These days everyone is concerned about proper nutrition and what we put into our bodies; but what about our turfgrass and the plants we grow? How do we take care of their nutritional needs?
Soil is obviously very important to plant growth. It not only provides a physical medium in which your plants grow, it is also a reservoir of nutrients, air, and water – three requirements for plant growth.
Most of the nutrients needed for the growth and development of plants are absorbed from the soil by the roots. Over the seasons, these soil nutrients become depleted and must be replenished or plant health will decline.
Because the makeup of the soil is so important to the health and well-being of your plants, it should become very important to you as a gardener.
Awareness of the properties of your garden soil will allow you to adapt your cultural practices so your soil environment will be most conducive to healthy plant growth, whether it be a flower garden, vegetable garden, or your lawn. The nutrients that will give you a thick, lush, and green lawn are very different than the nutrients required to have a thriving and productive vegetable garden.
Understanding Plant Nutrients
There are 17 chemical elements known to be essential for plant growth, flowering, and fruiting.
The primary macronutrients, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), are used in the largest amounts by plants and are thus prone to deficiency in soils. These nutrients are the primary ingredients in most garden fertilizers and the percentages of each are prominently displayed on the bag as the N-P-K numbers. These percentages are always presented in the same order – nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium.
Nitrogen is required for healthy vegetative growth (leaves and stems) and is especially important in young plants. High levels promote dark green leafy growth but not fruits and flowers. Thus a fertilizer higher in nitrogen is great for lawns and leafy vegetables but disastrous when you are trying to grow tomatoes!
Phosphorus is important in all functions of plant growth but especially for root development and growth, and in the production of flowers, fruits, and seeds. Starter fertilizers, which can be used when transplanting trees, shrubs, and perennials, are much higher in phosphorus than nitrogen and potassium. They stimulate root growth and help avoid transplant shock. “Bloom booster” fertilizers with 20%-30% phosphorus help promote flower bud formation.
Potassium is important for the overall vigor of plants. It promotes disease resistance, root formation, and cold hardiness. Plants deficient in potassium will have weak roots and stems.
The secondary macronutrients are calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S). These nutrients are very important to plants but are used in smaller amounts than the three primary macronutrients.
Micronutrients, also known as trace elements, are not nutrients of lesser importance to plant health but those that are required in minute quantities. With the exception of iron and manganese, micronutrients are seldom deficient in our garden soil, however, some can become unavailable to plants when the soil pH is either too high (alkaline) or too low (acidic). Maintaining your soil pH between 6.0-6.5 will keep these nutrients available to the plants. Some fertilizers are fortified with micronutrients.
What’s in YOUR soil?
So your lawn is thin and patchy or your vegetable garden is not producing like it used to or your plants just aren’t blooming? It may well be your soil. You probably need to add fertilizer, but what kind and how much? Is your soil deficient in nitrogen? Maybe phosphorus? Perhaps the pH is not optimal. How would you know?
The easiest way is to get your soil tested. Sound hard? Not really and the analysis from these tests will allow you to make informed decisions on how to improve the soil environment for your lawn and garden plants. If you choose to have your soil tested professionally, you will not only be provided with a detailed analysis of the soil but you’ll also receive specific recommendations for amendments to improve the pH and also nutrient content if necessary.
Easy Online Soil Testing …
A soil analysis from Think-Soil™ will provide essential information on relative levels of organic matter, pH, lime requirement, cation exchange capacity (CEC), and levels of plant-available nutrients contained in your soil.
Simply go to MyTurfandGarden.com, and click on Soil Testing in the top menu. There you can read all about it and see how easy it is.
Follow the instructions or watch the YouTube video demonstrating how to take a soil sample from your garden or lawn. Within days of placing your order, you’ll receive a pre-addressed envelope, a leak proof zip-lock baggie, and detailed instructions. After you collect your soil sample, just place the baggie with the sample into the pre-paid envelope and give it to your postal carrier. There is no cost for shipping.
Once your soil sample arrives at the lab, the test results will be ready for you to review within 36 hours. You will be notified by e-mail as soon as the test results are available.
In addition, Think-Soil™ consultants are available toll free to help with any questions about your test results and to offer advice on what’s needed to remediate your soil. For the first time you’ll have the information needed regarding how much product is needed, how best to apply it, and when to do it.
For the month of August, Think-Soil™ has an introductory offer of 50% off all soil tests plus no cost to send your soil sample.
Doing a soil test is one of the best ways to insure that you amend your soil to provide just what your lawn, vegetables, and/or your flowers need to thrive.
Remember next month is Lawn Care Month. September marks the beginning of the best season for most lawn projects. Be ready!
“Don’t Guess – Do the Test!”