Whether you are an experienced or novice gardener you know that plants need nutrients. However, you may not be aware of all the nutrients they need.
Expert gardeners point out that there are three major plant foods that should be fed to your garden. They include nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
Nutrients your plants long for, but at a lesser amount include calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. If the soil from which your plants are growing contains alkaline, then you will have to add manganese and iron. Alkaline soil cannot release these nutrients and if they are not present, then the leaves of plants that perform well in alkaline will turn yellow.
Nitrogen promotes lush leafy growth and is the main ingredient in spring lawn fertilizers. It is very soluble and quickly washes out of free-draining soils.
Potassium encourages flowering and fruiting. Fertilizers meant to be used on tomatoes and summer container plants are rich in potassium.
Phosphorus advances healthy root growth and is essential for young plants that are in the process of developing their roots. Usually, there is a sufficient amount of this nutrient in the garden soil.
Still, you should test your soil to determine if it is lacking any one or more of these major nutrients. If the soil is lacking in one or more of these foods, then select the proper fertilizer that will boost the amount of the deficit substance.
Make certain that you are applying the proper amount when fertilizing. If you offer too little the result will be weak growth and if you offer too much, the shoots will be soft and sappy and will attract pests including aphids, will be vulnerable to frost and may need support.
A careful inspection of your plants will help determine if they are lacking in a type of nutrient. For example, if a plant’s leaves are yellow on the edges and between the veins, then that is an indication that there is a lack of iron.
If new leaves on the top of the plant are distorted, exhibit an irregular shape, or has blossom-end rot, then there is a calcium deficiency. However, too much calcium can limit the availability of other nutrients.
Yellowing in older leaves on the bottom of the plant while the rest of the plant is light green signifies a lack of nitrogen. Most plants absorb nitrogen in the form of ammonium or nitrate.
If leaves are turning yellow at the edges and a green arrowhead shape in the center, then there may be a magnesium insufficiency.
If leaf tips appear burned and older leaves turn a dark green or reddish-purple, then there is a lack of phosphorus.
If the plant’s older leaves are wilting or look scorched and the base of the plant shows interveinal chlorosis, then there may be a potassium deficiency.
If the younger leaves turn yellow first and then the same occurs on the older leaves, then there is a sulfur deficiency.
If the plant suffers the death of terminal buds and witches’ broom appears, then there is a boron deficiency.
If the plant displays dark green leaves and its growth is stunted, then there may be a copper insufficiency.
If yellowing appears between the veins of young leaves, palm fronds are stunted and deformed, there is a size reduction of the leaves, shoot, or fruit, and dead spots or patches appear, then there is a lack of manganese.
If the older leaves are yellowing while the rest of the plant is light green, then there may be a molybdenum deficiency.
If terminal leaves are rosette and there is yellowing between the veins of new leaves, then there may be a zinc insufficiency.
There are four types of fertilizers –- dry, slow-release, liquid, and manure.
Dry fertilizer comes as granular or powdered, is commonly used to feed established plants in beds or borders or to increase soil fertility before planting. The best time to apply is in early spring.
Slow-release fertilizer is often added to soil or mixed into compost in powder or granular form and feeds plants gradually over a period of time. Only one application is required.
Liquid fertilizer is fast acting and applied to soil or compost or sprayed on as a foliar feed. This type of fertilizer is ideal for handling plants with a nutrient deficiency.
Manure should be dug into the soil to improve its structure and water-retaining capability. It helps to encourage the growth of beneficial organisms and adds nutrients. Well-rotted manure should be applied as a 2-inch to 3-inch deep mulch in the fall to established beds or dug into areas being prepared for spring planting.