How Do You Safely and Effectively Add Nutrients to Your Plants?

Like humans need food, plants also need nutrients to grow optimally and stay healthy. Nutrients play important specific roles in plants, including germination, growth, immunity against pests and diseases, and reproduction. Considering most of these nutrients are present in the soil or substrate, experts often recommend using soil that contains the required nutrients in the right proportion.

Interestingly, the soil does not always contain these nutrients naturally, and this is where the artificial addition of nutrients comes in. Therefore, it is necessary for growers must understand the need for nutrient addition to the growing substrate and how to go about it to achieve the desired results.

This article discusses the important nutrients your plants need and the practical ways you can apply them.

What Are The Essential Nutrients Plants Require?

On average, plants need 13 various nutrients to grow and develop optimally. However, not all of these are needed in large quantities. In fact, only six of these nutrients are required for growth and survival. These are called the essential nutrients, and they include;

1. Nitrogen (N)

Plants obtain nitrogen from the soil in the form of nitrates. Nitrates are known to contribute to the green coloration of plants' leaves. It also helps plants to develop strong stems and leaves, especially in the developmental stage.


2. Phosphorus (P)

Phosphorus is another essential plant nutrient available in the form of orthophosphate ions. It contributes significantly to the development of roots and the formation of seedlings. Plant phosphorus deficiency often leads to stunted growth, delayed maturity, and poor seed and fruit development.


3. Potassium (K)

Plants absorb potassium from plants in the form of potassium ions. The presence of potassium is crucial to plant growth because it serves as an enzyme activator that drives metabolism. It is also involved in protein synthesis, alongside disease resistance and improving the quality of fruits. Without sufficient potassium, plants are at risk of chlorosis, stunted growth, and weak stems.


4. Sulfur (S)

Sulfur is available to plants in the form of sulfate ions. In terms of functions, sulfur is a component of certain amino acids and is involved in stabilizing protein structures. It also helps with chlorophyll formation and seed production. Sulfur deficiency causes chlorosis, retarded growth, delayed maturity, and stiff/thin stems.


5. Magnesium (M)

Plants take up magnesium in the form of magnesium ions. They are major components of chlorophyll, which makes them crucial to photosynthesis. They also contribute to the mobility and utilization of sugars within the plant. As a phosphorus carrier, magnesium is necessary for adequate root formation and for improving plant water and nutrient efficiency.


6. Calcium (Ca)

Calcium is available to plants as calcium ions and performs a wide range of functions. For instance, it is required for continuous cell division and formation. It is also involved in nitrogen metabolism and stimulates microbial activity. It improves photosynthesis by reducing plant respiration. Calcium increases fruit set and improves nut development in peanuts.

add nutrients to plants


8 Ways To Add Nutrients to Your Plants

Having established the six essential plant nutrients and their roles, let's move on to see how you can add them to your plants.

1. Manure

Manure is a mix of livestock feces that serves as a natural fertilizer and thus improves fertility when added to the soil correctly. However, as effective as manure can be as a source of plant nutrients, experts advise not to use it frequently to prevent a potential accumulation of phosphorus. It is also important not to use dog or cat feces for manure because pet feces can contain transmissible animal diseases which may be transmitted to plants.


2. Traditional Compost

Using traditional compost can transform non-fertile soil into fertile soil quickly and effectively. Compost often contains a mix of organic matter, making it a source of multiple essential nutrients. Compost also improves soil structure and offers more flexibility, considering you can determine the vegetable scraps and organic materials that go into it. Therefore, traditional compost is highly recommended if you want to add specific nutrients to your plants.


3. Banana Peels

Your banana peels are more useful than you believe. They contain large amounts of potassium and small magnesium, phosphorus, and nitrogen deposits. As a result, they contribute to healthy growth in plants when they decompose. To use banana peels, chop them and lay them two or three inches from the stem. Alternatively, you can bury them underneath the soil.


4. Coffee grounds

Coffee grounds are known for their remarkable acidity, making them ideal for plants that require acidic growth conditions. In addition, they are excellent sources of nitrogen for plants. The best way to use coffee grounds is to sprinkle fresh and dry grounds on plants. However, you must ensure they do not dry out after application. You can also rinse and add them to the soil around your plants or throw them into your compost mix.


5. Wood Ashes

Wood ashes can help increase the potassium levels in the soil and make the soil more alkaline. This is especially recommended for plants that require alkaline soils. Do not apply wood ashes if you grow acid-loving plants or cultivate in soils with high pH and potassium content. If you are unsure if your soil is acidic, we recommend testing before applying wood ash. Mars Hydro's upcoming PH and TDS meter combo can help with your soil testing. Experts recommendonly a maximum of 25 pounds of wood ash for every 1000 square feet of space per year.


6. Egg Shells

Egg shells are repositories of phosphoric acid, calcium, and nitrogen. Unlike raw eggs, the shells are less stinky and decompose faster. It is easy to use egg shells-just crush and till them into the soil. You can also spread them into the bottom of the holes of the newly planted seedlings to keep slugs, snails, and other critters away. Egg shells can be an excellent addition to low-calcium soil.


7.  Dead Leaves

Dead leaves from your surroundings can enrich your plants if you are a grower. When you leave leaves to rot, they quickly replenish the lost organic matter, making your soil rich and dark. Just crush your leaf litter and transfer them into your garden beds as mulch. Here, they prevent the growth of weeds, regulate soil moisture, and offer a conducive environment for insects that help with plant growth.


8. Epsom Salt

There are a few reasons to introduce Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) into your soil as a source of nutrients. For example, it facilitates germination and improves nutrient uptake capabilities in young plants. It also contributes to optimal chlorophyll production and helps to keep pests away. You can mix Epsom salt into your soil or mix it with water you use for watering plants.


More Than Nutrients...

Plants cannot survive without the essential nutrients described in this article. However, essential nutrients are just a piece of the puzzle for most growers. Optimal plant growth and maximum yield depend on other vital factors like lighting, humidity, pest control, etc. Mars Hydro is here to help you get the best out of your growing season. We offer the best grow room accessories and practical tips on how to grow your indoor plants successfully.