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The skies are more blue than gray, freezing temperatures have gone away, and the smell of blooming gardens fill the air. It’s vegetable gardening season, a time welcomed by green thumbs all around the country! And this season is likely even more welcomed these days due to raising food prices, conventional and organic, at the grocery stores and farmer’s markets.

Seasoned gardeners and newbies alike are planting their favorite organic vegetables in home garden beds, potted under on the patio, on apartment balconies, and even small indoor gardens are becoming popular. Whichever method of gardening you prefer, it’s important for you to make sure plants are well nourished and watered for a successful gardening season.

Plants must have macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are needed in large amounts; micronutrients are only needed in small amounts. Regardless, they are all basic nutrients needed in the soil, as gardening pros know. But for the sake of simplicity and to make your gardening experience a fun one, we’ll be looking generally at some nutrient deficiencies your plants may have and how to spot it. Keep in mind different types of plants can vary in visible signs — the following are the more common signs.

1. Lack of Calcium

A lack of calcium in garden plants can lead to imbalanced nourishment and can cause yellowing, pale and curling leaves, blossom-end rot on peppers and tomatoes, blackened shoots in beans, and stunted growth. Calcium deficiency causes brown edges on cabbage leaves, irregular roots in beets, and potatoes will be small. New leaves on plants are distorted or hooked shaped, and, in some cases, the plant will just die.

2. Lack of Potassium

Potassium deficiency in vegetable plants can cause weak or deformed plant foliage and dropped fruit or blossoms before it can fully ripen. Older leaves may have a scorched and wilted appearance around the edges and a yellowing between the leaf veins, called chlorosis, might develop.

3.  Excessive or Lack of Nitrogen

When there are excessive amounts of nitrogen in the soil, the production and quality of food can be reduced. Not enough nitrogen increases insects hanging out on plants and disease problems will most likely arise. Look for yellowing on older leaves near the bottom of the plant, leaves from there on up are often a light green, stems may also become yellow and appear flimsy. Wilting will be noticeable, even during normal weather, and plant growth and the maturing of fruit will slow significantly.

Calcium, potassium and nitrogen are required macronutrients, nutrients for plants needed in larger amounts. These nutrients usually need to be added even though they occur naturally in sufficiently fertile soil at lower amounts. Other nutrients, some micronutrients, your plants may be deficient in are nutrients like iron, zinc, copper, and manganese.

As a rule of thumb — green thumb! — before you start adding additional nutrients, you want to rule out other possible reasons for your plants looking like death or you just may actually kill them!

  • Did you fertilizer the plant too much? This can cause a burnt, scorched and wilted appearance.
  • Are there bugs and insects attacking your plants? Look for holes eaten through leaves or even small bugs on the underside of foliage.
  • Is the weather suddenly cold or hot? From slow growth to a lack of flowering, swinging weather contributes to the overall growth of a plant.
  • How are you watering? Watering too little or too much is not good for plants. Both can cause leaf yellowing, the appearance of dryness, wilting.

Green Monsters: What is your favorite plant to grow in your home vegetable garden?

Image source: Garrett Heath/Flickr 

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