Shop Products
Houzz Logo Print

Diluted sea water improves tomato flavor?

13 years ago

Has anyone used diluted sea water as a drench to improve tomato flavor and increase nutrients?

I read online about using a 10% salt solution and the theory was that the slight stress from using a salt water drench causes the plants to produce the chemicals that improve flavor and nutrient content.

Comments (28)

  • 13 years ago

    Yes, and that theory is wrong.
    It's doesn't cause the plant to produce/add anything, it causes the plant to remove something - water.
    Salt water dehydrates plants, it just concentrates the flavor.

  • 13 years ago

    farkee...the above link was the study I originally read...

    I'm just interested if any of the heavy-duty "tomato-istas", like Dr. Carolyn, has any experience with the method.

  • 13 years ago

    It is interesting how a theory can be unsubstantiated yet the practise provides positive results. I am a diluted seawater fertilizer fiend and highly suggest folks look intoMaynard Murray's workonman plants inthsi regard. Rather than stress the plant, o ean water provides some 93 minerals in proportion totheplants. These minerals are the building blocks for the fruit and certain enzymes can't be made unless the minerals are there. Cheap or even expensive commercial fertilizers have maybe 15 minerals. Add some nitrogen to ocean water and you have the perfect fertilizer less some fungi and sugars! I've grown watermelons in sterile media and diluted ocean water in pots just to prove the point. There is no reason anyone with access to the ocean should pay for fertilizer. World class results.

    Also, Murray ran extensive tests to show disease resistance increased vs. Plants not fed ocean water, properly diluted. Tobacco mosaic, ou name it deliberately introduced. Amazing results. See his book on amazon. Btw seaweed is a hyper concentration of ocean water. The same folks using kelp are not stressing their plants out! The minerals enable the plants to form the defenses they need against pests and disease.

    Bottom line, diluted ocean water works! I use a 3500 ppm solution on my tomatoes. See hydroponic references for specific concentrations per plant.

  • 13 years ago

    "Holy Salinity Batman! Can it be?" This is exciting. I do use seaweed in the garden and dried up grasses as mulch. I'd like to see this thread continue and have others weigh in. Will be looking for a simple ratio so that I can use the watering can.

  • 13 years ago

    1 part ocean water, 9 parts fresh water. For the techies, a TDS meter brings precision. I just collected 12 gallons of ocean water yesterday, enough to make 120 gallons of fertilizer.

    Check out the link attached. Tomatoes yielded 25% more vitamin C, brushed off blight and tobacco mosaic!

    Here is a link that might be useful: Maynard Murray seawater experiment results

  • 13 years ago

    Looking at the locations those tests were done, New Jersey and Georgia, I would guess both locations get a lot of rainfall. If one used sea water in an arid area like southern California I suspect repeated use of sea water would lead to a salt buildup in the soil that would be detrimental to plant health. Even our tap water, part of which comes from the salt laden Colorado river, will build up enough salts in potted plants to kill them eventually. Thats why I use rain water I collect in barrels to water all my potted plants and even garden plants as long as it lasts.
    Remember, the Romans salted the Carthaginians fields to make sure they could never grow anything there again.

  • 13 years ago

    I had been wondering about salt build up myself. We also have a problem with mineral salts building up around the tops of pots. I don't think I'd be at all inclined to use sea water on my tomatoes (or anything else.) If there is indeed a benefit in using sea water, perhaps since Californian and I both live where there is a build up of salts anyway, we already have tomatoes that are showing those benefits.


  • 13 years ago

    I agree with corrie22. Concentrated flavor due to dehydration. You can achieve the same effect by letting the plants wilt by not watering when the fruit start to ripen.

  • 13 years ago

    I doubt that it is dehydration considering similar osmotic stress is caused by such practices as using Epsoms salts and normal mineral fertilizers. Muriate of potash (potassium chloride) is similar to sodium chloride, but it doesn't enhanse flavor the same way. It is thought that the sodium in the old sodium nitrate fertilizers were responsible for the "Jersey tomato" old time flavor. Sodium is added to bottled water to add flavor so it would follow that a little sodium substituting for potassium in the plant would alter the flavor slightly in addition to altering chemical pathways.

  • 13 years ago

    Below I've linked to a thread about this topic from here at GW done earlier this year and I think it bears rereading for those of you who haven't seen it.

    And I emphatically agree with those who said to just grow a sweeter variety and also said that it was something that I would never do. Within that thread I also linked to the Israeli Desert Sweet tomatoes and here's another place to look where the Israelis found that different varieties required different levels of salt.

    You'll also note that in the link below that I was gifted with some of those tomatoes grown on brackish waters, the seeds are actually germinated in sweet water, if you will, and I found them to be no sweeter than many varieties I've grown which were indeed much sweeter.

    If truth be told I don't look for just sweetness in a variety, I want something there that's more complex as to tomato taste.

