What is the “NPK” of gardening?
It is the three macro nutrients, that any plant needs, to grow healthily. These three nutrients that is nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are the main sources of nutrients that a plant can thrive on. Other nutrients that a plants needs are calcium, zinc, carbon, hydrogen etc
Let’s see what each of these macro nutrients are and how they affect the plant.
78% of the atmosphere comprises of nitrogen, and that too for a reason. Nitrogen is responsible for growth and so is associated with green leaves, stalky, healthy plants. Nitrogen is used in the leaf to produce chlorophyll, which is a form of energy that is created from absorbing sun rays. Nitrogen also helps produce healthy seeds and fruits. Without nitrogen, plants look skinny, anemic and begin to yellow. Many of the first symptoms of nitrogen deficiencies is the yellowing of the lower leaves and stunted looking plants. Flowering or fruit production may also be delayed.
Like the saying goes moderation is key, too much nitrogen can also result in the plant burning which causes them to shrivel up and die
Ways you can incorporate nitrogen into the soil naturally
1. Adding compost manure.
2. Adding coffee grounds.
3. Planting nitrogen fixing plants like peas and beans.
4. Adding fish emulsion.
5. Spreading grass clippings or any kinds of dried leaves as a mulch.
6. Kitchen or food waste such as fruit/vegetable skins are rich in nitrogen.
Phosphorous helps plants convert other nutrients into usable building blocks with which plants need to grow. So how do you know if your plant has phosphorous deficiency? It’s when your plants are small and producing little to no flowers, or has a weak root system. Plants are supposed to produce fruits after a given time, if all circumstances are right. Phosphorous is responsible for soil maturity at the right time. Plants that lack phosphorous take time to mature and when they do, the fruits or seeds bear few to poor quality. Plants require phosphorous from the early stages of development because it is hard to reverse the effects of the deficiency when signs of stunted growth appear. Older leaves are affected first and may acquire a purplish discolouration.
How do you incorporate phosphorous into your soil naturally?
1. Adding bone meal. (Dry chicken or fish bones and then grind them all up.)
2. Adding waste from shellfish.
3. Adding wastes like human hair.
4. Adding vegetable skins like cucumbers, mushrooms etc
Potassium is the K in the NPK of gardening and so is classified as a macro nutrient. Plants take up large quantities of potassium during their life cycle. Potassium is associated with the movement of water nutrients and carbohydrates in the plant tissues. Potassium helps increase root growth and improves drought resistance. It reduces water loss and wilting of plants quickly. Potassium also aids in photosynthesis and food formation and helps retard crop diseases.
How can you incorporate potassium into your soil naturally?
1. Banana peels. (Dry them and then chop them up or simply soak them in water for a day or two and then use that concoction while watering your plants.)
2. Adding any type of fruit to compost.
3. Adding wood ash.
4. Adding coffee grounds.
Some other secondary nutrients are calcium, magnesium, sulphur, boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese and zinc. These can be incorporated into the soil by means of egg shells, Epsom salts, lime, compost etc
NPK is preferably added in the ratio of 1:1:1 to balance off all nutrients. So making up your own fertilizers upon the above ratio helps nurture a healthy plant. One of my favourite and easy fertilizing mixes is coffee, egg shells and banana peels. Remember to dilute these mixtures in a huge bucket of water and then let it sit for a day, before you use them for your plants.