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Chlorine is not just for the pool

This entry is part 1 of 12 in the series 13 Key Nutrients For Plants

Chlorine is present in our environment today often at levels considered a contaminant. However, it is essential for plant to open and close its stomates, or pores, and for electrical activity within cells. It is quite important to setting fruit and overall plant growth.

Deficiency can be suspected if you see yellow leaves that subsequently die and fall off, accompnied by a complete lack of fruit set and overall stunted growth. It is supplied naturally by the atmosphere, which moves it from the oceans to water around the world as rain and snow. Because the concentration of chlorine in the rain and snow is variable there is a remote possibility to have a deficient soil.

To correct a deficiency
  • add Bromine to the soil, which can support plant use of Chlorine

Chlorine can build up in the soil like any salt. Too much can show as burned leaf margins and tips, bronzed leaves that turn yellow and fall off.

To offset an excess
  • by leaching with salt free water
  • increasing the sand content of soil to facilitate the movement of water
  • planting plants that use high amounts of chlorine, such as tomatoes

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

Nitrogen and why you should care about it

This entry is part 2 of 12 in the series 13 Key Nutrients For Plants

Nitrogen is most important in plants for vegetative growth and chlorophyll production, which of course is what makes plants green.

 

If the older leaves are thin, small and pale, and the plant develops very woody stems then the plant may require nitrogen. Left uncorrected, the problem spreads to the fruit which becomes spiny, deformed and short.

    To correct a nitrogen deficiency

  • add composted manure
  • plant with peas and beans to fix nitrogen into the soil from the atmosphere

 

Small yellowish spots on the leaves that get bigger until only the leaf veins are left green may indicate too much nitrogen present. In this case you will see initially see thick strong stems with rich green curled leaves that grow closely spaced on them, along with many side shoots and tendrils.

    Too much nitrogen can be corrected by

  • heavy irrigation
  • keeping the plants cool in order to reduce transpiration
  • plant heavy feeding plants like lettuce

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

Molybdenum

This entry is part 3 of 12 in the series 13 Key Nutrients For Plants

 

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

Molybdenum is required by the plant for carrying out “redox reactions” in enzymes that include nitrate reductase to convert nitrates into amino acids. Redox reactions are necessary to processes involving nitrogen metabolism as well as synthesizing phytohormones. Molybdenum is also crucial for the symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria that is found in legumes, and is necessary in order to convert inorganic phosphorous into organic forms within the plant. Without Molybdenum, plants could not utilize phosphorous or nitrogen.

If the leaves show curled mottled edges the plant may have a deficiency of molybdenum.

To correct a deficiency of Molybdenum
  • add lime or wood ash, which will be most effective in acidic soils or soils that get leached by a lot of rain
  • young plants can be sprayed with a 5% solution of sodium molybdate (a salt)

Like any salt, if Molybdenum builds up in the soil it will also accumulate within the plant and cause damage such as the edges of the leaves looking scorched and leaves falling off the plant. Eating a lot of plant material with a high Molybdenum concentration can lead to a condition called Molybdenosis in livestock.

To offset excessive Molybdenum
  • Adding sulfur to the soil can help decrease the plant’s Molybdenum uptake
    NOTE: Elemental sulfur is an accepted organic additive, however, Ontario Canada farms receive yearly 8- 13 kg/ha (7- 12 pounds/acre) of sulfur deposited by rainfall so this should be included in considering how much to apply

Potassium

This entry is part 4 of 12 in the series 13 Key Nutrients For Plants

 

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

Potassium is needed by plants for normal growth and high fruit quality. Potassium atoms are positively charged and balance out negatively charged compounds like sulphates, nitrates and chlorides. Potassium is necessary for the plant to manage its transpiration, the process of moving water through the plant and out the pores into the atmosphere, and is also used in opening and closing the stomates, the small holes in the leaves. It is important for creating cell walls.

Plants that are deficient in Potassium will show signs beginning at the oldest leaves, which will develop yellow margins and curl downward while the veins remain green. Fruit will also be impacted, and have a skimpy stem end. Growth will be stunted and leaves will be small. Potassium deficiency tends to cause or worsen an iron deficiency. Legumes may be particularly impacted by having their Nitrogen fixing bacteria produce less Nitrogen due to decreased sugar processed within the plant nodules.

