Nutrients for Newbs, Part 1: Plant Nutrition
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Organic? Conventional? Hydro? Coco? One part, two part, three part systems? Supplements, amendments, inoculants??? If you’re new to indoor gardening, the sea of nutrient brands and options can make choosing the right one seem very overwhelming . In part one of this article, I’ll be explaining plant nutrition and how nutrients are used by your plants, [...]
Organic? Conventional? Hydro? Coco? One part, two part, three part systems? Supplements, amendments, inoculants??? If you’re new to indoor gardening, the sea of nutrient brands and options can make choosing the right one seem very overwhelming . In part one of this article, I’ll be explaining plant nutrition and how nutrients are used by your plants, and along the way hopefully help you with your decision.
If you haven’t already decided on a growing medium, then that would be a good place to start. Many nutrient brands make products that are designed for specific mediums. For example, if you decide to use coco as a medium, then you may want to consider using a coco specific nutrient line; or a hydro specific line for use in a hydroponic system. So, first decide your medium…. I’ll wait here until your done…. Ready? OK, moving on then.
Another thing to consider before purchasing nutrients is whether you want to grow organically or with conventional, manufactured fertilizers. There are pros and cons to each method, and neither method is considered “right” or “wrong”. Organic gardening refers to using natural nutrients and amendments to build your soil or soilless mix to cultivate a healthy zone for microorganisms to thrive. The microorganisms feed on the organic materials in your medium and in exchange produce nutrients that are available directly to you plants. Conventional fertilizers are manufactured to be more readily available to the plants, but can also be further broken down by microorganisms. I’ll go into this topic in much more detail in part 2 of this article.
Now let’s talk about plant nutrition and specific nutrients. Plants need 17 elements for normal growth. Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are provide by the air and water. Your medium and fertilizers will be the primary source of the other nutrients. These other nutrients are referred to as Primary nutrients, Secondary nutrients, and Micronutrients.
The Primary nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). These nutrients are used in relatively large amounts by plants. When buying nutrient products, you’ll commonly see a set of three numbers that represent N-P-K. These numbers refer to the percentage of Primary nutrients in the product. For example, a fertilizer with an N-P-K number of 12-5-2 has a higher ratio of nitrogen than phosphorus or potassium. Understanding this is important because plants require different ratios of nutrients at different stages of their lives. A fertilizer with a high amount of nitrogen will be more suitable for vegetative growth while a higher phosphorus percentage would be used for later development of flowers and fruits.
The Secondary nutrients are calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S). These nutrients are readily available in most healthy soils, but need to be supplemented in soilless mixes and hydroponic systems. Manufactures sell calcium and magnesium in combination or as singular products.
Last but not least are the Micronutrients. These include iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (MO), boron (B), copper (Cu), cobalt (Co), and chlorine (Cl). These trace elements are only needed in small amounts. Nutrient manufacturers either incorporate these micronutrients into their one or two part systems, or add it as a separate third part to a three part system.
So there you have it. A very basic overview of plant nutrition that should get you started on finding the right nutrient program for you and your garden. In part 2 of ‘Nutrients for Newbs’, I’ll go into the details of various nutrients and why they’re important. I’ll also cover symptoms of nutrient deficiencies and toxicities…. sounds fun…
Thanks for stopping in. Remember to love your garden, and grow BIG flowers!
J @ My Garden Doctor Dot Com