Welcome to my first popcorn article! My popcorn articles will be follow ups to a blog post or a really good question that I was asked in the industry. This short and sweet post is here to provide information or answers. This morning I posted a decent article about the big three: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. That’s just three out of the seventeen vital nutrients for plant life. What are the other fourteen nutrients and what do they do? Let’s find out!
Calcium: Aids in cell walls and membranes. Aids in growth and development. Also contributes to soil fertility and helps with aeration.
Magnesium: aids in the production of photosynthesis.
Sulfur: necessary for chlorophyll formation as well as amino acids and proteins formation .
Boron: cell wall stability, movement of sugar and energy, and aids in pollination and developing seeds.
Chlorine: aids in plant growth; plant needs very little. Too much chlorine will burn out leaves.
Iron: DNA synthesis, photosynthesis, and respiration. Aids in the maintenance of chloroplast.
Manganese: develops and sustain metabolic roles. Helps in plant growth.
Zinc: helps convert starches to sugars, helps in growth and stem elongation.
Copper: required for the process of photosynthesis.
Molybdenum: converts inorganic phosphorus into organic, usable forms, converts nitrate (toxic) into nitrite and usable, takes the nitrite and turns it into ammonia to be synthesize.
Nickel: metabolizes nitrogen into usable ammonia.
Hydrogen: one of the building blocks for plant growth, aids in the process of photosynthesis and plant respiration *non mineral
Oxygen: to convert food into energy, aids in respiration *non mineral
Carbon: aids in the process of photosynthesis, aids in the productive growth in plants. *non mineral
This concludes my popcorn article of the other thirteen nutrients that a plant needs to survive! Most of the nutrients helps plants on a cellular level through cell health, respiration, and photosynthesis! I have a chart below to use as a guide on the potential deficiencies of the nutrients. Thank you so much for reading if you have a popcorn topic send it in and I will do a popcorn article with an answer!
Welcome back to my Soil Series! Today, we are going to talk about the three major elements in our fertilizers: Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potash. This is also known as NPK and we see these three numbers on our bags of fertilizer. We are going to talk about what it is and what it does for each plant and what happens if we have too much or not enough. In order to have healthy soil, we need to understand each element in our soil and how to replenish it when we apply our fertilizer.
Nitrogen, aka N, focuses on everything above the soil. It makes our lawns green and increases growth in stems and leaves in plants. Also, nitrogen is a major component of chlorophyll, which is important to photosynthesis. Nitrogen based fertilizer comes in two forms as well: quick release and slow release. The quick release nitrogen based fertilizers are going to give the plants its nutrients right away but does not last really long and will need to be reapplied. Slow release nitrogen based fertilizers will allow plants to receive nutrients over time. When our soil is lacking nitrogen, our plants will turn yellow green, thinner stems, and have stunted growth. When there is too much nitrogen, our plants will be lush green but it will hinder their ability to produce fruit and flowers.
To encourage the fruit and blooms takes me to the next element in fertilizer, Phosphorus, or P. Phosphorus is important in a plant’s ability to utilize and store nutrients. It is also aids in photosynthesis as well. Not only does phosphorous encourage fruits and blooms, but it also strengthens root systems. When the soil has too much phosphorus, the plant cannot utilize some micronutrients and it causes the plant to wither. Too much phosphorus can also cause the plant to grow poorly and potentially die. When our phosphorus is too high, we need to stop adding organic matter to our gardens. When the phosphorus is too low, it cause stunted growth and prevents the plant from having flowers, fruit, and seeds. Lack of phosphorus may cause leaves to turn into a lifeless dark blue color.
The last piece to the elemental trio is Potash, aka K. There is a bit of a difference between potash and potassium. Potash is potassium in a water soluble form whereas elemental potassium is a reactive, silvery metal that is reactive to water. Potash is responsible to help out all parts of the plant - from the roots to the stems. Potash helps plants to use water and being strong during a drought period. It also aids in the development of fruits and vegetables. Potash increases disease resistance and improves over all strength to the plant. When we have too much potash, it affects how plants utilize the nutrients and will cause potential deficiencies. When plants do not have enough potash, the plant will have stunted growth and will be weak. Leaves may looked scorched when there is not enough potassium.
These three are your big three for your plants nutrition and very vital to your plants health. If you suspect your plant lacking any of these, stop into your lock garden center and have them test your soil and they will tell you what you need to put into the soil too. Thank you so much on following my soil sample series! Next up we are going to talk about the actual biome of the soil and talk about the ways that we can make the soil the best that it can be!
In my last post, I talked about why it is importance of getting your soil tested. In this post, I would like to share how to take a soil sample. Soil labs do not need much soil for their testing. I know when I send out customers’ soil samples that I need a scoop of soil to fill to the line of the sample bag. You want the first four inches of the soil to do your testing. When collecting your soil, you want to make sure that there are no grass or roots in the sample. Make sure your soil is not wet or frozen either; you need a dry sample to send to the lab. I also advise when you take your sample of soil to wear disposable gloves or use a clean hand trowel. The natural oils on our hands can contaminate the soil sample that you want to get tested and we want our interaction with the soil to be as minimal as possible.
