FINDING ANSWERS

SALT OF THE EARTH

Q

What are Epsom salts and how are they used? — via the Internet

A

Epsom salt is hydrated magnesium sulfate (about 10 percent magnesium and 13 percent sulfur). It has long been used as an additive to water as a foot-soak for relieving tired feet. The Epsom Salt Industry Council claims that Epsom salt has far more beneficial uses, such as first aid for splinters, insect bites and scrapes; cleaning bathroom tiles; dislodging blackheads; and getting rid of raccoons.

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Epsom salt has beneficial uses on turf and other plants, as well. The magnesium in Epsom salt is readily available for foliar uptake. As a foliar spray, Michigan State University recommends applying a mixture of 10 to 20 pounds of Epsom salt in 30 gallons water.

In addition, you can use Epsom salt as a soil amendment to correct poor infiltration rates in certain situations. On soils where the percent base saturation of sodium exceeds 5 percent, it can result in reduced water infiltration rates as well as impaired plant growth. Epsom salt will improve infiltration rates under these conditions.

ON THE AIR

Q

Is there such a thing as a “hover mower” for mowing steep hillsides? I remember seeing these types of mowers years ago. I have a new home with a steep backyard that my current mower cannot handle. — Carl, via e-mail

A

Your memory is accurate: There is a “hover mower.” In fact, that is also a brand name. There are also a few other brands of mowers that float on air. You can use them on a wide variety of terrain, such as hard-to-reach slopes, steep banks (like the one you described), wet grounds, around retaining walls and on awkward mowing angles. You can also use them under shrubbery and around ponds. They are available in various deck sizes with your choice of engines and horsepower ratings. The most important feature to keep in mind for your particular intended application is weight. These mowers can weigh as little as 19 pounds, and offer a cutting height of 1 to 3 inches. Manufactures warn that this is not a mower that can handle extreme grass and high weed conditions.

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