Why plants need fertilizer/nutrientsIt is well known that plants need light and water to grow. They also need nutrients to perform certain tasks. Soil alone does not have all of the nutrients a plant needs to successfully thrive. Fertilizer has these nutrients which is why plants with fertilizer grow more than those without. There are a few primary nutrients, a few secondary nutrients and a few trace nutrients. They all matter, they just differ in how much of it you need. The primary nutrients will be seen abbreviated as NPK. These are the most important nutrients for plants as they are consumed at a higher rate than the others. Secondary nutrients are definitely under-appreciated; they are important as they are used to do what NPK cannot. They may not be consumed by plants as much as NPK, but it is still important to have them in your soil. The same goes for the trace nutrients. They are consumed even less than secondary nutrients, but they still have a role to play in how a plant grows, survives and reproduces.
- Nitrogen- plants use this to make proteins in order to grow
- Phosphorous- plants use this to help their seeds germinate and help the roots grow
- Potassium- plants use this to produce flowers and fruit
- Calcium- helps get other nutrients into the plant
- Magnesium- helps with maintaining leaf health and chlorophyll
- Boron- used in conjunction with nitrogen to help the plant grow
- Copper- useful in photosynthesis
- Iron- helps move oxygen through roots faster
- Zinc- helps produce chlorophyll
The Most Common Fertilizer Mistakes
- Over fertilizing
- Under fertilizing
- Putting too much emphasis on NPK
- Using a blanket approach
- Wrong timing
How to identify and fix these common mistakes
1. Over Fertilizing
A plant leaf experiencing leaf burn from over-fertilization. Sourced via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fertilizer-Burn.jpgIf your plants are taking longer to mature than normal, is tall with weak stems, has yellow leaves, leaves that fall prematurely or reduced root growth, you may be over fertilizing. The best way to fix over fertilization is to not do it in the first place. It is very difficult to notice the effects of over fertilization as they take a few days to show and by that point it is very hard to reverse. However, if you have over fertilized your plant, the best method to reduce the effects would be to give the plant as much water as the pot it is in will hold to bring the salt levels back down to normal. A good pot to use to both provide sufficient room to grow and good storage for soil is the Wally Eco Wall Planter.
2. Under Fertilizing
A plant experiencing chlorosis (left) next to a fully healthy leaf (right). Sources via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Capsicum_annuum_clorosis.jpgIf your plant experiences chlorosis (loss of green coloring), stunted growth, purple/red leaves or dead plant tissue, you may be under fertilizing. This is another difficult mistake to fix, fertilization is a very important part of growing so make sure you take your time researching what kind and how much fertilizer you need. If you notice the symptoms of under fertilization, you should retreat your soil. Restarting the treatment of the soil will allow your plant to thrive in the new conditions.