Soil is one of the most important for all farmers and gardeners. Soil holds water and nutrients that is why it is an ideal place for plants to grow. It is also home for different fungi and bacteria and all broken down material becomes food for the plants. But some soil is not suitable for some plants due to many factors such as high pH, low pH, Low Nitrogen, High Nitrogen, Low Phosphorus, High Phosphorus, Low Potassium, High Potassium or there is poor drainage or too much drainage.
We all know that the three important nutrients that a plant needs are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). However, too much of any of these is not good for your plants. Lacking any of these is not good too. Everything should be balanced in order to have a healthy plant that will provide high yields. So what will you do if you have any of these problems on your soil? Here are some of the solutions that you may adopt.
- High pH. You will know if your soil’s pH is high if your plants become yellow and the vein is green. Plants thrive in soil with pH of between 6.0 to 7.0. A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral. If your soil is high pH, that means the soil is alkaline. You need to lower your soil’s pH if your soil is alkaline. How will you do that? To lower the soil pH, you need to add sulfur, gypsum or cottonseed meal. Addition of appreciable amounts of organic matter will help to acidify the soil as microbes decompose the material, releasing CO2 which then forms carbonic acid. But if your soil’s pH is just around 7.0 or 8.0, you may choose crops that will thrive on it such as asparagus, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, celery carrots, lettuce, parsley and spinach.
- Low pH. An exact opposite of the high pH is of course the low pH which is also a big problem for us. As mentioned above, a soil pH of 7-14 is alkaline while the soil pH of 0-7 is acidic. That is why soil testing is important before we decide what plants to grow in our soil. There are some plants that thrives on low pH and there are also plants that thrives on high pH. But if you will grow plants that requires balance pH, then you need to correct your soil if it has low pH. How will you do it? If you soil is too acidic, wood ash can be added to make your soil less acidic. Just sprinkle about ½” of wood ash over your soil and mix it into the soil about a foot deep. This may take several years but it can be very effective. Another solution is to add lime. Wood ashes in a bucket. Photo: blog.emergencyoutdoor.com
- Low Nitrogen. This is a big problem because our plants need Nitrogen in order to have a lushful leaves. Nitrogen is an essential nutrients to have a proper plant growth. Without nitrogen, a plant cannot make the proteins, amino acids and even its very DNA. This is the reason why plants are stunted because they cannot make their own cells. To correct the nitrogen deficiency in your soil, you may use chemical or organic solution. Chemical solution of commercial nitrogen nutrients may give you fast result but may be harmful to you and environment’s health. With regard to using organic method requires time, but will result in a more even distribution of the added nitrogen over time. So how will you do it? Add composted manure to the soil, plant green manure crop as nitrogen fixers, adding coffee grounds, dried blood, or fish meal to the soil will increase nitrogen in your soil.
- High Nitrogen. As an opposite from the above problem, a high nitrogen soil is not good for your plants too because it will harm your plants. Adding nitrogen to your soil is easy but removing excess nitrogen is not that easy. You need a lot of patience and some knowledge. So how will you remove the excess nitrogen in your soil? Organically, you may use something that will bind these nitrogen. You may grow plants that requires large amounts of nitrogen such as squash, cabbage, broccoli and corn. These plants will use up the excess nitrogen. Just to remind you that you are growing these plants to fix your nitrogen problem and not to produce many fruits or vegetables. Another solution is you keep watering your soil and do not add any fertilizer. This will take time too. Remember, too much nitrogen will produce lush and green leaves but their ability to fruit and flower will be greatly reduced.
- Low Phosphorus. Similar with low nitrogen, your plants will not grow properly if your soil has low phosphorus. Remember, it is one of the 3 major nutrients needed by our plants. Lack of this element can lead to poor plant productivity and may severely limit the yield of your crop. Phosphorus is the one responsible for the root growth and fruit development of your plants. Without this element, you crops growth will diminish. To resolve this issue, you need to add bone meal, rock phosphate, organic compost, manure, introducing clay particles into your soil to retain and fix phosphorus deficiencies.
- High Phosphorus. Too much fertilizers can be the cause of high phosphorus in your soil. Too much of this nutrients is not good for your plants and excess phosphorus will stay in your soil for years. Lowering phosphorus levels will take years. To correct this, you may plant more plants to use up the excess phosphorus. You may also avoid adding manure as fertilizer because manure contains high phosphorus.
- Low Potassium. Potassium is important to any plants in order grow faster, to use water better and be more drought resistant, fight off disease and resist pests, and to grow stronger and produce more crops. If your soil lacks potassium, you may add wood ashes, fish meal, dried seaweed or cottonseed meal. You may also add compost made from banana which is very high in potassium.
- High Potassium. Too much potassium in your soil will inhibit calcium uptake, resulting to various problems such as bottom-end rot. To correct this problem, you need to drain and filter the soil or to switch fertilizer types. You may continue fertilizing the soil with nitrogen and phosphorus-rich soil additions. To drain and filter the soil, you need to loosen the soil deeply with a shovel and water thoroughly to dissolve water-soluble potassium. You need to repeat this at least 2 to 3 times.You should also stop applying potassium-rich compost or if you will use commercial fertilizer, get a fertilizer with 0 in the last 3 digits of the NPK.
- Poor Drainage or too much drainage. If the soil is heavy or clay-like, it won’t drain properly. You need to mix in peat moss or compost to achieve a better texture of your soil
Remember, always do the soil test to know the problem of your soil before you do any of the above solutions.