Here are some gardening tips from Master Gardener Lloyd Caddell of Norman:
- For sweeter watermelons and cantaloupes when the plant starts vining and again when small 1-inch melons appear, spray with 6 1/2 tablespoons Epsom salts and 3 1/2 tablespoons borax in 5 gallons of water.
- For more fruit on your pepper plants, fertilize the plant by burying an open one-half pack of book matches near it.
- Put a 2-foot-long stake in the center of melon hills so the roots, not the entire plant, can be hand-watered.
- Make a hose guard to keep from pulling the hose across the garden by driving a steel rod in the ground. Then cut a hold in the bottom of a coffee can and insert it over the rod. Then, place a larger can with similar holes over the smaller can. When the hose is pulled around the corner the larger can will roll with it.
What could have caused tastelessness in our melons? This is likely due to a lack of magnesium or boron in your soil. Spraying with a solution of Epsom salts and borax when the vines start to run and again when crown-set fruits are between one and two inches in diameter will sweeten them. The proportion is 6 1/2 tablespoons of Epsom salts and 3 1/3 tablespoons of borax (household type) to five gallons of water. Cool, wet weather may also be a factor.
On a sixth-generation farm that the Barbee family has owned for more than a century, Brent Barbee has discovered a new way to increase his harvest and make his fruit taste sweeter. He’s using Epsom salt.
- Fertilize your soil in the winter, about a month before growing season starts, and then add Epsom salt when you set the plants. Use an eighth of a pound of Epsom salt—or about a quarter-cup—per 500 square feet. With sandier soil, you may want to fertilize about two weeks before growing season begins.
- Look for yellowing between the veins of leaves, because it could be a sign of magnesium deficiency that might require Epsom salt.
- Get soil tested every three years.
From HarvestToTable.com about Epsom Salts
HOW TO APPLY EPSOM SALT TO PLANTS
- Foliar spray during the season. Add two tablespoons of Epsom salt to a gallon of water and use tank sprayer to apply the mix once a month substituting the spray for regular watering. Use one tablespoon per gallon of water if you apply Epsom salt spray more often than once a month. Begin foliar spraying when blooms first appear.
- Sidedressing during the season. Work one tablespoon of Epsom salt per foot of plant height around the base of each plant. Sidedress plants every six weeks beginning soon after leaves appear and continuing through the end harvest.
- Soil additive at planting time. Add one or two tablespoons of Epsom salt to the bottom of each hole before planting seeds or transplants.
MORE USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT MAGNESIUM AND SULFUR:
- Magnesium is critical for seed germination, production of chlorophyll, and fruit development; it helps strengthen cell walls and improves plant uptake of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur.
- Sulfur is critical for the production of vitamins, amino acids and protein, and enzymes.
- Alkaline soils with a pH of 7 or greater and acidic soils high in calcium and potassium often have low levels of magnesium. Calcium and potassium compete with magnesium for uptake by plant roots—magnesium can be blocked from plant uptake by calcium and potassium.
- Dolomitic lime which is used to raise the pH of acidic soils is rich in magnesium (46 percent calcium carbonate, 38 percent magnesium carbonate).
- The soil additive Sul-Po-Mag (22 percent sulfur, 22 percent potassium, 11 percent magnesium) which is often added to alkaline soils should negate the need for Epsom salt.
- Beans, peas, lettuce, and spinach produce good yields in soil with a low magnesium level.