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The first step of gardening is soil preparation. Soil should be able to contain its moisture and nutrients while being balanced in its air and water ratio. The three soil types are clay, loam and sand, subdivided into different forms, such as sandy loam, sandy clay loam and clayey loam. These soil types can in turn be acidic or alkaline.
Whatever your soil type the additions of organic matter, often and generously, will improve it vastly.
To aid you in determining your soil type, roll moist soil into a sausage shape. Clay will bind far better than sand.
Alkalinity and acidity of soil is easiest analysed with soil testing kits, available from most garden suppliers. The alkalinity or acidity is measured on a 1 - 10 pH scale. Ideally your soil should be a neutral 7 pH, under pH5 is too acidic for good plant growth and above pH 8 is too alkaline. These pH levels influence plant growth and even colour, as is seen with Hydrangeas.
For soils too alkaline apply ammonium sulphate but take care not to burn the plants.
For soils too acidic apply agricultural lime but determine first your desired pH level and the acidity level of your soil. Agricultural lime should be added systematically towards the desired pH level as over-liming is difficult to reverse.
Plants need certain macro- and micro elements for ultimate growth performance. Deficiency symptoms, solutions for and the importance of these elements are listed below:
Nitrogen (N) Yellowing of foliage, usually first noticed on older leaves and purplish or blue tints are seen. Stunting and early dropping of autumn leaves. Nitrogen betters the plant's usage of water. Solution: A spring application of 2:3:2 (22) at a rate of 120g p.m. ² on trees, shrubs, veggies, flowers and lawns. 60g p.m. ² applications of 3:1:5 (26) SR with slow-release nitrogen, every 6 weeks during growing seasons for flowering plants. Alternatively apply 4:1:1 (21) at a rate of 60g p.m. ² during spring, summer and autumn.
Phosphorus (P) Yellowing and purplish, blue tints on older foliage. Stunting and poor branching are evident. Phosphorus is essential to all plants for cell division and photosynthesis. Solution: 60g p.m. ² of Superphosphate applied at root level (Superphosphate does not travel through soil). Spring application of 2:3:2 (22) at a rate of 120g p.m. ² on trees, shrubs, veggies, flowers and lawns. 60g p.m. ² applications of 3:1:5 (26) SR with slow-release nitrogen every 6 weeks during growing season used on flowering plants. Alternatively apply 4:1:1 (21) at a rate of 60g p.m. ² during spring, summer and autumn.
Potassium (K) Spots with a pale margin or burnt edging appear on foliage, usually noticed on older leaves first and stems may be brittle. Too much potassium may result in toxic magnesium levels.
Potassium is essential to all fruiting- and flowering plants. Potassium helps protect plants against disease, improves its producing and transporting of carbohydrates, regulates stem growth- and salts of cell sap. Solution: A spring application of 2:3:2 (22) at a rate of 120g p.m. ² on trees, shrubs, veggies, flowers and lawns. 60g p.m. ² applications of 3:1:5 (26) SR with slow-release nitrogen every 6 weeks during growing seasons used on flowering plants. Alternatively apply 4:1:1 (21) at a rate of 60g p.m. ² during spring, summer and autumn.
Calcium (Ca) Leaves blacken, tip-curling and eventual death is usually noticed on young leaves first. Growing tips die or are deformed. This deficiency occurs in high rainfall areas with acidic sandy soil. Calcium is vital in plant growth and development, helping with cell division and is essential for building cell walls. Organic acids in cell walls are neutralised by calcium. Solution: Applications of superphosphate, lime and gypsum.
Magnesium (Mg) Striking colouring on margins and/or yellow or dead patches, usually seen on older leaves first. Deficiency occurs in high rainfall regions with sandy, acidic soil or around large concentrations of potassium. Vegetable gardens and lawns suffer from this deficiency. Magnesium is vital in forming chlorophyll and thus essential for photosynthesis. Solution: Do not catch and remove grass clippings and enrich beds with compost.
Sulphur (S) Under developed leaves with curling edges and yellowing appear often on the youngest leaves first. It is an important element for good flavour in edible crops and vital for the plant's protein production. This deficiency occurs in high rainfall areas with acidic sandy soil. Solution: Treat your soil to generous applications of organic matter or apply gypsum-containing sulphur.
Iron (Fe) Young leaves are often white with yellowing appearing between the leaf veins. Iron is essential for photosynthesis and regulates and encourages plant growth, it is vital for the plant to make good use of nitrates. Potassium deficiency plays a role in the severity of iron deficiency. Solution: Spray plants with a liquid iron sulphate mixture.
Manganese (Mn) Symptoms of pale green veins, blackening water spots, stunting and yellowing between the leaves' veins appears at it's worst in overcast weather, usually on the youngest and oldest leaves first. Very large concentrations of Manganese can be toxic but reversible by adding lime. Soils of sand or peat often lack manganese, as well as mediums high in alkalinity, iron, copper and zinc. This trace element is vital for photosynthesis, protein production and plant growth. Solution: Spray plants with a mixture of water and manganese sulphate.
Copper (Cu) Plants wilt and leaves die after turning dark bluish and twisted. Leaves in the middle of a stem usually show signs first and stem tips may die. Peat, sand or soils high in iron, zinc, phosphorus, lime and manganese may cause copper deficiency. Plants depend on copper as a catalyst when respiring and it is an important ingredient of enzymes. Solution: Apply 0,04g p.m. ² of copper sulphate every 6 - 7 years.
Zinc (Zn) White and yellow mottling first occurs on the youngest leaves. Poor fruit and grain crop production. Shortened stems with bunched ends and under sized leaves. These deficiencies are often found in areas that receive large concentrations of phosphorus. Solution: 70g of Superphosphate p.m. ² and an equal amount to planting holes. Apply zinc minerals and zinc sulphate to the garden every 10 years.
Boron (B) Youngest leaves crinkle, blacken and their margins turn yellow. Leaf stalks, leaves and lower petals cracks, root- and shoot tips die. This deficiency often occurs in high alkaline, acidic or sandy soils and Brassica crops, like the cabbage depend on it. Boron aids plants in taking up and using calcium and is thus vital for plant growth. It's depended on for root-, flower buds- and shoots forming. Solution: Application of 1,2g borax p.m. ²
Molybdenum (Mo) Stems twist and leaves, usually first noticed on older ones, are mottled all over and margins scorched. Soils wet, sandy and acidic usually show signs of deficiency. Legumes particularly depend on Molybdenum. This trace element aids the plant's enzymes in the transformation of nitrogen into a soluble form for the plant. Solution: Application of 0,035g sodium molybdate p.m. ², or 0,035g ammonium molybdate p.m. ²
Cobalt (Co) Oldest leaves yellow first and early maturity and stunting are symptoms only found with legumous plants. Cobalt is vital for certain bacteria, which transforms nitrogen into an available form for plants to take in. Deficiency occurs around large concentrations of manganese. Solution: Cobalt sulphate application of 0,1g p.m. ²
Chlorine (Cl) the stunting of shoots and roots. Chlorine is vital for photosynthesis. It helps protect cereals from disease and promotes root- and shoot growth. This deficiency does not occur locally.
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