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Yardening with Yeti
Plants and the Nutrients They Love
Welcome back to Yardening with Yeti, today’s topic is the nutrients plants use to thrive and grow us delectable fresh fruits and vegetables. The 6 macro nutrients plants need are Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium and Sulphur. Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium are primary nutrients while Calcium, Magnesium and Sulphur are referred to as secondary nutrients. There is also micro nutrients, which I will get into in my next article. Each element helps a specific aspect of growth which allows your plants to thrive and grow through the different stages till harvest. In each section I will include a photo of what a deficit in the nutrient looks like. Not included but vitally important is OXYGEN, your plants and roots also need to breathe so always keep that in mind as well. Now let’s dig in and learn something new today!
Nitrogen is an major nutrient for proper growth and development. It’s a vital component of chlorophyll, which enables photosynthesis, which allows the plants to develop those nice deep green leaves that absorbs sunlight . As the plant absorbs the sunlight it coverts it to sugars for the plants, which are used as food (protein). The protein fills the plant up like food does for us, allowing us to perform at our best till its depleted and we need more. Mrs. Yeti likes to compare plants and the human systems, she’s a Registered Nurse and is also doing a Herbalist course recognized as a degree in Canada, incredibly brilliant and a saint of a human. Plants lacking nitrogen will have slow growth and older (lower) leaves will turn yellow uniformly. In the image below you can see how the yellow is moving toward the center.
In regards to plants, phosphorous is part of the nuclei acid structure which helps in the growth of new tissues, division of cells and the development of the growing tip. In simple terms, bigger and better structure. Specifically it helps root growth and development, make seeds, faster growth and riper fruit. Phosphorus comes naturally through compost and manures but also can be added through fertilizers. A deficiency in phosphorus will stunt shoot growth and the leaves will turn a dull blue-green and appear pale, look left, look right, okay now look at the image below and that’s what a deficiency in phosphorus looks like.
Potassium helps in the movement of water, nutrients and carbohydrates, specifically in tandem with phosphorus. The activation of the enzymes is dependent on potassium as it affects protein, starch and adenosine triphosphate production (ATP). Potassium affects plant health, strength and its durability against disease, low temperatures and stress from any droughts. In simple terms it gives its strength and ruggedness. When adding potassium to the soil it can be done by using potassium chloride, potassium sulphate, seaweed and/or hardwood ash. You can also use a fertilizer heavier in potassium. A deficiency will result in yellowing from the edges in towards the center, demonstrated in the photo below.
Calcium is important to the overall structure of the plant from the cells to the leaves and from below to above the ground. In the initial growing phases extra calcium is required as it aids in the formation of cell walls, membranes and root structure which the plant uses to transport nutrients throughout. Similar to how calcium helps in the structure of our bones, Mrs. Yeti’s brilliance strikes again! Calcium enables the absorption of the other nutrients and makes it more resistant to disease. It is fairly easy to detect a calcium deficiency because your new growths will look deformed, curled in edges and have lack luster colour. The photo below exhibits different degrees of calcium deficiency. The first image in the photo you can save the leaf, the next three I would prune off as they will take extra energy to heal which takes away from growing new growths.
Magnesium helps in regulating the absorption of nutrients in the plant. As the central atom of the chlorophyll molecule it would not have the ability to fully absorb the sunlight when lacking in magnesium. Without proper absorption of sunlight your plants won’t have a great chance of growing and producing fruit. Photosynthesis is what coverts sun to sugars and carbohydrates to feed the plant. Magnesium acts as the courier for phosphorous, like a food courier for us who bring us delicious food, not healthy but I admit it is delicious. A deficiency will appear as yellowing between the leaf veins with possibly reddish brown tints. In the image you see how the yellow is segmented with the veins running between are green.
Sulphur helps in forming amino acids, protein, oils and aids in metabolizing nitrogen. Its part of the formation of chlorophyll. With legumes specifically it helps in nodule formation (i.e. the actual pea in the pod). Higher amounts of Sulphur are required during seed development and fruiting as the nodule development hits its stride. Sulphur will reduce sodium content, which is a dehydrator for humans and I assume does the same to plants. I’ll check into that (I did, I was correct). To add sulphur to the soil you can add manure, compost materials and/or fertilizers that contain sulfates. If a deficiency is present the young (top) leaves will yellow from the inside out.
In this article we discussed the macro nutrients and what they do for development of the plants from seed to fruiting but these aren’t the only nutrients that they need. In addition to macro nutrients they also need multiple nutrients in much smaller doses referred to as micro nutrients and they are boron(B), chloride(Cl), copper(Cu), iron(Fe), manganese(Mn), molybdenum(Mo), nickel(Ni) and zinc(Zn). Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this article, although this is a very dry topic and why it took me a bit to write.
*Yeti Bonus Info*
Reading a bag of fertilizer numbers. On any fertilizer bag you will find three numbers (00-00-00) these three numbers represent the percentages of Nitrogen(N) - Phosphorus(P) - Potassium(K) contained in the bag of fertilizer.