Compost YES, Epsom Salts NO

You'll often hear garden writers recommending the use of Epsom salts in the garden as a general rule. First off, I'm not one of those writers. Secondly, Epsom salts are essentially magnesium so if your garden soil is magnesium starved, adding the Epsom salts will seemingly work miracles. If your soil is not magnesium starved, adding Epsom salts is a waste of time, effort and money.

A magnesium deficiency is often a problem when the soil is acidic or composed mostly of sand. So if your soil is acidic because you've been heavily feeding with chemical fertilizer or if you are in a housing development where sand is the rule rather than decent topsoil, you may need to add magnesium to boost plant performance. So a short term solution is to add some Epsom salts but the long term solution is to modify the soil pH so that it is less acidic and increase the organic matter content of the soil so it is less sandy. Lime make soils less acidic and you'll need a soil test to tell you how much to add while compost is the key to solving organic matter problems.

The single best thing you can do and the quickest way to improve your garden's performance no matter your soil type or problem is to add copious amounts of compost. The old time gardeners used to use two to four pounds per square foot of composted manure. That translates into one quarter to one half inches thick in our modern gardens. Your plants will grow bigger and faster and the blooms and fruit will be bigger and healthier. You can get other vegetable gardening tips here.

So forget the Epsom salts and pour on the compost for best plant performance. And more is better.

Copyright Douglas Green 2005

Doug Green is an award winning garden author of 7 gardening books and numerous articles. A former nurseryman, he now writes full time, gives presentations and enjoys the spring.

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© 2005