What nutrients and minerals affect plants

Nutrients for plants: what do plants need to live?

Every living being needs food. Plants, most of which are at the beginning of the food chain, feed mainly on the basic elements and convert them into more complex molecules. Without plants, we would often have to rely on chemistry laboratories to produce foods that our bodies can process.

When we fertilize the plants in our garden, we often think we are doing something good. We like to overdo it with fertilizing and spoil crops and soils with an excess of nutrients and other components of the fertilizers. In many cases, a healthy soil alone offers enough nutrients for the garden and only the garden “waste” should be sufficient as fertilizer. Ideally, you can even do without animal excrement as fertilizer entirely.

Artificial fertilizers from the chemical factory should be a taboo in the garden anyway! In this article we want to briefly describe the most important nutrients of the plants and also explain the consequences of excessive fertilization or lack of nutrients. We also describe which nutrients are contained in which fertilizers.

Content of this article

Nutrient and water absorption

Depending on the type of plant, the necessary nutrients are taken from the soil, the water or the air. Plants usually use simple inorganic compounds such as water (H.2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), Nitrate (NO3), Phosphate (PO43-), Potassium (K+), Sodium (Na+), Sulfur (p2), Magnesium (Mg2+), etc. We don't want to write a treatise for chemistry students here, but rather bring garden enthusiasts closer to the needs of their plants. So let's keep the explanations a bit simpler:

Core nutrients

Light and photosynthesis

A very special substance can be found in the leaves of plants: chlorophyll. This green dye not only gives the leaves and plants their rich green color, but is also responsible for the fact that plants are able to convert carbon dioxide, water and salts into glucose with the help of sunlight. The plant then also excretes oxygen as a waste product. As long as plants get enough light, they will grow uniformly and regularly.

If there is a lack of light, however, plants grow much faster in the desperate search for more light - the plant "cures". While the plant strives for rapid growth in length, root growth, production of chlorophyll and leaf growth are put on hold. The structure of the parts of the plant that has grown too quickly is not particularly stable either. Such plants will often remain ailing for a long time and will take a long time to regenerate. For this reason, one should never start breeding vegetables too early, for example. Start with tomatoes (tomatoes).

With one-sided lack of light, e.g. if one side of the plant is shaded by another, larger plant, the plant will attempt to grow away from the oversized shade provider. So you should always ensure sufficient distance and an appropriate location so that the plants in the garden are always well supplied with light.

Air - carbon, oxygen (CO2 / O2)

Plants also have to breathe. Plants growing on land have small stomata (stomata) on the underside of their leaves, through which they absorb gases and moisture from the outside. During photosynthesis, the plant needs carbon dioxide from the air and gives off oxygen (lightning). In the dark, the plant needs oxygen and gives off carbon dioxide.

Water - hydrogen, oxygen (H.2O)

As we all know, living things need water to live - without water, plants would dry up. Depending on the type of plant, water is taken from the ground, from the air or from raindrops on the surfaces of the plant. In the case of aquatic plants, the water can be absorbed all around the plant. Plants on land usually take up water through their root hairs. The water is transported through the stem axis via bundles of conductors upwards into the leaves, flowers and fruits. Dissolved nutrients are also absorbed with the water. The water finally evaporates again through small stomata in the leaves. The water serves as a means of transport and solvent for nutrients and it also plays an important role in photosynthesis.

In the case of waterdefect the internal cell pressure drops (turgor) and the plant lets the leaves hang and soon begins to wither. Since there are usually only small amounts of CO in the air2 are contained, the stomata are opened wide during photosynthesis (see section "Air"). Depending on the ambient humidity, the plant can lose large amounts of water during this time through evaporation (transpiration). If there is not enough water from the roots, the plant begins to sag and wither very quickly. In order to avoid high water loss in indoor plants, sufficient humidity should be ensured. An exception are, for example. Cacti and other plants that are native to very dry areas as they are better prepared for these conditions.

Also waterexcess can there be if, for example. the water remains in the pot. A lack of water is usually tolerated better than an excess of water, as stagnant water in the pot or over-saturated soil can cause the roots to suffer from a lack of oxygen and rot. As a result, the roots can absorb less and less water and nutrients and the plant dries up and dies.

Nitrogen (N)

Plants need nitrogen primarily for the growth and formation of leaf mass and leaf green. A simple system for classifying plants according to their nitrogen requirement is the categorization into high consumers, medium consumers and low consumers.

Aexcess shows itself through particularly dark green plants, long, thin and weak shoots and spongy plant tissue. The plants are much more susceptible to disease and pest infestation. In addition, such plants and fruits are notable for their poor shelf life.

Adefect of nitrogen in the decisive vegetative phase occurs less often than an oversupply. It shows up in the form of weak growth (dwarfism) and small leaves and poor rooting. The leaves become evenly light to yellow, starting with the older leaves. The fruits of such undersupplied plants are also smaller. As a result of the nitrogen deficiency, the absorption of other substances such as phosphorus, potash, magnesium and other trace elements is also restricted.

