Most of us are aware that plants need nutrients to grow. Along with water and sunlight, without adequate nutrients, your plants will be weak and stunted in growth. But just what are the specific nutrients for plant growth?
Nutrients that plants need to grow: The basic nutrients that plants need are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Other essential nutrients include calcium, sulfur, and magnesium. You can add compost to your garden to supply the soil with a mix of nutrients or you can focus on certain nutrients by using chemical fertilizer.
Essential Nutrients that Plants Need to Grow
One of the most essential nutrients for plants is nitrogen. This common substance is found in just about every store-bought fertilizer and is represented by the symbol N.
Plants actually use a form of nitrogen, called nitrate, in order to grow healthy foliage. For this reason, nitrogen is not recommended for plants when they are growing their blossoms as the plant’s energy can go to the leaves and stems and not the flowers.
The second most common nutrient for plants is phosphorous. When purchasing a chemical fertilizer, you may see the symbol P, which stands for phosphorus.
This nutrient is important for the growth of both flowers and roots. Plants that have their phosphorus needs met will have a stronger root system, which enables them to withstand disease and temperamental weather conditions.
Finally, the third in the basic trio of nutrients is potassium. This is represented by the symbol K, so you may need to dig deep into your high school chemistry class to remember it.
The overall strength of plants is supported by high potassium levels. Furthermore, potassium helps plants retain water and will create strong plants that are more resistant to diseases and insects.
Just as humans need calcium for proper bone support, so too do plants, although for their cell structure. Calcium is important to create strong plant cells, which in turn relates to strong plants overall.
The stronger the plants are in construction, the better they are able to fend off diseases. Some plants more than others need calcium, including members of the nightshade family such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers.
If you have plants with a lot of foliage, then providing them with enough magnesium will keep their green color bright and vivid. If you ever have plants that have leaves that start to turn a light green or even a yellow color, then this can be a sign that they aren’t getting enough magnesium.
There are a lot of benefits to sulfur but the chief among them is its ability to help plants form seeds. If you are a gardener that likes to collect seeds for the next year, make sure your plants have adequate sulfur for a higher yield.
Sulfur is also important for overall plant growth as it helps with the formation of proteins, enzymes, and amino acids in the general makeup of plants.
How to Improve Nutrients in the soil
There are two ways that you can improve nutrients in your soil: originally and chemically.
If you want to go the organic route, you will need to compost the right mixture of brown and green items. Brown matter includes dead leaves and old plants. Green matter includes vegetable scraps and grass cuttings.
Combine brown and green materials in your compost bin and as long as you regularly turn the pile and there is enough water in the mix, you will have rich compost ready for your garden.
As the compost breaks down, the nutrients remain. Then, when you add it to your garden, you are increasing the richness of your soil.
You can also use manure and bonemeal as other organic methods. Again, combine these materials in your soil so the nutrients can spread out.
If you don’t have access to compost or you need a larger volume of nutrients, you can purchase a chemical fertilizer. You can either find a basic fertilizer that is a mixture of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, or you can purchase specific nutrients.
Add the fertilizer to your soil and water well so it dissolves into the soil. Just be careful not to allow the chemical fertilizer to come into contact with your plants as it can burn your plants in their undiluted form.
How to improve Microbes in the soil
Microbes are tiny organisms that enhance the health of your soil. They are responsible for the overall health of your plants so encouraging their growth is essential for a happy garden.
Try to add organic materials such as compost and leaves to your soil. Whenever possible, don’t dig too deep into the soil as this will disrupt their habitat.
Soil that is moist but not saturated in water is ideal for microbial growth. You also want to keep disturbances to your garden to a minimum, so install a walking path and don’t let pets dig up your soil.
Finally, avoid pesticides in your garden. Any time you add an inorganic substance to your garden, you change the delicate balance including the growth of microbes.
Short tips about plant growth
- Add layers of compost and mulch so your soil continually has access to new nutrients as the layers break down.
- Only dig your soil when necessary to encourage the growth of microbes in the garden.
- Pay attention to changes in your plants, such as color and size, as this can indicate they don’t have enough nutrients.
- Different plants have different nutrient needs, so research before you add a chemical fertilizer.
- You can always test your soil to see how healthy it is, which will allow you to amend it with the proper nutrients.
- Nutrients affect plants at different parts of their life cycle, so be aware of their effects.
To create the garden of your dreams, be sure to give your plants the nutrients they require. You can either add organic material such as compost, manure, and bark mulch, or you can add a chemical fertilizer to your soil.