Since the beginning of agriculture, garden pests have been, well, pests. Throughout history, a variety of solutions to this problem have been invented, touted, and debated. One such solution is Epsom salt. Epsom salt makes for wonderful and relaxing baths, but can it help protect your plants from insects?
Does Epsom salt keep pests away?
Many gardeners swear by Epsom salt, and there are several ways it has been traditionally used in the garden. There are some more recent scientific studies showing that Epsom salt may not be as helpful as people believe, although it can be effective for pest control indoors. However, the anecdotal evidence in favor of Epsom salt is strong. If you’d like to try it out for yourself, here are the most common ways to use Epsom salt in your garden.
Dilute 1 to 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt in 1 gallon of water. It may not seem like a lot, but Epsom salt is very concentrated, so it doesn’t take much. Water your plants with the Epsom water instead of regular water once or twice a month. Since it can help plants better absorb nutrients and be stronger and healthier, the idea is that a stronger plant can more easily defend against or recover from pests.
You can also sprinkle a line of dry Epsom salt around the edge of your garden, between rows in your garden, or around individual plants. This is intended to defend against slugs and beetles in particular.
Can too much Epsom salt hurt plants?
Epsom salt can provide a lot of benefits, but it can also hurt your plants. It all depends on the magnesium content of your soil. Magnesium helps plants absorb nutrients and produce chlorophyll. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate crystals. If your soil is deficient in magnesium, then adding a small amount of Epsom salt on a semiregular basis can help your plants create bigger blooms and greener leaves. However, plants need a blanched diet, so if your soil already has plenty of magnesium, adding Epsom salt can throw off the balance of your soil and cause problems for your plants. It can even kill plants over an extended period of time.
What pests does salt kill?
Salt is notorious for the way it affects slugs and snails, but those are not the only pests it kills. Salt can kill cockroaches, although it is not the most effective way to deal with them. Cockroaches can generally eat and interact with salt safely, but they can be killed by drowning them in salt. Termites can also be killed with it. Pouring salt water with a high salt content into termite holes can be an effective remedy. Adding salt to any potential termite entrances, such as cracks or holes in foundations or walls, can help keep termites from taking up residence in your home in the first place. Salt water can also be used to kill spiders, and dry salt sprinkled around your house can kill fleas. Epsom salt is not the same as table salt, but it can be used in much the same way, at least in terms of pest control.
What does salt do to pests?
Salt kills pests by dehydrating them, and there are two ways it causes dehydration in pests. Pests with exoskeletons like fleas or beetles typically die when the coarse edges of salt grains scratch their exoskeleton. When their exoskeletons are scratched, they lose the ability to retain water. Salt, Epsom salt, diatomaceous earth, and even coarse sand can all have the same effect.
The second way salt causes dehydration is through ingestion or absorption. Slugs and snails have thin skin and absorb things through their skin. Even a little bit of salt absorbed through the skin or ingested causes severe dehydration. This is the same process that happens to us when we drink too much seawater, but since insects are so much smaller, it takes a lot less salt to dehydrate them.
As much as we love fresh garden veggies and beautiful flowers, insects and other pests love them just as much. There are plenty of remedies to help keep your growing goodies safe and secure. Whether Epsom salt is the right pick for you, or if you’d be better served looking elsewhere, only you can decide. Hopefully, this article has helped point you in the right direction!
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