Contain is nitrogen in compost, nettle manure, leaves, horn shavings, horn meal, and herbivore excrement.

Phosphorus (P)

Phosphorus is important for the formation of flowers and fruits, for the growth of radicles as well as seeds and chlorophyll. Contain is phosphorus in leaves and poultry manure, for example. Aexcess shows up in stunted growth.

Adefect leads to poor growth, poor root growth (roots often discolored reddish), small flowers (poor flower formation) and leaves as well as leaf tip drought. Rigid foliage: the leaves turn blue-green to purple on the underside, the top turns brown, bluish or "dirty" green. Unfortunately, it has been shown that the lawn in many gardens is usually heavily overfertilized with phosphorus from artificial fertilizers, but most other nutrients are missing. This can easily happen with blue grain or green grain, for example. Laypeople in particular damage the plants but also the soil through incorrect fertilization or over-fertilization.

Contain are phosphates in compost, nettle manure, comfrey manure, horn meal or horn shavings.

Main nutrients

Potassium (K)

Potassium is important for the regulation of the water balance, the strengthening of the cell tissue, the increase of the frost hardiness (winter hardiness) and the aroma development of fruits and vegetables. Potassium also promotes root and tuber formation and shelf life, which is particularly important for carrots and celeriac, for example.

Onedefect one recognizes, despite sufficient watering, plants that wilt quickly or grow weakly. Older leaves turn yellow from the edge and dry. The taste and shelf life of fruits and vegetables are reduced. Lacerations and cracks in radishes, kohlrabi and tomatoes (tomatoes) can occur more easily. In fruit trees, the leaves roll upwards, the leaf edges are dry and brown.

A excess is noticeable through inhibited growth and can cause root burns and the death of plants.

Contain is potassium in compost, rock flour, nettle manure, comfrey manure, fern manure, algae manure, cattle manure, poultry manure as well as wood ash and beech charcoal.

Calcium (Ca)

Calcium increases the pH value of the soil (it deacidifies the soil) and has a positive effect on the aeration and crumbly soil. Calcium also improves the availability of other nutrients. Calcium also controls the stomata of the leaves, strengthens the cell walls (the plant tissue) and stimulates cell division and soil life.

Oneexcess on calcium one recognizes among other things by leaf chlorosis. Too much calcium (for example in the irrigation water) holds iron, potash, copper, boron, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus. The leaves turn yellowish green over time. This can often be seen in potted plants. Especially with azaleas, citrus trees, camellias and gardenias you can see the leaves turning yellow if the irrigation water is too calcareous. An excess of calcium can also lead to the death of young plant parts, caring flower buds and roots that remain small.

Contain is calcium in compost, nettle manure, comfrey manure, eggshells or wood ash (beech charcoal).

Magnesium (Mg)

Magnesium is the most important component of leaf green formation (chlorophyll), the regulation of the entire water balance of the plant and is necessary for the formation of protein.

Onedefect can be recognized by the fruits that remain small. Older leaves become blotchy and light to yellowish while the leaf veins initially remain dark and green. The leaves can turn brown from the edge and dry out. There is less root formation. Magnesium deficiency can often be observed in conifers, for example. for larch, pine or spruce. Conifers get yellow or brown needles or even brown tips. In the end, the affected needles will fall off. This often occurs on heavy, loamy and lime-poor soils or with unbalanced fertilization.

A Overfertilization of magnesium can lead to a calcium deficiency.

Contain Magnesium is found, for example, in compost, nettle manure, comfrey manure, Epsom salt, algae lime and partly in stone meal and in wood ash (beech charcoal).

Sulfur (S)

Sulfur occurs naturally in a wide variety of forms, and emissions from industry and traffic also release sulfur. Plants are usually always supplied with sufficient sulfur. In many artificial fertilizers, but also, for example. There is plenty of sulfur in horn shavings. At a Overfertilization it can quickly lead to acidification of the soil. On the rare occasion that a plant contains sulfurdefect suffers, you can recognize this by thin and woody stems and young leaves with a light yellow color.

Contain is sulfur in numerous fertilizers, regardless of whether they come from nature or the chemical factory. A particularly large amount of sulfur is found in horn shavings, nettle manure and comfrey manure, for example.

Trace nutrients

Trace elements or trace nutrients such as iron, copper, boron, zinc, manganese and molybdenum are only required in small quantities. There are also other nutrients that are known to be beneficial for plant growth, such as aluminum, sodium, chlorine, silicon and cobalt. These substances are often considered to be dispensable, but, strictly speaking, the importance of these substances for plants cannot yet be clearly explained scientifically.

All sorts of these elements and others occur in healthy soil and there is still sufficient research into which substances plants process in which way and what some of these substances are required for. We therefore keep the breeding of plants on nutrient solutions or fertilization for example. with NPK artificial fertilizers for myopic. Plants can only build up their optimal nutrient content if they themselves have been supplied with a sufficient and diverse nutrient base.

Soils with an alkaline or very acidic pH can lead to a lack of trace nutrients in plants. There are also plants with an increased need for trace elements.