Green Thumb Academy 

Plant Nutrients

If you want to be the best grower you can be, you should get to know some of the vital elements that the plants use to be strong, healthy, fruit producing members of your garden. These elements can have vastly different and remarkably similar traits to each other and can confuse most new gardeners. Where going to take this opertunity to atleast get you familiar with these elements and help you determin if your selling your plants short.


Nitrogen (N) as part of the Macro Nutrients for the plant is vital for just about all functions of the plant life. Nitrogen can be found in all areas of the plant including the chlorophyll molecules. These chlorophyll molecules are the key to photosynthesis and give that plant its health green color. That’s why nitrogen deficiencies result in yellowing leaves for the plant which limits the amount of light the plant can intake.  


Phosphorus (P) also part of the Macro Nutrients works in many different facets for the plant but is most associated with developing root system but also with the formation of ATP ( adenosine triphosphate). ATP is like sugar for plants, it is quick access energy that can be sent to any part of the plant at any time when need. With a developed root system and abundant ATP the one of the many benefits of phosphorous is faster maturity of plants. That’s why you may have a phosphorous deficiency if the plant is stunted or slow to bloom despite being a healthy color and deformed new growth.


Potassium (K) finishes of the Macro Nutrients, It is known as the "all around nutrient" as it plays a role in what nitrogen does up top and everything phosphorus does down below. Think of potassium as supervisor to different process a plant goes through. It does this by triggering enzymes that start processes like ATP production and water regulation in both uptake and release through foliage. All of this leads to an "all around" healthy plant and if you ever have seen a misshapen fruit or vegetable more than likely potassium was lacking. You would also see yellowing leaves from the outside in and stunted growth as well as vulnerability to harsh environments.


Oxygen (O) to most is just the bye product of plant's photosynthesis and we are very thankful for that. But your plants also take in oxygen for a process called respiration. You can think of this as photo synthesis in reverse. This is when the plant takes oxygen and glucose in the plant and breaks it down to Carbon Dioxide and water while using the release of energy. This is an important process as this gives the plant energy even when there is no light.


                Calcium (Ca) just like the other elements to follow are not in the Macro nutrients but it can be just as devastating with improper levels. Calcium is much like calcium for humans as in it gives the plant structure and strength by creating a strong bond between cell walls. This raises the strength and defense of the plant, helping if fight infection and physical damage. That's why with a calcium deficiency, the cell walls actually break apart which leads to "Rust" spots on the foliage.


                Magnesium (Mg) is most important for the photosynthesis process. Without Magnesium which is actually inside the chlorophyll molecule, the plant can't capture sun light for the photosynthesis process. So if deficient in Magnesium the plant can't produce chlorophyll and the leaf will lose its healthy green color but the stems or veins of the leaves will remain dark green even called red/purple.


                Sulfur (S) while only needed in small amounts has its hands in many facets of the plant. You can find it in the all-important chlorophyll but mainly in the production of Amino Acids the building blocks of protein for your plants. Sulfur Deficiencies are hard to diagnose because they are rare and look like nitrogen deficiency. You will notice yellowing of the leaves on new growth first. 


                Boron (B) another micro mineral for plants is talked about very little but has shown some importance on yield. Just like many other minerals Boron helps maintain cell wall strength but is more influence on new growth cells. In nature Boron is not very abundant and along with that is not up taken very effectively by plants but some studies where Boron was supplemented in have seen mild increases in yielded fruit. Symptoms of Boron deficiencies are stunted of mutated new growth and the death of foliage.


Chloride (Cl-) is just the element Chlorine (Cl) but has an extra electron so it has a negative charge. Chloride partners up with Potassium for healthy function or the stomata (the gateway into the plants foliage) to help regulate water in the plant and gas exchange. It’s hard to see but look for small white well defined spots on the edge of leaves with some curling as well.


                Copper (Cu) is activates various enzymes throughout the plant and to aid in the respiratory side of things. Also with that it acts as a flavor inducer and promotes good color fruits. Look for holes in foliage and areas of dead cells on your plant.


                Iron (Fe) is busy escorting oxygen and other elements around the plant to help with chlorophyll production. High Ph can hold back your iron from doing its job because it's gets held by other compounds. So if you are lacking iron you will see yellowing of the leaves similar other deficiencies that effect the chlorophyll. Look for this and high Ph and you might need some Iron


                Manganese (Mn) is very similar to iron in the role it plays. It's even effected the same way Iron is by high Ph and it gets attached to something and is unavailable to the plant. Look for the same thing as iron, yellowing leaves with a high Ph soil or reservoir. 


                Molybdenum (Mo) activates to enzymes that produce the ammonia needed to synthesize amino acids. Symptoms mimic other deficiencies with yellowing leaves but older growth is effected first. Other symptoms arise but varies between crops.


                Zinc (Zn) like its brother helps activate enzymes that help with various process across the plant. It also protects the plant from cold environments with the help of carbohydrates. If lacking Zinc you will see shorter node distance on new growth and will curl down.