We talk a lot about yields and harvests, but if your plants grow heavy fruit it’ll take a lot more than big flowers to get you what you want- you’ll need strong branches, too. A good yield can only be achieved if your plant is physically strong, and if your plants aren’t strong enough to hold your harvest chances are it’s not strong enough to grow it, either. From trees to bushes to simple fruiting plants, your plants need to be physically tough enough to grow your harvest. But before we dive into what makes a plant stronger, we want to highlight what can make a plant weaker:
A plant can be weak due to a lack of nutrition, a lack of training, or simply because it’s too young. If a plant doesn’t receive proper nutrition it won’t get what it needs to create strong branches and a strong trunk. At the same time, if a plant needs training to grow- like climbing plants and vines that need nets- it won’t become a strong plant unless it’s able to grow correctly. Along those same lines, some tall plants need a little help holding themselves up as they grow stronger (that’s why you see stakes tied to young trees to help them gain and keep their shape).
One of the fastest ways a plant can lose its strength, shape, and structure is improper nutrition. Now, all plants need nearly identical nutrients to grow: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, and calcium. However, in order for plants to thrive these elements are needed in different amounts, so while you may want more of one element than another, it’s important you research your plant and see what elements they can handle in high amounts.
Calcium helps build strong cell walls within your plant and helps resist disease (which can lead to soft, drooping plants). Potassium helps strengthen your plants in the vegging stage, providing aid in developing strong branches and stems. Phosphorus helps the growth of roots, flowers, and helps your plant withstand harsh conditions. All three of these are needed in the development of strong plants, and if you see plant strengthening booster nutrients chances are they’re full of these elements.
Remember that while plants love elements, they can overdose on them, too, so it’s important not to give your plant more of one element than another unless you’re sure they can handle it. For example, you won’t want to give your plant nutrients full of Calcium if they’re not getting enough Phosphorus or Potassium. Moreover, you don’t want to- in the pursuit of the perfect crop- give your plants more than they need. Silicon, for example, isn’t absolutely necessary, and giving it to plants that already have a high PPM might actually adversely affect them. That’s not to say that the other elements your plants need aren’t as important, but the three outlined here are what you have to have in order for your plants to stand a chance against harsh conditions.
Staking is one of the most common ways to ensure your plants stay upright and strong. Now it should be said that not all plants need to be staked, because if the plant is started from a seed or a clone chances are its roots are already well established. Well established roots will allow your plants to stretch up, stay anchored, and grow strong enough for the plant to stand on its own.
However, if you’ve just planted a tree with a small root ball or not a lot of roots, you’re going to find that it needs a little help staying upright. Plants that are being put in the ground need to develop a root system that will keep them anchored, and until it adapts and creates those roots it’ll need a stake or two and some string to hold itself up. When you find yourself in that situation, try not to stake too deep into the ground so you don’t damage any new or existing roots.
It’s also important to note that some plants, like tomatoes and peas, actually need stakes to help grow. Climbing plants need somewhere to climb, otherwise, it will not get the sun or nutrition it needs. So not only is it important to stake newly transplanted trees (when needed) but vital to climbing plants. Without structural support, climbing plants wouldn’t have the ability to grow and harvest.
Light, Airflow, and Pruning
On top of proper nutrition and support, there are a few extra things you want to do to make sure your plants are nice and strong.
While light deprivation may be helpful in stretching your plants, it’s only helpful if it’s done correctly. Plants take in light and convert it into energy they use to grow, and if they don’t get enough light they won’t be able to grow. It seems like a simple concept until we talk about stuff like light deprivation, but good light dep setups still allow plants to get plenty of light.
Good airflow isn’t just about cycling air in and out of your garden. Wind helps plants gain strength by pushing against them. Plants will naturally learn to strengthen itself against the wind to make sure that it doesn’t break under pressure. When growing indoors, make sure that you have a light breeze along your plants to assure they’re nice and strong. Outdoor plants will do this naturally, but if you’ve just transplanted and you’re expecting lots of wind consider using a little plant support (like stakes) to help it stay upright.
Pruning’s also a great way of strengthening your plant. While you don’t want to cut off vital branches front your plants, trimming off excess branches will help your plant focus on building a strong trunk and strengthening its core branches. When pruning branches, make sure you prune them completely. If you leave them half trimmed your plant will try to repair it, and not only will that take away from your plant’s overall strength, but the growth that comes back won’t be strong.