Plants Get Their Nutrition From The Soil That’s Why We Feed The Soil, Not The Plant. Read More Here On How To Feed The Soil So It Can Feed Our Plants.

Use fertilisers or Feed the Soil. You decide.
Plant Nutrients Come In Many Forms Bu

I’m often asked what to fertiliser should be used to feed tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce and a host of other fruit and vegetables. And I give the best answer I can. But the reality is my answer, you must feed the soil, is often misunderstood because many gardeners think we must feed the plants.

Certainly plants need nutrition to grow. But, in most cases, they get it from the soil. All we can do is add nutrients the soil and ofter we do this blind, because we don’t know what the soil already contains unless we have undertaken a soil analysis.

Most fertilisers sold as “balanced fertilisers” contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potash and we are told they are the macronutrients. We are also told that plants also need a wide range of micronutrients; from calcium and sulphur to manganese and boron. And the reality is that most of the latter are in plentiful supply in most soils and organic based composts. As for NP&K some, if not all will be present much of the time. For example most soils have plenty of potassium (potash) its availability will depend on many factors such as soil type. Whereas nitrogen can be plentiful when organic matter is added to the soil, but will quickly wash away when it rains. The secret of retaining nitrogen is to lock it up in such form as it cant be washed away!

The real issue is not the presence of a given nutrient but its availability to the plant. And even when we have undertaken a soil analysis and know the values of NPK the problem isn’t necessarily solved as each plant type needs more or less of each nutrient depending on its overall requirements, stage growth etc.

Balancing Nutrient Requirements: The Solution

Rather than worry about nutrient needs and availability the gardener has a perfect solution. Feed the soil and ensure it is healthy enough to supply everything the plant needs when it want it.

How To Feed The Soil

This is simple. Add plenty of well composted organic matter.

There are several ways to do this. Add it and incorporate it by digging, rotovating or cultivating OR just add it as a mulch and let the worms and other critters to the work for you. I’m a firm advocate of the latter but you decide for yourself. The main thing is to add the organic matter.

And whereas I’ve said it should be well composted it could be added as green material. Either chop and drop or, as I often do, layer grass mowings on the soil.

So, that in essence is the answer. But if you want a bit more detail, including some verifiable research findings, see the sections below.

Unlocking Hidden Nutrients

Plants can only absorb nutrients in dissolved form. Feeding the soil with organic matter and compost encourages beneficial microbes that break down organic materials, releasing vital nutrients already present in the soil but previously unavailable to plants

The Role of Soil Microorganisms in Plant Mineral Nutrition—Current Knowledge and Future Directions

Building a Balanced Ecosystem 

A healthy soil teems with life – bacteria, fungi, and other organisms. Feeding the soil with organic matter fosters this ecosystem, creating a natural nutrient cycle that nourishes plants.

Long-Term Benefits: Chemical fertilizers often provide a quick boost of specific nutrients, but they can disrupt soil health over time. Feeding the soil with organic matter creates a sustainable system that releases nutrients gradually, promoting long-term plant health

FAO Global Soil Partnership

Nutrient Efficiency

Plants can only utilise a portion of the nutrients applied directly. Feeding the soil helps retain these nutrients, minimising waste and potential environmental harm from runoff

Leaching of Plant Nutrients from Agricultural Lands

Tailored Nutrition

Soil testing can reveal nutrient deficiencies, but directly feeding plants doesn’t address underlying issues in the soil. Feeding the soil fosters a diverse microbial community that can help adjust nutrient availability based on the specific needs of your plants

The Role of Soil Microorganisms in Plant Mineral Nutrition—Current Knowledge and Future Directions

Feeding The Soil Conclusions

By focusing on feeding the soil, we create a healthy and resilient ecosystem that provides plants with the nutrients they need in a balanced and sustainable way. This approach promotes long-term plant health and environmental responsibility. It’s easy and more certain than randomly adding expensive fertilisers of dubious use.

In case you still have doubts, consider this. For millions of years we had no synthetic fertilisers in garden centres but plants thrived without them. Adding organic matter to the soil, ie feeding the soil, has worked for millions of years.

Other Information Sources

The Impact of Soil on Climate Change and Human
Health

Tag: Feed the Soil

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