Monday, July 9, 2012

Dealing With Plant Stress: The Epsom/ Seaweed Solution

Considering the heat and drought most of the States have been dealing with lately, I've decided to repost a piece I wrote last year about dealing with plant stress.


Stellar Pink dogwood

***

Several years ago after planting a Rutgers Hybrid Stellar Pink dogwood, we had one of the hottest, driest summers on record. Despite having been planted the previous October, the tree struggled and drooped. Gallon after gallon of water was poured around the base but to seemingly no avail. Frustrated and worried I was going to lose an expensive tree, I headed to the US Botanic Gardens in DC to query the horticulturalists.

By 9 am the city was already steamy. Hot and cranky, the lone horticulturalist eyed me warily. Keeping my distance, I asked her opinion about dogwoods. She rolled her eyes. What about heat stressed dogwoods? Any advice? Perhaps debating between blasting me with the hose or parting with a wee bit of wisdom, she shot me a "Go away!" look and hissed that if I mixed 1 cup of Epsom salt with 5 gallons of water and poured it around the base every three weeks, my tree would recover. Grateful for the advice and worried about her grip on the hose, I thanked her and left. As quickly as possible.

Did it work?? Oh yeah!!! I added some liquid kelp meal to the mix and my tree recovered beautifully. Last summer when I made another annual pilgrimage to the US Botanic Gardens, the horticulturalist I talked to was kind and helpful. Maybe it was because I didn't ask about dogwoods....

***
Epsom salts aren't really salts at all but a form of magnesium sulfate. Both magnesium sulfate and liquid kelp meal have been proven to help plants resist environmental stress, including heat and drought related stress. Kelp also has the benefit of increasing the frost tolerance of a plant. Both provide vitamins and micronutrients to plants. My dogwood is healthy and I've already started pouring this mixture as a drench around the base of several plants that are currently struggling in my garden, including my roses that are battling black spot, an unhappy pipevine, and a patch of hot, thirsty day lilies.

How much kelp meal do I add? I pour in several big glugs, which probably equals about 1/2 a cup into my watering can, which holds four gallons. Make sure the salts have dissolved before you start pouring. You'll see the difference within a few days. Your plants will be happier, healthier, and better able to endure the rest of summer.


Last fall I moved this Night Owl climbing rose from a very moist, but too-shady spot to a sunnier spot. It leafed out and bloomed beautifully this spring, but has been miserable in our more-humid-than-monkeys-underwear 100+ degree weather. Along with removing its black spot infected leaves and spraying it with an organic fungicide, I gave it a drench of Epsom salts and kelp. It's already starting to perk up.


Night Owl climbing rose blooming with Westerland (tough as nails!) in its new spot this spring. 




A surprise rain storm soaked my garden last night. New foliage has started to sprout on the Night Owl rose. 

26 comments:

  1. Fascinating tidbit! So glad your tree survived. We are having a heat wave way up here in the north as well - certainly nothing like what many are suffering but enough to stress some plants, even if they are watered every day. Thanks so much for sharing this. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Probably because our climate is so hot and often dry, we go through gallons of seaweed extract here. It's a great tonic and helps the plants recover from transplant shock, heat stress etc. I haven't added epsom salts though, so I'm going to try that next time to see the difference (when summer returns).

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mariposa, Epsom salts (magnesium) is perfect tool for roses care and growth stimulator. I'm glad your dogwood is healthy, I love this tree!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the great tip. I will definitely give this a try. It might be just the thing to bring my Little Gem magnolia back from the brink. And I love the colour combination of your two roses in the last photo.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well that may be what I need to try before this summer is out. Thanks for the information.

    Cher Sunray Gardens

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've been having issues with two of my tomato plants--they're not making flowers. It could be because of the excessive heat we've been having, but it could also be a mineral deficiency. I've read that epsom salt/seaweed mix can help them flower, so that's what I'll be trying if they don't start blooming now that the temperatures have cooled a little.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Although we're having a dry summer here we're so lucky it's not a drought like you folks down south are having. Glad to hear you got hit with a bit of rain to help perk up the yard. It'll be good for the birds and bugs too I would imagine.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for the tip! I am going to do this today!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Interesting advice. My roses are very heat stressed already and it will probably continue until September. So I guess I will try out your tip on some of them. I have read though that if the magnesium content of your soil is naturally high, than you can do overdo it by adding Epsom salts. Only a soil test can let you know for sure, but of course also observing the plants how they react to a specific treatment can tell you if it worked or not.
    Christina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your 100% right about soils with a high magnesium content not needing more. However, only soils that can be considered gumbo or pottery-type clay tend to have elevated levels of Mag. Adding compost and humus actually decreases the amt of magnesium in the soil, which is not a big deal. I have clay based loam and the treatment works well. Sandy soils and soils in high rainfall areas often have a deficiency in magnesium. But the kelp is pure love. :o) It will help regardless of your soil type.