I also hear a lot from my customers that they have a HUGE yard and if I need six different samples from this huge yard. My answer is always no. I always recommend to get a bucket and to put multiple samples in the bucket - best number of samples to pull at ten to fifteen samples. When you have as many samples in your bucket that you feel comfortable with, mix everything together really well and put it in your sample bag. This will give you a median of your soil. Do not use a galvanized container ; the galvanized container can contaminate the sample with zinc.
There are times I would advise to break this rule in the event you have a huge problem area. Problem areas can include an area where there is a shady area with a lot of pines and oaks. Both pine needles and oak leaves can lower pH - we know from my last post here that if the pH is too low, turf grass cannot thrive.
Same concept goes for both ornamental and vegetable gardens - take multiple samples and mix it all together to send out a median of the area. If certain plants are not thriving, take a sample near that plant to find exactly what is lacking. My garden center goes through Spectrum Analytic Inc in Ohio. When I register and do the paper work before I send out the soil sample, I have the ability to choose a crop and Spectrum Analytic Inc. will send back their recommendation for that crop. Plants have different nutrient needs just like how us humans have different dietary needs.
You can send out a soil sample at any time as long as the ground is not frozen. I prefer to see samples go out in both the spring and the fall because that is when our grass is/our plants are coming out of dormancy or going into dormancy, fall and spring respectively. Also, because we are going through spring and fall clean up and these are times to do our granular application products.
I hope my tips on taking soil samples has been beneficial. The health of our soil is very important for plant growth. I really encourage if you have not taken a soil sample in a few years or if you have not taken one at all - take a sample and send it out to your local garden center or your cooperative extension agency. As for my international readers, I would contact your local garden center or contact the governing agency that presided over agricultural policies and affairs. Thank you so much for reading my article on taking a great soil sample! I have more great articles on my soil sample series coming your way! What subjects on soil would you like me to cover? Let me know in the comments!
I advocate to my customers to have me send out a soil sample when their lawn or garden is not thriving. I am a true believer that it all starts with the soil health because when our soil is enriched, our turf and gardens can thrive. Soil samples are important because it gives us information on what levels of nutrients are in the soil and how to manage it properly, tells us the pH of the soil and if we need to correct it, and lower frustration for the homeowner and professionals because of the increase effectiveness of fertilizers which will give us healthy and strong plants.
I have a customer that I sent out a soil sample for his Eastern Redbuds (Cercis candensis) because they were not thriving. It turned out that the soil had not enough Potash that the Eastern Redbuds needed. I was able to give my customer the correct product that he needed for each plant. Potash is one of the seventeen essential nutrients for a plant to survive. These nutrients are important for plants because the nutrients aids in both vegetative and reproductive functions. However, the levels of these nutrients vary from plant to plant. Soil samples can tell us exactly where our levels are and what levels our plants needs.
However, our plants cannot utilize the nutrients properly if the pH is correct. The pH scale tests if a solution is acidic or basic on a 0.0 (acidic) to 14.0 (alkaline) scale, and 7.0 being neutral. Black coffee has a pH of 5.0, pure water has a pH of 7.0, and ammonia solution has a pH of 9.5 are just some examples. In the world of plants: turf grass likes a pH of 6.2 to 6.8, moss likes acidic soil 5.0 to 5.5, most vegetables likes slightly acidic soil, and asparagus likes a pH between 6.0 to 8.0. When soil pH is correct, plants are able to absorb all the essential plant nutrients. When the pH is too low, less nutrients become available and the beneficial bacteria in the soil cannot thrive. When our pH is too high, plants cannot utilize Phosphorus and other nutrients in the soil. Having our soil tested to know our pH allows us to fix the pH with an application of calcitic lime to raise pH or sulfur to lower the pH. It also gives us an over all plan to get the pH to the right levels in the event the pH is off the chart - such as being guided in a two year plan to get the pH where you need it.
Throughout all the years working at my garden center, I have seen a lot of customers go the route of breaking away from their lawn care program and doing it themselves. Sometimes, this causes frustration in lawn management practices. Picture this, you want to reseed your whole yard and you need 200 pounds of grass seed. After spending over $500.00 on grass seed, because grass seed is not cheap (it costs $137.00 for a fifty pound bag of grass seed at my garden center); you go home to apply the grass seed, put down a seed cover and water it in. You wait for about a month and you are not getting any grass up. You keep watering it and maintaining it but nothing is happening because your soil pH is low and your lawn does not have the correct nutrient levels. You just wasted over $500.00 on seed and seed cover. You wasted time and energy for a lawn that has not grown and took off. All you have is frustration. As awful as it sounds, I see this scenario happen all the time. The conversation always goes into the direction “Have you ever tested your soil?”
Once the soil is tested, I get a profile of the soil and the ability to give along term plan to help your lawn or your garden to get exactly what they need. What’s coming up next are my tips in taking the best soil sample. In the mean time, if you have a soil sample you cannot figure out how to read or what you need to do next, send in your soil sample to my email at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to my contact page to send me questions on your soil! Thank you so much for reading my post! We are starting underground and making our way up to make all life in your back yard sustainable.