To correct a deficiency of Potassium
  • first ensure that your soil has adequate organic matter and is not too sandy
  • make sure the pH is not too low, as low pH makes it harder for plants to absorb Potassium
  • add kelp, banana peels, greensand and small amounts of wood ash to the soil to add Potassium

Plants with too much Potassium in their soil may have dead leaf margins but Potassium toxicity is rare.

To offset excessive Potassium
  • create a strategy to boost other nutrients, especially Nitrogen without using manure (because manure is very high in Phosphorous)
  • plant beans and peas (legumes) which will fix Nitrogen and make it available to other plants without introducing Phosphorous or Potassium
  • both cucumbers and tomatoes like slightly less Nitrogen versus Phosphorous and could help use up some of the Phosphorous in the soil
  • Root vegetables like parsnips, carrots, beets and radishes all require Phosphorous and Potassium
  • Clover and vetch (do not eat vetch it is poisonous) can be used to balance the nutrients in the soil
  • Design a rotation something like this: Carrots, Beets, Radishes, Clover, Parsnip, Beans, Vetch (do not eat vetch it is poisonous), Peas, Cucumber, Tomato
Copyright © 2015 Lori Wardell

Phosphorous

This entry is part 5 of 12 in the series 13 Key Nutrients For Plants

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

Phosphorus is important to early root development, especially important when the soil is cool. It is crucial to leaf and fruit production and is required to perform cellular division and for energy transformation. Phosphorus is easily leached from soilless mixtures and soils high in peat and it needs to be provided continuously in those situations. The quantity required is usually less than nitrogen.

A plant that is deficient in phosphorous will be stunted, with water-soaked patches on older leaves. New leaves will be small, stiff and dark coloured. If this is not corrected the leaves will shrivel up and dry out.

To correct a deficiency of phosphorous
  • add colloidal phosphate to the soil the year prior to when you will grow in that location
  • Add fish bone meal to the soil to add direct phosphorous
    note this will add calcium as well.

Leaves showing an orange-yellow colour between the veins which remain green, is a potential sign of phosphorous toxicity. A soil that has too much phosphorous may develop deficiencies of other nutrients, in particular zinc and iron, however, toxicity is not generally a problem except sometimes in a hydroponic system.

To offset excessive phosphorous
  • create a strategy to boost other nutrients, especially nitrogen without using manure (because manure is very high in phosphorous)
  • plant beans and peas (legumes) which will fix nitrogen and make it available to other plants without introducing phosphorous or potassium
  • both cucumbers and tomatoes like slightly less nitrogen versus phosphorous and could help use up some of the phosphorous in the soil
  • Root vegetables like parsnips, carrots, beets and radishes all require phosphorous and potassium
  • Clover and vetch (do not eat vetch it is poisonous) can be used to balance the nutrients in the soil
  • Design a rotation something like this: Carrots, Beets, Radishes, Clover, Parsnip, Beans, Vetch (do not eat vetch it is poisonous), Peas, Cucumber, Tomato

13 Key Nutrients for Plants – #1 Nitrogen

This entry is part 6 of 12 in the series 13 Key Nutrients For Plants

 

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

Nitrogen is most important for vegetative growth, and chlorophyll production, which makes plants green.

If the older leaves are thin, small and pale, and the plant develops very woody stems then the plant may require Nitrogen. Left uncorrected, the problem spreads to the fruit which becomes spiny, deformed and short.

To correct a deficiency of Nitrogen
  • add composted manure
  • plant with peas and beans to fix Nitrogen into the soil from the atmosphere

Small yellowish spots on the leaves that get bigger until only the leaf veins are left green may indicate too much Nitrogen present. In this case you will see initially see thick strong stems with rich green curled leaves that grow closely spaced on them, along with many side shoots and tendrils.

To offset excessive Nitrogen
  • heavy irrigation
  • keeping the plants cool in order to reduce transpiration
  • plant heavy feeding plants like lettuce

About the Author

Lori Wardell is the writer, grower and chief cook and bottle washer for the Growing My Dinner blog and just for fun the Cat-Shaped Monster blog. She spends her time tending her farm and gardens, cooking and preserving and enjoying what she grows, while caring for her assorted animal friends and writing about the whole lot. Contact Lori on Twitter @GrowingMyDinner

Copyright © 2015 Lori Wardell

Sulfur

This entry is part 7 of 12 in the series 13 Key Nutrients For Plants

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

Sulfur falls onto Ontario, Canada farms in the form of acid (sulfur dioxide) rain, depositing 8-13kg per hectare each year, so soil deficiency is not common here. Sulfur can be used as a soil amendment to correct high pH of above 7.0, and can help reduce higher levels of lime and sodium. Lime gets converted into gypsum which has the benefit of providing calcium. Sodium is freed so that leaching can remove it from the soil. Sulfur helps improve soil quality by building tilth, and also by reducing the tendency to crust by removing sodium. Sulfur also makes other nutrients like phosphorous more available.