    About salt buildup. I looked into that a few years ago and found out that salt buildup in soils is primarily found in soils of large commercial tomato fields that are not accessible to irrigation.

    Where irrigation is used there is no salt buildup. For us homegrowers it shouldn't be a problem b'c we water our tomatoes when needed and where I live rains are common but many grow in areas where water doesn't fall out of the sky but then they water their plants.

    So please read the link at the bottom from a previous discussion of this topic and then cut and paste the one I gave in the text for yet more interesting information.

    Hope that helps.


    Here is a link that might be useful: GW thread on tomatoes and salinity

  • 13 years ago

    Sodium is added to bottled water to add flavor so it would follow that a little sodium substituting for potassium in the plant would alter the flavor slightly in addition to altering chemical pathways.

    The problem with that theory is that I don't think the salt ever makes it to the fruit or even the circulatory system of the plant.

    People that eat more salt usually end up with higher blood pressure.
    Hmmm, maybe they are sweeter too o_O

  • 13 years ago

    Please bear in mind the thread is about DILUTED seawater. Seawater is roughly 32,000 ppm. In hydroponics, the upper limit for tomato growth is 3500 ppm. Thus only 10% seawater will do.

    Second, bear in mind the ocean isthe repository of several billion years of minerals from the earth. All this talk of empty harvests, depleted soils...minerals on earth are a zero sum game. Mineralsn are not created o destroyed but simply moved from one location to another. Namely the ocean. There is something special about a billion year compost tea. Wherever you go in open ocean, sthe composition is the same. Excess minerals "drop out" of the warter. And the chemical composition of seawater has the same mineral profiles human blood. Odd but true.

    Maybe there is something to those saline drips. Anyhow, don't be distracted by full strength seawater trials which I anything, support the thesis given at 10X the required strength, plant STiLL survived and fruited.

    As for salt build up, this is another myth. You might ube interested to know grasses can absorb all 93 elements from ocean water. (for those who do wheatgrass etc use 5000 ppm diluted ocean water). Guess which plant of all others comes in at 2nd place in terms of absorbing elements?

    The tomato!

    It can absorb 55 elements! Interestingly, the next plant down only has 30 or so. This is one reason tomatoes CAN be very nutritious. The mineral complexes possible from 93 elements run into the millions. Alas, your tomato cannot manufacture these complexa without the minerals! Tomatoes are heAvy feeders are will take up 93 elementsz at 3500 ppm. The ones they do not absorb will be irrelevant given they are not absorbed!

    Also bear in mind, a 3500 ppm does is only required once a year. If you really have a concern about salt build up, grown some wheat or barley or other easily removed grass (corn too) in that area in rotation - but this isn't required.

    The theory of salt stress has no evidence to support it. Lab tests show quite the opposite....a plant lacking the minerals to defnd itself will be....defenseless.

    Lastly, I am fully awRe this goes against conventional "wisdom". I've seen videos of farmers with bumper crops.from diluted seawater wo somehow can't persuade their colleagues to try it. To each his own. If you have a small space or pot, try it and see. Big Ag won't like it but you will!

    Oh. One last thing, while sodium chloride is the main salt in seawater by volume, it is the other 91 element that are transported into the plant by the NaCl carrier that does the trick. Plains NaCl won't do.

  • 13 years ago

    I wish I had my own garden, I would try this on one or two of my plants in a heartbeat. Just because it sounds so compelling to a non-scientist such as myself: costs almost nothing (because I live near the coast), works better than expensive alternatives... yep, sounds almost too good to be true, but it costs almost nothing (unless I kill the plants), so I'd try it out just for the hell of it.

    BTW, we're talking about 10% SEAWATER mixed with 90% fresh water, not a 10% saline solution. Most seawater is about 3.5% to 5% salinity. 10% seawater comes to .35%-.5% salinity. Fresh water is about .05% salinity (I'm basing this on Wikipedia, so if someone has more reliable data feel free to correct me). So the solution of 10% seawater is maybe 10x the salinity of fresh water (or maybe less if your tap water is salty). If it can add lots of trace elements to my soil without hurting my plant, why not use it? Of course, just because it doesn't seem salty doesn't mean my tomatoes won't mind, so if anyone knows for certain that 0.5% salinity will be bad for the plants, do say something now. :)

  • 13 years ago

    Dehydration certainly can concentration of flavor in cooking tomatoes. But I can't imagine it helps growth of the plant in any way.

    Sea water contains every soluble mineral there is. So, in modest amounts, it is nutritious to the plants.


  • 13 years ago

    But you don't get either fertilizer- or salt-induced dehydration until the ionic concentration around the roots is high enough to overcome the roots' osmotic pressure and starts sucking root moisture out, right? Seawater seems pretty do-able in small doses, I've heard some say that diced seaweed with a little residual salt is no big deal either to the normally irrigated garden. I'll have to give this a try sometime.

