Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Best Diet Plan for Your Plant; KNOW YOUR NUTRIENTS: Some Plant Nutrients Are Significantly More Important Than Others

Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Best Diet Plan for Your Plant; KNOW YOUR NUTRIENTS: Some Plant Nutrients Are Significantly More Important Than Others

Article excerpt

Byline: {IN THE GARDEN Paul Worland } {PAUL WORLAND}

I THINK we all realise that if we want our plants to flourish, we need to make sure they are receiving sufficient nutrients. But what exactly are nutrients and what are horticulturists talking about when they go on about macronutrients, micronutrients, trace elements, NPK and so on?

Let's get NPK our of the way to start with. If you remember your periodic table from high school, then you will have realised that these three letters are the chemical symbols for nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. So when we talk about NPK in a fertiliser we are referring to the amount of each of these elements present in the fertiliser. Why is this important? Well these three elements are also known as macronutrients, they are the top three nutrients required by plants. So let's look at them a little closer.

Nitrogen (N)

Nitrogen is a vitally important element in the plant amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), nitrogen is also a necessary part of the green bits in the leaves of plants (chlorophyll) and promotes vegetative growth. If you've ever fertilised your lawn with urea (almost straight nitrogen) you will have seen the effects of nitrogen, the grass will have a real growth spurt and turn a deep green.

How to tell if plants are deficient in nitrogen: older leaves will turn a pale green to yellow and will often have a tinge of red. Plants are generally stunted and leaves may drop off. It is also possible to have too much nitrogen and symptoms of this could be new shoots wilting, dead spots appearing on the leaves of young plants and masses of soft, deep green foliage that is particularly susceptible to pest and disease attack.

Phosphorous (P)

Phosphorous is involved in just about everything that happens in a plant. It is particularly important during the growth phase of plants when cells are actively dividing and therefore is vital in promoting the growth of seedlings, roots, flowering and fruit formation.

Plants may be phosphorus deficient if they have poorly developed roots, are a bit stunted, and, most obviously, leaves have a purple tinge to them.

Signs of too much phosphorous are older leaves display necrosis (browning and death) of tips and margins followed by dropping off of the affected leaves. …

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