Plants are No Different

Just as people need good nutrition to excel, plants also need proper nutrition on a consistent and even basis to deliver optimum results.

How ‘bout those blossoms and flowers?  Are there too many to count?  What is your harvest looking like this year?  My hope is that you are well on your way to great things.  How did you, or how are you getting there?  Is it through a meticulous prep and care routine or just pure luck?

Most professional growers and enthusiasts would agree that great results can only be achieved through tedious prep and care, and we all have our rituals when it comes to planting and tending our crops and gardens.  First, there is the planning: greens go here, corn over there, and the tomatoes down there in that corner.  Then there’s the planting: starter plants, seeds and cultivation.  And finally (the hard part) patience: watering, weeding, pruning and the never ending puttering.

But wait a minute…  Have you considered everything?  Did you remember fertilizer and nutritional supplements?  If so… GREAT. If not…  Consider this basic thought: Just as people need good nutrition to excel, plants also need proper nutrition on a consistent and even basis to deliver optimum results.

Here is another way of looking at it.  We as humans can go for a jog, workout, or climb the tallest mountain…  But without proper nutrition each of these activities would be a daunting task and stressful to the body, especially if they were done repetitively, like jogging or working out every day.  Comparatively, throughout their growth cycle, plants often encounter the following stressors: freeze conditions, drought, flooding and mechanical damage.  Additionally, bud set and flowering can be considered a stress because all of the plants energy is focused at the task of flowering....  Because of these stressors, we may not get the best results from our beloved friend—the plant, but it is the sweet succulent plants that generate the fruits of our labor that we all desire.  Therefore we must feed our friends in the plant kingdom.

Further exploration of this subject is based on my own learning experience.  After finding my way to South Florida and becoming a part of KeyPlex Direct, Inc. a company that now provides the home gardener the same great plant nutritional products that its sister company KeyPlex has been providing professional growers for decades.

I grew up thinking that a little fertilizer on the family garden was all that was needed — along with the planning, planting, and patience.  But now I know that there is much more to it than just shoveling some fertilizer on the soil, and walking away.  I never understood that our yield decline year after year might be due to the lack of nutrition that was available to the plants from the soil.  Every year we planted our garden in the same spot, and then continued to plant the same plants in the same area of the garden.  We had no idea that our unwavering ritual could be part of the problem. 

It was not until later, when I moved to South Florida, that I began to see the issue of plant nutrition in a whole new light.  Back home we had used the standard fertilizer and compost application to the soil, but not a foliar spray from a crop duster or a hundred-gallon spray tank.  Seeing these unfamiliar tools made me want to know more.  I wanted to know what it was they were applying, why they were applying it, and what the outcome of its application would be.  Take for example the spraying of a surfactant along with a nutritional product.  The application of such a material allows for the nutritional product to better cover the leaf surface so that optimal plant uptake is achieved.  I was fascinated by this because I thought a nutritional would be sprayed on the leaves and it would be automatically taken in all by itself...  Well,  my friends, that is true, but for optimal uptake, a surfactant should be used to create better leaf coverage (less beading on the surface). That way your nutritional product is better able to be absorbed through more of the stomata, or pores of the plant leaf.

Briefly, here are five simple basics about plant nutrition that I have learned:

  • Mineral elements only account for 5% of the wet weight of a plant.  The other 95% is made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.  Even though this percentage is small, they play a key role in the health of the plant.
  • Even if nutritional elements are in the soil they may not be available for plants to use them.  In other words, they may be tied up, or bound, with other chemicals because of the ionic charges that attract and detract these elements.
  • Foliar applications allow for plants to get the nutrients they need in a shorter amount of time.  This allows for the ability to steer plants or crops away from stressors and detrimental influences like too much water, heavy winds and turbulence by mother nature.
  • Soil pH can be an important factor in understanding the soil makeup and what is needed for optimal plant health.
  • There are six micronutrients thought to be essential in plant growth and production.  These elements are manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), iron (Fe), copper(Cu), boron (B), and molybdenum (Mo).

In closing, I know that I have only scratched the surface of plant nutrition.  My hope is that through my learning experience, you will consider the nutritional levels of your plants the next time you are out in your garden.

Remember: While soils do allow for nutrient uptake, environmental stresses will always throw a wrench into the mix when it comes to optimal growing conditions for your plants.  It is through optimal plant nutrition, that we can steer our crops and plants toward the goals of increased vigor, color, health, and yield.