Photo: Gardener's Path
As temperatures get hotter your plants are going to use more and more water. That means you’re going to be feeding them more and more. But have you ever wondered exactly what your plants are eating that makes them grow? We all know about N-P-K ratios in nutrients, but we might not know what Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium actually do for your plants. When it comes to nutrients there are other elements that help your plant grow that you may not even be aware of. On the flip side, there could be a few elements in your nutrient schedule you don’t know are harming your plants. In this article, we’re going over the Macronutrients and Micronutrients your plants need to give you an idea of what’s going on when your plants turn those nutrients into growth.
Did you know that there are over 18 elements plants need in order to grow? Macronutrients
plants need are those elements that your plants will use lots of, whereas micronutrients
are used in small amounts to grow. We'll start with the big three macronutrients: Carbon (C)
, Hydrogen (H)
, and Oxygen (O)
. These may seem like a no-brainer, but these elements are essential to all life on earth, especially planets. Do they look familiar? That's because plants get these elements from the air (CO2) and from water (H2O), and these two compounds create the basis for sugars and starches your plants need. These will give strength to and build cellular walls, leaves, and stems. The second set of macronutrients are the three we're all aware of: Nitrogen (N)
, Phosphorus (P)
, and Potassium (K)
. These elements are what help your plant break down elements it needs to survive, help turn light and water into food for your plants, and help build the strength of your plants. Specifically, (N) is found in chlorophyll, amino, and nucleic acids, and in proteins and enzymes. (P) helps cell membranes and has a big role in the ATP (energy system) of a plant. (K), on the other hand, is heavily involved in photosynthesis and resilience especially when it comes to droughts. The last set of macronutrients your plants need are Calcium (Ca)
, Magnesium (Mg)
, and Sulfur (S)
. While not used as much as their macronutrient counterparts, these elements are vital in assuring your plant's survival. (Ca), for example, helps strengthen cell walls and helps deliver nutrients when your plants are stressed. (Mg) is vital in chlorophyll production, function, and breaking down enzymes, whereas (S) is important in creating chlorophyll and creating proteins for your plant.
Photo: Maximum Yield
When you hear that micronutrients aren’t used as much as macronutrients, you might be tempted to think they’re not important to growth. That couldn’t be further from the truth
. No matter if it’s to eat or if it’s to stay strong, you need to make sure your plants get the right amount of the correct micronutrients in order to grow healthy yields. Micronutrients vital for your grow are Iron (Fe), Boron (B), Copper (Cu), Chlorine (Cl), Manganese (Mn), Molybdenum (Mo), Zinc (Zn), Cobalt (Co),
and Nickel (Ni)
. They may not be absorbed as much as macronutrients, but their presence in your feeding regimen is important to the growth of your plants. Some micronutrients are needed for cellular development, while others help break down enzymes or make other elements available for your plant. No matter what they are, you'll want to make sure that your plants receive these elements at the right stage in growth:
- Boron that helps the structure of your plant as well as assisting the functions of plant cells.
- Iron helps energy transfer and helps nitrogen go where it needs to in your plants.
- Chlorine helps open and close the stoma of your leaves allowing them to breathe.
- Zinc assists in producing the hormones needed for growth.
- Copper helps activate enzymes and is important in Vitamin A production: necessary for creating proteins.
- Manganese is vital in photosynthesis and helps the availability of (P) and (Ca) for your plants.
- Molybdenum isn’t abundant in lots of nutrients, but it helps prep nitrite to be used for creating amino acids.
- Nickel is important to the metabolism of plants because it helps turn urea nitrogen into useable ammonia. Without it, nitrogen would probably toxify your plant.
- Cobalt’s needed to create buds, leaves, and stems in order to get more light and make CO2 available for your plant.
Remember: without all of these essential elements your plants are going to struggle to give you the yield you're looking for. Take care to look over your plant's nutrients to assure you're giving them everything they need to grow to their potential. If you have any questions or if you think we've left anything out, leave us a message in the comments!