Deficiencies in Sulfur will show as yellowing leaves, beginning with the younger leaves.

To correct a deficiency of Sulfur
  • organic matter releases sulfur as it decomposes, and minerals in the soil can also slowly release it so add compost, worm casings and greensand and rock dust to prevent or treat a deficiency
  • elemental Sulfur can be applied to provide a fast acting source

If too much sulfur is present it will negatively impact the plant’s ability to take in molybdenum. That can result in leaves that show curled mottled edges.

To offset excessive Sulfur
  • Corn, alfalfa, wheat, legumes and oil seeds remove large amounts of sulfur.
  • Add sand to the soil to increase leaching and help reduce accumulation of sulfur

Zinc is important

This entry is part 8 of 12 in the series 13 Key Nutrients For Plants

Zinc is present in several plant enzymes and is required in photosynthesis.

Zinc deficiency can arise when the soil pH is too high and adversely affects zinc uptake. High phosphorous or calcium levels can impact uptake as well as copper, magnesium, manganese and iron. Deficiency symptoms begin on the lowest leaves and are subtle. There will be slightly paler areas between the veins that become worse over time while veins remain green, the space between where leaves come out of the stem is shortened up and leaves become small.

To correct a deficiency
  • Spraying with zinc sulphates can correct a zinc deficiency

Too much zinc can happen from multiple causes including proximity to mines or smelters, runoff water from galvanized building frames and contamination of water from galvanized pipes. Plants in soil with too much of this nutrient will have a very deep dark green vein colour that will eventually become blackened. Young leaves will develop yellow-green colour between the veins, which later turn completely yellow. Growth is stunted then stops, and yellow leaves develop dead patches and fall off. Too much of this nutrient is difficult to correct.

To offset an excess
  • adding lime
  • adding phosphorous

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

 

Boron sounds boring, but your plants will love it

This entry is part 9 of 12 in the series 13 Key Nutrients For Plants

Boron is required by plants for cell division and formation of the plant’s growing points, also called grower’s tips. It is best if it is continuously supplied.

Deficiency of boron can be seen in the oldest leaves on the lower half of the plant becoming brittle and yellowed, and the grower’s tips dying back. Older leaves will be cupped upwards and stiff. Young leaves will be malformed and have prominent veins. Fruits are shortened and have cracks in their skins. Roots will have enlarged tips and will be black. Symptoms will appear around the first harvest.

To correct a deficiency of Boron
  • raise the ratio of organic matter to sand
  • lower the soil pH by adding Sulfur
  • add borax to the soil

Too much boron will show up in the oldest leaves with them cupping downwards and turning yellow and eventually expanding into dead spots between veins. The leaves can also become more circular shaped. If this condition is not corrected then the plant’s growth will be stunted with very few female flowers developing.

To offset excessive Boron
  • Heavy leaching can be used to remove some boron
  • add lime if the soil is acidic

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.

 

Manganese sounds exotic, doesn’t it?

This entry is part 10 of 12 in the series 13 Key Nutrients For Plants

Manganese is required in very small quantities, found in enzymes used in photosynthesis and in the production of a plant hormone called auxin. Plants use this nutrient to remove hydrogen peroxide from within cells.

Iron toxicity can indicate manganese deficiency, which will show on new growth with the leaf margins becoming paler to yellow with the veins remaining green, with dead or dying lesions spotted across them. Distinctive sunken white areas start to appear.

To correct a deficiency
  • ensuring there is not an excess of iron

Toxicity will show up on the older leaves first, which will have pale green/yellow areas between the veins which turn red-brown. Purple spots can be seen on the petioles, stems and the leaf underside veins. Excessive manganese can cause iron deficiency.

To offset excessive Manganese
  • foliar sprays of manganese sulfate
  • ensure pH levels are not too high

Soil testing is an important activity for a successful garden. Soil stewardship is an ongoing process, where you test and amend, grow some stuff, then test, amend and grow some stuff….and so on. Focus on building soil tilth so it can really hold and make available to the plants all the important nutrients. You do this in part by adding compost, manure, rock dust, bone meal, kelp & fish emulsions. Read this article series to learn more about each of the 13 key nutrients for your garden.