Your plant's health is Elementary my dear | What’s in your soil?
When we are feeling run down we are more susceptible to health issues. We usually take ailments to feel better. Whether it’s herbal tea, antibiotics or Grandmas’ secret recipe, we know what helps us to feel better, regain our strength and bounce back. Our garden isn’t too dissimilar to us.
The health of your plants is very important, and at times they can be looking a little on the down side and when they are not healthy, they are more likely to be attacked by pests and diseases.
Your soils contain many nutrients that your plants require, some are only necessary in small doses and others need to be constantly acquired by your plants to assist with their day to day living.
Most people have heard of NPK, but do you know what it represents and how it assists the health of your tree and how other elements benefit or harm your garden?
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Nitrogen gives your plants the energy they require to produce fruit and grow. It also assists the chlorophyll molecules to make the leaves nice and green and it is a necessary food for photosynthesis. Nitrogen is absorbed best when the pH level of the soil is 6.0 and 7.5.
Symptoms of Nitrogen deficiency in fruit trees
Stunted shoot growth, thin foliage cover and die back of twigs. Poor fruit set and fruit size. Older leaves appear pale green-yellow.
Symptoms of excess Nitrogen in fruit trees
Thick skinned, large puffy fruit, vigorous vegetative growth, delayed maturity, percentage of juice and juice quality declines, shorter storage life and chance of re-greening.
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Phosphorus assists with photosynthesis, respiration and cell division and aids in the storage of energy.
Phosphorus is absorbed best at pH 6.5-7.5.
Symptoms of Phosphorus deficiency in fruit trees
Fewer flowers, misshapen fruit, open centres, thick coarse peels, pulpy fruit, lower juice and more acid. Old leaves are a dull bronzed green
Symptoms of excess Phosphorus in fruit trees
Smaller fruit, higher percentage of juice, chance of re-greening and thinner peel.
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Potassium helps with energy storage and assists with photosynthesis, respiration and cell division. Utilised for stress and disease resistance.
Potassium is best absorbed when pH is 6.0-10.0.
Symptoms of deficiency in fruit trees
Small leaves, slower growth and heavy leaf fall. Severe deficiency causes heavy fruit and flower drop. Small smooth skinned fruit that colour early in the season, they also split easily and are more susceptible to albedo breakdown.
Carbon aids soil fertility. This can be increased using shredded newspaper or cardboard in the garden or by planting green manure or cover crops, like Lucerne and Alfalfa, as a mulch.
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Boron helps cell division, seed development and to transport sugars through the plant.
Boron is best absorbed when pH is 5.0-6.8
Symptoms of Boron deficiency
Lopsided, malformed grey to brown fruit with gum pockets, stumpy roots, yellow veins on young leaves. Heavy fruit shedding.
Symptoms of excess Boron
Yellow dead leaf tips, leaf fall and die back and reduced yield.
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Calcium holds cell walls together
Calcium is best absorbed when pH is 6.7-7-4
Symptoms of Calcium deficiency
Deformed leaf and shoot growth.
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Manganese assists with photosynthesis
Manganese is best absorbed when pH is 5.0-7.4
Symptoms of Manganese deficiency
Young leaves are mottled pale green with inter-veinal yellowing. Reduces growth and a slight loss of yield
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Magnesium is the photosynthesis powerhouse. Without Magnesium, chlorophyll cannot capture sunlight.
Magnesium is best absorbed when pH is 6.5-8.5.
Symptoms of Magnesium deficiency
Yellowing towards apex of leaves with a triangle area remaining green at the base in older leaves, can also cause defoliation (loss of leaves) and shoot dieback. Fruit are smaller and yield lowered.
Symptoms of excess Magnesium
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Only small amounts of Zinc are needed. It is utilised by the plant for phytohormone metabolism- growth hormone production and internode elongation, which is when cells divide multiple times, this elongates the cell giving it thickness. It also helps with protein synthesis, stress tolerance and chlorophyll formation.
Zinc is best absorbed when pH is 5.0-7.0.
Symptoms of Zinc deficiency
Leaves are generally narrow and small with creamy white to yellow blotches on young leaves. Terminal growth is retarded, tree vigour is reduced and small twigs or stems die. Poor fruit quality and lower yields.
Symptoms of excess Zinc
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Iron gives the plant oxygen during chlorophyll production and helps with the green colouration.
Iron is best absorbed when pH is 4.0-6.8.
Symptoms of Iron deficiency
Stunted abnormal growth, young leaves are chlorotic and tips, veins and margins remain green the longest. Reduces plant yield and lowers vigour.
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Molybdenum converts nitrate to nitrite and then to ammonia, this is then used to synthesis amino acids.
Molybdenum is best absorbed when pH is 8.8-10.0.
Symptoms of Molybdenum deficiency
Similar to nitrogen deficiency, yellow spots on leaves in Spring.
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Copper aids with tissue strength, stress tolerance, respiration and helps to metabolise carbohydrates and proteins, it is also necessary for photosynthesis.
Copper is best absorbed when pH is 5.0-7.0.
Symptoms of Copper deficiency
Peel may be brown with gum stained areas. Dark brown gum pockets on young shoots and shoot dieback. Fruit splitting is more likely.
Symptoms of excess Copper
Stunted roots and shoots.
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Suphur is similar to Nitrogen however it is only needed in small amounts.
Sulphur is best absorbed when pH is 6.0-10.0.
Symptoms of Sulphur deficiency
Young leaves are pale green/yellow with lighter veins and have stunted growth.
Symptoms of Sodium deficiency
Symptoms of excess Sodium
Leaf burn, defoliation and dieback.