Nutrient Deficiencies in Soil: Symptoms and How to treat them with Compost

Most gardens have nutrient deficiencies that are easily fixed. The problem is that many gardeners do not take the time to treat them. With a steady stockpile of compost and a few select, organic nutrients you can amend your soil at home with little to no cost. Use this easy guide to identify the symptoms in your plants and treat them according.

Nutrient: Boron

Symptoms: A boron deficiency is most noticeable on beets and sweet potatoes but is present on other tuber vegetables. Look for blisters on the exterior skin of the fruit and brown spots inside the fruit. This is usually accompanied by deformed leaves, thick at the center and very deformed. The plant will look like its growth has stunted overall.

Treatment: The best solution is the use of plenty of well-aged compost, nothing recent like manure. You could also use several teaspoons of borax and lightly rake it into the surrounding soil.

Nutrient: Iron

Symptoms: The youngest leaves should exhibit vibrant colors of deep growth or light green as their minute features emerge. Iron deficiencies are incredibly common and easily spotted by yellow or gold colored leaves. Sometimes they are pale green, distinct from light green colors.

Treatment: A simple pH test will tell you whether you need to add more organic amendments such as rotted leaves and peat moss. Highly acidic items from your kitchen would be great to supplement iron such as orange peels or tomatoes.

Nutrient: Magnesium

Symptoms: You will notice a variety of different colors on your older leaves if you are experiencing a magnesium deficiency. Purple, yellow, orange and red are not uncommon on stems, fruit and root of the plant.

Treatment: A long term solution is usually necessary for a magnesium deficiency. Invest in some quality bone meal and rock phosphate into the soil at the seasons end or beginning. This supplementation should provide nutrients for years.

Nutrient: Manganese

Symptoms: Similarly to iron deficiencies, manganese deficiencies will be exhibited by noticeable yellowing in the leaves. The difference is that the color will not be as vibrant or as common. If it is a manganese problem it will not be on every leaf.

Treatment: Get out your soil pH test kit and correct the soil because it is most commonly caused by soils that are more alkaline than usual.

Nutrient: Nitrogen

Symptoms: Nitrogen deficiencies are also one of the most common problems gardeners face. They often confuse the slow growth and diminutive size of the plant as a need for more water. They will be able to tell the difference because of the light green leaves present in nitrogen deficiencies.

Treatment: Most soil amendments supply nitrogen. In fact, it is the easiest problem to solve. The problem though is because it is so common, that means a lot of gardeners are missing so many amendments to their soil. You will quickly solve this problem by adding blood meal, cottonseed meal, fish meal, manure, or alfalfa meal.

Nutrient: Phosphorus

Symptoms: Phosphorus deficiencies are easily explained by a distinctive purple color on the leaves, stems, roots and other places. This can be a deep purple color as well that confuses some gardeners with the changes of fall.

Treatment: Treatment of this deficiency is easy. Manure, bone meal and simple compost well spread into the soil, during spring or fall will ensure your soil has plenty of phosphorus for several seasons.

Nutrient: Potassium

Symptoms: Scorched looking leaves are often a problem experienced by potassium deficiencies. You will be able to differentiate these from sun scorched plants by the general thinness of the entire plant, save for the roots.

Treatment: A simple fix to this problem is the addition of manure and organic compost mixes. Any garden that is regularly composted should have no potassium problems. Throwing in an extra egg or two in your garden would help. Long term consider adding greensand or granite dust.

Nutrient: Zinc

Symptoms: Zinc deficiencies are easily spotted by two distinct phenomena occurring at the same time on the plant: small leaves and older leaves that are yellow. Sometimes you will see stripes in these leaves. Younger leaves may appear unaffected.

Treatment: Balancing the pH should correct the zinc deficiencies. Adding manure will guarantee long term success.