Epsom Salt and Garden Pests – How To Use Epsom Salt For Pest Control

By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

Epsom salt (or in other words, hydrated magnesium sulfate crystals) is a naturally occurring mineral with virtually hundreds of uses around the home and garden. Many gardeners swear by this inexpensive, readily available product, but opinions are mixed. Read on to learn more about using Epsom salt as pesticide, and how to use Epsom salt for pest control in gardens.

Epsom Salt and Garden Pests

You may be familiar with using Epsom as fertilizer for your garden plants or even your lawn, but what about Epsom salt insect control? Here are a few ideas for using Epsom salt as pesticide:

Epsom Salt Solution Insect Control – A mixture of 1 cup Epsom salt and 5 gallons of water may act as a deterrent to beetles and other garden pests. Mix the solution in a large bucket or other container, and then apply the well-dissolved mixture to foliage with a pump sprayer. Many gardeners believe that the solution not only deters pests, but may kill many on contact.

Dry Epsom Salt – Sprinkling Epsom salt in a narrow band around plants may be an effective means of slug control, as the scratchy substance abrades the “skin” of the slimy pests. Once the skin is effectively roughed up, the slug dries up and dies.

Epsom Salt for Vegetable Bugs – Some popular gardening websites claim that you can safely sprinkle a thin line of dry Epsom salt directly in, or alongside, the row when you plant vegetable seeds. Reapply every couple of weeks to keep pests away from your tender seedlings. As an added bonus, plants may benefit from the boost of magnesium and sulfur.

Tomatoes and Epsom Salt Insect Control – Sprinkle Epsom salt around tomato plants every couple of weeks, recommends one gardening site. Apply the substance at a rate of about a tablespoon for every foot of tomato plant height to keep pests at bay.

What Experts Say about Epsom Salt Pest Control

Master Gardeners at Washington State University Extension cite studies claiming that Epsom salt is of little use against slugs and other garden pests, and that reports of miraculous results are largely myth. WSU gardeners also note that gardeners can overuse Epsom salt, as applying more than the soil can use means that the excess often ends up as a soil and water pollutant.

However, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension claims that a shallow bowl of Epsom salt will kill roaches without adding toxic chemicals to the indoor environment.

The takeaway is that using Epsom salt as pest control is relatively safe, as long as you use the substance judiciously. And remember, as with anything in gardening, what works for one person may not necessarily fare well for another, so keep in mind that while using Epsom salt for vegetable bugs is worth trying, results will vary.

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