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Soil Problems Affecting Plants
It all starts with your soil. Your garden soil (or the soil in your planter) is vital for the strong and healthy growth of your plants. Plain and simple...without good soil, you won't have good plants.
If your plants are not healthy, appear stunted, are not producing flowers or fruit, or are growing slowly, soil problems may likely be the culprit. In the absence of other obvious problems, examining your soil's health is a first step.
Here are some of the common soil, problems and what to do about them:
pH level- This is the measure of alkalinity or acidity of your soil. On a scale of 0 to 14, 7 is a neutral pH. Most plants like soil at or near the neutral point. Some plants prefer a slightly neutral soil. Others, like a slightly acidic soil. Plants can't grow in soils that are extremely acidic or alkaline.
The first step is to test your soil to identify the pH level. A simple soil tester will do. If your soil is neutral...great! If it is acidic, add lime. If it is alkaline, add compost and manure.
Find the ideal pH level for a wide range of plants.
Fertilizers- All plants need adequate amounts of Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorous to fuel and maintain a healthy plant growth. Your soil can have too much or too little of these invaluable fertilizers. How do you know? Again, a soil test provides the answer. Armed with the results of the soil test, you can add fertilizer, and in the correct proportions.
Micro-nutrients- are a wide range of elements that are needed by your plants in small amounts. Micro-nutrients contributes to plant health and vigor in many ways, Some aid in photosynthesis, some help the plant to manage metabolism, some aid in cell division, while others assist the plant to take up nutrients. Learning about micro-nutrients is a major study all to itself. The easy fix is to do a comprehensive soil test. This can be done by your local Cooperative Extension Service.
Some people assume their soil needs replenishment, and seek fertilizers that contain a mixture of micro-nutrients.
Compaction- Heavy soils can become hard, almost rock-like. This is common with clay soils. But, other garden soils can become compacted, too. Compacted soils are difficult for roots to grow in. It also makes it difficult for oxygen, water and fertilizers to spread through the soil and reach the roots.
Adding ample amounts of compost and other organic matter will increase soil friability, and keep soils looser. Frequent turning or hoeing the soil will also help.
Soil borne disease- It's not too common, but it can happen. The only way to be certain is to have a soil test performed. If you suspect a soil borne disease, the best fix is to move your garden to another area, and leave the affected area fallow for two to three years.
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