For those of you who live where it rains (which isn't here, as we've mentioned before)...you may be tenderly caring for your garden, struggling with your lawn, and trimming up your flower bushes. Here in NM, or at least parts of it, you can get a huge fine for watering your lawn...so if you're the only one in the neighborhood with a green lawn, you know something's up. So while all our plants are dying (whether by lack of water or because all the wildlife are starving and they come eat what little green shows), in other areas of the country and world there is the opposite problem. I think there are a few places getting normalish rain...somewhere. So for those of you who can water a lawn, you probably have grand visions of lush, soft, green turf...maybe with kids or grandkids somersaulting down the yard, or garden parties oohing and ahhing at your master work. Whatever your vision...I imagine some shade of green is what you're going for.
Lori wanted a green lawn and found this pin that she decided to try out:
The Original Pin
|I'll get to the source in a minute...hold on|
The caption on the pin said, "Epsom salt is particularly useful for preventing a yellowing lawn and creating lusher, softer, deeply green grass. It can be applied using a tank sprayer (which can also be used on your flower and vegetable gardens), a lawn spreader, and by using a hose and spray attachment. Use three pounds per 1250 square feet If using a tank sprayer or a hose and spray attachment, make sure to dilute the salt in plenty of water (enough to make it dissolve), so that it is a concentrated solution."
Lori said, "With the warmer weather coming I was all excited to get my lawn looking good. I was intrigued by the pin about using Epsom salt as a fertilizer. I had to try it. The magnesium should make my lawn lush and green." So she gave it a go and here's what her lawn looks like now:
Definitely not what she was going for. At all.
Not being a lawn specialist myself (my front yard consists of dirt and cactus), I knew I had to do some reading on this (you guys make us learn all sorts of cool things!). I started first with the actual Pinterest pin.
When I clicked on the pin, it took me to Google image search for "lawn"...not an actual site with any information about Epsom salts, lawns, or even pink furry unicorns with horn amputations. So the next step, I copied the entire caption and pasted it into Google and found this:
LAWN CARE & EPSOM SALT
Just as Ultra Epsom Salt can revitalize your garden, so does it improve the greenery and sustainability of your lawn. Epsom salt is particularly useful for preventing a yellowing lawn and creating lusher, softer, deeply green grass. It can be applied using a tank sprayer (which can also be used on your flower and vegetable gardens), a lawn spreader, and by using a hose and spray attachment. Use three pounds per 1250 square feet (25’ x 50’), six pounds per 2500 square feet (50’ x 50’), and twelve pounds per 5000 square feet (50’ x 100’). If using a tank sprayer or a hose and spray attachment, make sure to dilute the salt in plenty of water (enough to make it dissolve), so that it is a concentrated solution.
Hey! Same picture. Perfect. So the caption wasn't someone just yanking our chains, it came from a real website. Good deal. So this sounded legit. But I decided I should read a little bit more. I Googled "Epsom salts and lawn care" and found a number of sites lauding the virtues of epsom salts for your lawn, garden, and house plants. Oddly...many of them were epsom salt companies or sites...so of course they are going to tell you how awesome they are. One Home Guide article of an online San Francisco periodical did say that epsom salts will "help yards better absorb nitrogen and phosphorus and aid in the production of chlorophyll, ensuring vibrant green grass." So everything sounded good to me.
But then I have play the devil's advocate too...so I looked up "epsom salts harm lawns". According to gardenguides.com, "The Epsom Salt Council, a trade group, promotes Epsom salts as a gardening supplement that will produce more flowers, increase chlorophyll, make plants grow bushier, and increase the likelihood that seeds will germinate. Some gardeners also believe that Epsom salts will deter slugs, voles and other pests. The University of Washington's Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott cautions that scientific tests on Epsom salts only show that it increases magnesium levels and therefore, she concludes, all other effects that people attribute to Epsom salts are possible misconceptions." When people quote a University study, I tend to believe it. But just in case...I looked up Dr. Chalker's study (I'm feeling nerdy and research happy this morning).
You can read her article (the one I linked to above is only 5 pages and it's not too dense of a read to get through), but I'll summarize for you. Basically she says that the only real thing we know for sure is that Epsom Salts temporarily add extra magnesium to the soil, but since it dissolves so fast, it doesn't stay in the soil. Her final paragraph says, "The science behind the use of Epsom salts is only applicable to intensive crop production in situations where magnesium is known to be deficient in the soil or in the plants. It is irresponsible to advise gardeners and other plant enthusiasts to apply Epsom salts, or any chemical, without regard to soil conditions, plant needs, and environmental health." Another article I read says that some think that the excess magnesium "accumulates in the top soil and create toxicity problems for the plant."
So pretty much...there's a much bigger science behind adding Epsom salts. Your soil may not need it. In fact, if you don't have grazing animals or you aren't on a irrigating farm, your soil is most likely pretty okay. How do you know? Take a sample of your soil and send it off for testing (but unless you're a lawn enthusiast, that's a little overkill for most of us).
So what is your best bet? Save the epsom salts for baths and soaks and just buy lawn fertilizer that is specifically designed for turf. Ask at your local nursery (try to find an actual nursery and not just the Walmart Garden center...nursery owners usually know great plant tips for the local climate and soil conditions) about what helps lawns/plants in your area.