What is the best kept secret in container gardening? The experts know how to promote faster, more vigorous growth, and significantly reduce the chance of pests and diseases... ssssh... it all comes down to healthy soil.
2. Why do we need to maintain soil?
Put simply, plants are unable to directly extract the nutrition they need without bacteria working in the soil. So when we talk about feeding plants, what we are actually doing is firstly feeding the microorganisms in the soil. As they consume the nutrients they need, microorganisms create elements like nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other trace minerals for our plants in a form they can readily absorb and use to grow, as well as produce food and flowers for us.
People often overlook the fact that the majority of essential minerals in our bodies come from the soil that sustains the plants and animals that we eat. So high mineral levels in our soil is not only essential for growing plants, but is hugely important for the health of you and your family.
A nutrient in-balance or deficiency in soil can lead to poor or stunted plant growth, and vegetable crops will produce small yields and deformed fruit. The symptoms of these deficiencies are often clearly displayed on the leaves of plants, so those with a keen eye should be able to identify and rectify most of these problems by adding the correct nutrients back into the soil.
Common Symptoms of Nutrient Deficiency
1) Phosphorus (P); 2) Nitrogen (N); 3) Normal Healthy Leaf; 4) Potassium (k); 5) Magnesium (Mg)
All gardens, particularly container gardens, will will experience nutrient deficiencies from time to time depending on the types of plants and vegetable crops. The good news is that these are simply fixed with very little effort or cost. Armed with a home worm farm and a few basic organic nutrients you can easily amend your soil at home
Nitrogen Deficiency - Treat by adding blood & bone, seaweed extract or manure. Also growing peas or beans will restore nitrogen to soil after intense crops like tomatoes have depleted it. Use of pea-straw mulch on your soil will also add nitrogen as it breaks down.
Phosphorus Deficiency - Treat by adding blood & bone or chicken manure, and regular application of compost / worm tea and worm castings.
Potassium Deficiency - Treat by adding seaweed extract and organic matter. Regular use of worm tea on your garden will ensure potassium deficiency is never an issue.
Want to keep reading? Here's what's coming up in the next few months...
3. How can we promote health and extend soil life?
4. How often should container soil be changed?