What do plants need to grow?

organic soil mixJust 15 years ago, experts talked about 29 nutrients that were needed for plants to thrive. Recent research, however, indicates that plants actually require 42 nutrients in the soil so they can perform a variety of different cellular functions necessary for their health.

Yes, 42 nutrients, which means they need a lot more than the classic nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium the ‘big box’ industry implies is all you need to worry about. Here is the interesting part, though. There is not a consensus among plant physiologists as to what constitutes the “essential” nutrients.

We recently talked to Dr. Elaine Ingham, and she rhetorically asked, “So do we count just those nutrients that plants have to have each day, disregarding the nutrients that are translocated into the plant at levels too low for human assessment tools to measure? Are these nutrients critically important at some juncture in the plants life? Having these conversations with people, I hold the attitude that probably all the elements in the periodic table are likely to be important. Just because no one has done the research yet to document it does not mean it is not so.”

Nutrient rich gardening

Just like people, plants cannot grow if they have a nutrient deficiency. However, the nutritional of food has been declining for years—and the cause is primarily related to depletion of our soil. When looking to create a nutrient rich garden, Heidelberg Farms analyzes your soil under a microscope and create a compost tea based on an ocean-based nutrient profile.

While more research is needed, we know that plants thrive on much more than nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. We look at the biology of what is taking place in your soil more so than the chemical. In your soil, there is a diverse complex array of soil food web characters. All these characters play a role in cycling different nutrients from the soil to the plant.

How does this process work? Plants communicate via exudates, which are plant sugars. Plants send these exudates to feed specific organisms in the soil and then they return to cycle the nutrients back to the plant. The takeaway here is that the research surrounding plant health directly relate to our health—and it begins in the soil.

There is a big difference between dirt and soil. Understanding the difference will not only help us create a beautiful yard, but help take better care of the earth (and ourselves) in the process. Stay tuned for more blogs that ‘dig’ a lot deeper into these issues. Call Heidelberg Farms at (603) 501-9919 if you have any questions. Let’s talk soil!

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