Epsom salt is no longer only used in the bathroom to help you relax sore muscles: it’s incredibly beneficial for the garden as well. Using epsom salt for tomatoes may be the trick you need to grow a better, sweeter harvest. Learn the science behind why these types of salts make tomatoes taste sweeter, and discover the best methods for using them this way.
Never Heard of Epsom Salt?
Unlike the table salt you put on your food, Epsom salt isn’t meant to be eaten. It’s a natural mineral, and is most often used as a self-care product to treat:
- Sore muscles
- Cold symptoms
- Dry skin
- Small wounds
It may even help fight off illness! But the best part is that this type of salt is cost-effective, eco-friendly, and easily found.
You can find it in the self-care aisle of your local supermarket or drug store, as many people throw it in a hot bath or foot soak to relax and soothe sore muscles. It can also be used as a highly water-soluble crystalline fertilizer in the garden, as Epsom salt is 10% magnesium and 13% sulfur.
Why Use Epsom Salt for Tomatoes?
There are a number of benefits that extend when using Epsom salt for tomatoes. When applied to tomatoes, this kind of salt can produce the following results:
- Your plants may creates larger fruits
- Those fruits last longer before starting to decompose
- Sweeter, juicier tomatoes overall
- Boosted chlorophyll production in the foliage
- Richer, more attractive red color when ripe
- Enhanced growth and seed germination
- Fewer issues and diseases, such as blossom-end rot
- Pest control for beetles and slugs
How Does Epsom Salt Make Them Sweeter?
The science behind using Epsom salt for sweeter tomatoes comes down to magnesium. Epsom salt is a natural mineral compound that’s high in this mineral, which is perfect for healthy plant growth. It also contains sulfate, and these minerals are why gardeners recommend it to help the growth and health of tomato plants. Tomatoes need a healthy, regular dose of magnesium in order to thrive to their greatest potential.
Micronutrients like these are important as the plant grows, as they aid in photosynthesis, cell wall structure, chlorophyll production, seed germination, and protein synthesis. Growing healthier, stronger tomatoes is easy when you have the right micronutrient levels in your soil.
Epsom salt also aids in the transport of calcium from the soil to the upper parts of the plant. This further facilitates the tomatoes’ ability to absorb nutrients. Furthermore, tomatoes need high levels of magnesium to grow healthy from the root up.
Although sulfur isn’t a common deficiency found in American garden soil, a magnesium deficiency could spell the end of your tomato plants. Vegetables benefit from magnesium in a number of ways, but the problem is that plant roots don’t suck in magnesium as they do other minerals—like potassium or calcium—even if the soil levels are perfect.
If your soil is deficient in micronutrients, especially sulfur and magnesium, Epsom salt will give the tomatoes a better flavor. You can buy a soil test at your local gardening store to check the pH and mineral balance to know for sure, or you can have your soil tested using a mail-in service kit via Amazon.
Just keep in mind that using Epsom salt for tomatoes might not benefit all of your plants. It’s great under certain conditions, but the salt shouldn’t be relied upon to completely cure a severe magnesium deficiency. In fact, using too much Epsom salt can actually do more harm than good.
How to Use Epsom Salt for Tomatoes
Epsom salt works best in areas like the West, where:
- The soil is naturally lacking in magnesium
- Soil leans more toward the alkaline side, with a pH above 7.0
- The soil is high in either potassium or calcium
Never substitute Epsom salt for traditional fertilizers or your regular compost. If so inclined, you can use it to make your own homemade fertilizer or in the following ways:
Use Epsom Salt While Planting:
When using this substance, make sure the roots of your tomato plant never touch the salt directly. The salts can damage their delicate root structure and kill them off immediately.
Dig your planting hole and place a single tablespoon of Epsom salt in the bottom. Make sure that you cover the salt completely with a generous layer of soil before adding your seedlings or tomato plants.
Doing this is said to help prevent disease in your plants, although there’s no scientific evidence to support this claim.
Potted Tomato Plants:
Potted tomatoes are more prone to magnesium and sulfur deficiencies because nutrients can leach from the soil every time the plant is watered. As a result, Epsom salt can be a helpful booster for the tomato plants you grow in balcony planters.
Simply dissolve a tablespoon of Epsom salt into a gallon of water, and use this solution to water your potted plants until the liquid begins to drain out of the bottom. Repeat this process every 3 to 4 weeks as needed. You can also create an Epsom salt spray using the same recipe, and use a spray bottle to apply the solution directly onto the plants.
The growing season—quite simply, the time between planting and harvest—is the perfect time to use Epsom salt on tomatoes grown right in the ground. Try making a spray as an easier way to add nutrients to tomatoes growing in your vegetable patch, raised bed, or allotment space.
Create a spray by following the same formula above: mix one tablespoon of Epsom salt into a gallon of water. Combine these ingredients together thoroughly and place the mixture in a spray bottle. Water the plants with this solution once per month during the growing season to encourage healthy development.
More Tips For Really Sweet Tomatoes
If you enjoy sweet tomatoes, Epsom salt isn’t the only way to ensure your home-grown tomatoes taste amazing every time. The tomato varieties you choose to grow can play a significant role as well.
A tomato’s flavor is a result of the acidity and sugar levels of your crop. Quite simply, the more acidic tomatoes typically have a lower sugar level. Sweet tomatoes will be low in acid and higher in sugar, while plants that are low in both will result in bland, tasteless fruits.
Keep in mind that tomato types vary, and their flavors differ with them. Similarly, smaller varieties (such as cherry or grape tomatoes) will taste sweeter. For the sweetest-tasting tomatoes, find a variety that’s known for its sweetness such as:
- Apero – A cherry tomato with a zesty, sweet flavor perfect for salads.
- Sun sugar – Popular and sweet cherry tomatoes.
- Heirloom – Known to have an intense, sweet flavor.
- Floridity – Mini-plum tomatoes known for their resistance to fruit split.
- Sungold – Cherry tomatoes with orange/yellow fruit and high sugar content.
- Sakura – A cherry tomato that’s resistant to Fusarium wilt and grows vigorously.
Before you select a tomato plant to grow based entirely on its sweetness factor, consider whether or not the plant is suitable for your home. Check the climate in which each plant will thrive best, and figure out what soil conditions will impact your chosen cultivar.
Some varieties will grow better than others, and their performance is often based on the planting area. Not all sweet tomatoes will do well growing in pots or raised beds, and planting zones are a serious concern no matter what you’re growing. For the best results, find a variety that’s right for you.
Keep in Mind
Serious gardeners use Epsom salt in the garden to boost other plants too. It’s a little-known secret gardeners have used for decades, and if you love using Epsom salt for tomatoes, try using it to create beautiful roses, peppers, veggies, and other garden hacks.
Just keep in mind that Epsom salt won’t always work as you may think. Balance is key. The minerals help with a nutrient deficiency in the soil, so while Epsom salt may help you make healthier tomatoes and other veggies, it can’t completely prevent diseases like blossom end rot.
Using Epsom salt to stop the rot is a myth. Stress-induced disorders like blossom end rot aren’t preventable with this salt, as it’s caused by a calcium deficiency. If your soil is already calcium deficient, you might actually make blossom end rot more likely.
Other helpful ways to grow better tomatoes can include planting them with banana peels or eggshells. The shells are said to add a boost of calcium, while the banana peels release nitrogen and potassium. I haven’t tried using these methods yet myself, though I’ve considered trying to out this tactic on my next harvest.
Hopefully this technique will help your next tomato crop flourish into healthy, sweet fruits. As an added benefit, you now have a helpful tidbit to share if you ever find yourself discussing vegetable gardening with a new group of friends.