      Delete
    2. Tammy, thanks for your response. Taking it into consideration makes it more unlikely that my soil has high levels of magnesium.
      Christina

      Delete
  10. I've not heard about Epsom salts for plants before. I'll give that a try if it ever stops raining here.
    Glad to hear your dogwood recovered.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great advice. I've only used Epsom salt on the roses. And I've never tried kelp. Will have to give it a try! Dogwoods are my very favorite tree in the whole world! We have killed numerous (at least 4) of them so we have decided no more dogwoods. Although a few streets over I see them growing happily. I wish I had known about your formula!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hey, Tammy, I've used Epson salt as a spring tonic on various plants, but not for triage on dogwoods, which really are bad to faint. Thanks for the idea. And, with kelp, no less. You *do* learn something every day.

    ReplyDelete
  13. You know, I just put some of these out in hopes that its going to help. I'm always leary of adding anything as my soil is not one to retain any moisture and I can get leaf burn in february, but so far at least I haven't killed anything with it. Hard to say if its helping tough. I am definitely having a serious bunch of blackspot on my roses this year, first year ever. Combo of extremely wet May, where it started, and extremely hot humid and rainless rest of spring, summer. Now I see why people think roses are a pain.

    ReplyDelete
  14. A few of my plants are struggling. I'll try your epsom salt tip. I don't have any seaweed. I wonder if I could use fish emulsion instead? Thanks for the insight.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have been using the epsom salts on the tomatoes, but not kelp. Will have to see about getting some to add to the mix. Where did you find the kelp mix? Could be that I have seen it and overlooked it whenever I have been in a garden center.

    ReplyDelete
  16. We use a lot of seaweed based plant food here for the garden and feed very regularly and the flowers and the vegetables seem to love it.

    No drought here-quite the opposite...rain, rain and then more rain. I spend my day trying to sort out the plants that are running the risk of rotting from being water logged!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I always learn something here! Thanks for the advice, tips, and the benefit of your actual experience with real plants in your own garden.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hi there! Thank you for the lesson about Epsom salts; I will definitely be giving that little solution a try. I feed all of our plants with varying formulas of seaweed and ONLY seaweed fertilizers. I agree with you - the results are amazing; especially their added tolerance to our cold northern winters!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Tammy. I must agree with you in regard to a fish-based plant food. I use seaweed (and ONLY seaweed) on ALL of our plants with amazing results - the plants are larger and healthier and am impressed with their increased resistance to the frost and freezing our our northern winters! -Debra, Gardens Inspired

    ReplyDelete
  20. Great advice! We've just started with our summer here in the Pacific Northwest but I'll remember your remedy for a few months from now.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Great advice!

    The flower you asked about is a moth mullein (Verbascum). It volunteered from some timothy hay used as mulch and comes in both white and yellow.

    I use a dilution of peppermint extract to keep the deer from eating the daylilies.

    ReplyDelete
  22. To dobrze, że wiedziałeś gdzie się udać po poradę i dostałeś ją. Była wspaniała, jak widać. Twoje rośliny odżyły. Pozdrawiam.
    It's good that you know where to go for advice and got it. She was great, it seemed. Your plants were revived. Yours.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I somehow must have missed this post and so I am glad that you decided to repost the information. I love Dogwoods, but have the devil of a time trying to get them established. Once they are up and running they can take a bit of drought, but in the early days in my garden they fail to flourish, no matter how much water I lavish on them. Usually they perish mid-summer when the drought really kicks in. I am so going to try your Espom salt and kelp remedy!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Fantastic post; thank you for the advice. I used epsom at the beginning of the gardening session and I an now seeing the abundance of flowers and vegetables. I will try your mixture again.

    By the way, I was rolling in laughter in reading the post. You surely have a very funny bone; ever thought of writing comedies :-)?

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting my blog! Feel free to comment on the posts or photos.