 5 gallon self watering buckets the best though. They are the easiest to maintain, I had a few more of the buckets made and transferred my lone artichoke plant into one.
I have 2 tomato plants in the EB. SO far. I am not all that impressed. The plants are not growing like the other ones i the Big Garden, containers or even the Topsy Turvy.
We'll see whathappens but so far.. not all that impressed.
Mommacat: My tomatoes in the 5 gallon grow bags and in the topsy turvy types had to be trimmed. I have the topsys on these tall four armed stands that are anchored to the ground for stability and I have to climb on a chair to water them and those things were nearly touching the ground. I have my EBs and 5 gallon grow bags on tables, and like that idea, as I noticed that I don't have the problems with the bugs I have with those EBs and lay flat bags closer to the ground. They are also easier to take care of, not much stooping involved. I've picked about 15 peppers off my pepper plants already (I have 10 plants - but 4 of them were planted late and haven't started producing peppers yet). Do you have the topsy turvy planter or the topsy turvy tree planter, I saw an ad for it on the TV the other day, you can plant 3 tomatoes in it and it comes with a free strawberry topsy turvy planter. Hmmmm.
Your plants are AMAZING!
My Topsy Turvy's are on heavy duty anchor hangers on my deck. They are doing really well. The 2 tomatoes in the EB are not doing well at all. They are just poking along. I am wonderng if I should put some Epsom Salt around them in the EB. WHat do you think?
Mommacat11 -- Maybe I can be of help but first tell me if they are the Earthbox (EBs) or homemade (HEB)? You should have excellent if not spectacular results! HEbs can be unreliable in some cases as the roots may get to much water and rot.
THis is a real EB. My husband and I followed the directions. It could be becasue we have gotten SO MUCH RAIN lately and not much sun. I used a granular tomato fertilizer. The EB was sent to me from a friend. It was svereal years old and no soil or EB fertilizer was with it.
Should I take the cover off and put some Epsom Salt around them?
THank you T plant for your help. I am most grateful.
Mommacat: Maybe dissolving the epsom salts in water and then watering the coir or potting mix in the EB with the solution might help. I've always used epsom salts; but never realized it was necessary, I know it made my flower stems thicker, I used it in my canna beds. One thing about the self watering containers, is you don't want the wicking device to get dry, when that happens the plants roots don't get enough water. Also you need to make sure to not use soil, use potting mix, coir, anything that drains well or it will cake up on you. I know this will sound silly also; but, I always water the EBs, even when rains through the water tube til I see it peeing out the drain hole, with my totes I carry a knife and do the same thing, as sometimes those holes get clogged in them. Sometimes the tomatoes will take off slowly, mine did.
THANK YOU Joy,
I will mix up the Epsom Salt and water. What is your recommendation on the amount of Epsom and water?
I used Scotts Garden Soil. I Never use garden dirt. I always use a garden soil.
When I water everything on the deck I do water the EB and make sure I see the water run out of the drainage hole. No clogging yet.
Mommacat: I dont' measure, I just use a pinch when doing that; but, a half tsp- 1 tsp wouldn't hurt I don't think. Is Scott's Garden Soil like a potting mix? That might be where your problem is; but, I could be wrong there too. I believe there is a type of Garden Soil that was listed on the list of mediums to be used in the EBs; but, not sure if Scott's was one of them or not. The reason for using potting mix is that it is lighter and allows for drainage in the EB. Jungle Grow has a new one out specifically for hanging baskets, it is really light and I used it in some of my totes becaus of that. Epsom salt is the magnesium part of the calcium/magnesium set up for the tomatoes, the dolomite lime supplies the calcium, and even if you use the same EB over for something else later on you need to add more dolomite, more epsom and more fertilizer to the EB, you take about an inch of the old medium off the top of the EB, I'm getting ready to do that in a day or two to the EB an GP that had my strawberries in it an in the totes that had my cabbages in it.
Hi Again Mommacat -- Epsom salt is not necessary unless you use coir although it won't hurt anything. If you followed the directions of www.earthbox.com you will not have any problems. Hope you added dolomite lime as it contains many minerals that container mixes do not provide enough of. Never use a potting soil as it will get to thick and smoother the roots. It must say "mix." Always buy container mix for the EB and to start off useing 10-10-10 fertilizer(2 cups)layed in a two inch line on the opposie side of your plants as far away as possible so the roots have to reach for it. Hope you packed the corners(two) so the water can be absorbed into the mix. If you've not done this start over as tomato plants are tough and get better after each transplant. I'm here to answer any of your questions if need be!
Mommacat: Yes, dolomite lime is essential, and you need to replace the dolomite lime and fertilizer each time you plant something different. I just bought 2 Ichabad eggplant startings to replace the cabbages in a GP, I pulled out all roots, took off the top inch or so of potting mix, mixed in 2 cups of dolomite lime, epsom salt, mixed it in really good, then added more potting mix all the way to the top, made my little valley, added the fertilizer then placed a tad of mix over the fertilizer strip, wet it down and put on the mulch cover and then planted the 2 eggplants. It's ready to go, now.
mommacat11--- If I may intercede, Home Depot stores usually do carry it in the 5 lb bag under the brand name "ESPOMA" in the organic section. It will not say dolomite on the front of the bag (Dang if I don't know why?) but will on the back of the bag. I believe the front says magnesium but check them all anyway for dolomite.
I was in a local nursery today and found some! It is called Organic TRaditions. ESPOMA
All Natural Neutralizer GArden Lime. It is in a grandular form and Igave the matersa nice dose.
You think that will work?
The only soil I use in the EB and in my containers is BAGGED good garden soil. So why would I test it?
The plants that are in the big garden are thriving.. th eonly 2 that are not doing well are the EB ones. But hopefully after the treatment last night they will perk up.
I think you just solved your own problem? Do you use SOIL OR CONTAINER MIX? Be specific because soil is to muddy for EBs and will smother the roots. Use Jungle Growth, Miracle Gro or better yet the lite fluffy coco coir at www.instagarden.com . Never buy anything with moisture control granules in it for EBs as they draw only the water they need and do not need over moist soil. If you used the bags of top soil for about $2.00 per bag you bought the worst product that you can buy for your EBs! Let me know?
Mommacat - Garden soil is a no-no in a EB. Was it labeled as such? Or was it labeled as potting soil/mix? The best way to test if your soil/mix will work in a EB is to do a clumping test. Grab a fist full of soil and squeeze it. Open up your hand and if it falls apart it's good to go. If not, I wouldn't use it. You'll end up suffocating the roots, which leads to stunted or dead plants.
Here's a list of what definitely works in EB's...
* Miracle-gro Potting Soil
* Miracle gro Moisture Control Potting Mix
* Miracle-gro Organic Mix
* Pro-mix BX
* Pro-mix numerous other formulas
* ASB Potting Mix
* Eko Potting Mix
* Sun-Grow Metro Mix 360
* Sun-Grow, numerous other formulas
* Baccto Professional Potting Mix
* Baccto Lite Premium Potting Soil
* EB Stone Edna's Potting Soil (west coast)
* EB Stone Flower & Vegetable Planting mix
* Kellogg's Gardener & Bloom Blue Ribbon Blend Potting Soil (west coast)
* Kellogg's Champions Blend Potting Soil (west coast)
I have used some of what's on Ray's list & I can vouch that they are good. Especially if you live in an area with little rain, like I am getting now! I use Miracle Grow moisture & it's working very well. It's neat to see the little gel "balls" & if there's too much rain then these gel thingy's come up to the surface. hahah