  • 7 years ago

    i was wondering if any of you guys know any theory about the use of diluted seawater in watering plants. I am having my thesis and I need a theory that can support it. I used diluted seawater in watering the watermelon plants to know its effect to the growth of watermelon. I just really have a hard time looking for theories that will support my study. :(

  • 7 years ago

    taz6122: People that eat more salt usually end up with higher blood pressure.


  • 7 years ago

    Tomatoes may benefit from some Sodium (Na), as trace element but not a whole lot of it. In needed limit, I have read it can improve the taste.

    But see water will probably have more than just sodium.


  • 7 years ago

    Katherine,this should interest you about salty water and tomatoes. I've not read anything about same for watermelons but Israel, see below, does raise a lot of melons, but I didn't read every link below..


  • 7 years ago

    Unless someone can tell most of us who are landlocked where to find seawater, this whole theory that seawater makes tomatoes taste better means next to nothing. You want a good tasting tomato? Grow a variety known for having a good taste.


  • 7 years ago

    Rodney, the percentage of NACL in seawater is known, so just calculate the amount of NACL you need to add to a known amount of fresh water,and there you go.

    Your suggestion for someone to grow a variety known for good taste escapes me, since known by whom, when grown, how grown, what amendments were used, which ones, how much, what was the weather like in the season grown. And don't forget that there are human genes that also play a role in taste and not all persons have those same genes, which makes it even more complicated.


  • 7 years ago

    theforgottenone1013: Unless someone can tell most of us who are landlocked where to find seawater, this whole theory that seawater makes tomatoes taste better means next to nothing. You want a good tasting tomato? Grow a variety known for having a good taste.

    It's just something that some people may want to try if they can. I think discussion of it is great. Not all discussions have to relate directly to me. There's a lot of diversity among tomato gardeners.

    Given the rainfall patterns where I live, for example, I can't really experiment properly with dry farming tomatoes. That's no reason for me to get frustrated with people who live in places where they can.

    And I don't have easy access to sea water, although I could get some if I drove for a bit. But I don't really feel a need to do so, and that's fine. Maybe one day I'll experiment using my own solution made from sea salt and seaweed fertilizer, just to see what happens, but I don't consider my life incomplete without it.

    It would be nice to hear from people who do this to see what their results are, as I am always curious even if it's not something I can or will personally do.

  • 7 years ago

    Why don't you just sprinkle some Table Salt in your garden just like Epsom salt.?? They also sell SEA SALT at a premium price !!! How is that ?

    My soil test back in PNW, showed very low trace of Na, well below recommended level. I salted my garden.

    But I will get regular Morton's salt, @ 50 cent per pound. hehe

  • 7 years ago

    Has anyone asked the question that, if there really is something beneficial to adding sea water to the garden, that it probably has less to do with NaCl, and more to do with the combination of the 90 or so elements that make up sea water?

  • 7 years ago

    Most experiments are concerned with the problem of using sea water, water from brackish aquifers, or runoff water, so that's what they usually use. Those substances have a lot of confounding variables. I found this study, which is interesting because it's hydroponic and the only variable seems to be the NaCl. I wish I had access to the full paper, though, to be sure.

  • 7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I've used these sea minerals, which are dehydrated salt water, with plants. My general observation is that it really perks plants up for a while and makes them greener (faster and livelier than a nitrogen fertilizer), and it can make some watermelon varieties salty by the rinds (even with only one or two applications). It can also help to eliminate at least one or two kinds of foliar fungal disease (but I applied it to the soil, rather than the leaves). It also temporarily deters spider mites from causing damage. However, you have to be careful not to use it too much (since there is sodium in it). Plants need sodium (in small amounts), but too much may not be so great.

    I purposefully used a lot of sea minerals on an indoor pepper (in a 20oz foam cup); the pepper had a foliar fungus and spider mites. The fungus (which had defoliated the plant at least twice) went away. The spider mites subsided each time I used it, but they always came back after about a few days to a week or so, even if I used a lot. It turned out I could use quite a bit, for a fair while, but there comes a point of no return. The plant did die. The excess of sea minerals seemed to cause root rot (or make the plant vulnerable to it, if not).

    I also note that the sea minerals smell like they're conducive to certain microbes. I imagine they may increase certain kinds of microbial life in the soil.

    You can get something like sea minerals without the sodium, I've read. It has a specific name. I haven't tried it.

    I applied my sea minerals to the soil for the most part, but some people do a foliar spray.

  • 4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    I also wanted to add that while sea minerals seem fine for watermelon and tomatoes, the extra sodium could probably be a big problem for some species of plants (like cucumbers and beans). So, if you do crop rotation with any more salt-intolerant plants, I would avoid sea minerals.

TR Granite & Stone Studio
Average rating: 5 out of 5 stars4 Reviews
Industry Leading Countertop in Loudoun County, VA