Anyone who farms or gardens will be familiar with nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). They’re the 3 most talked about nutrients for plants, and can be found in organic and synthetic fertiliser forms.

Nitrogen helps plants produce protein to build new tissues for leaves, stems, and branches. Plants are naturally greedy for nitrogen because it’s a scarce resource in nature so they try to absorb as much of it as possible. When plants absorb too much nitrogen, they produce mostly leaves but barely any flowers or fruits. Too much nitrogen can make plants weak because they’re not absorbing other nutrients.

Basil with nutrient deficiency
Plants that don’t receive enough nutrients turn pale and yellow.

Phosphorus spurs root growth and larger seeds. Plants use phosphorus to help transfer energy from one part of their body to another, making phosphorus the second-most important nutrient for growth. Root vegetables such as carrots love phosphorus.

Potassium encourages flower and fruit growth and helps plants build strong immune systems. It also makes vegetables last longer after harvesting. Without potassium, plants would have a difficult time transporting water and nutrients from the roots to leaves, branches, and fruits. 

While these 3 nutrients are the most popular, they are not the only nutrients that plants need. Plants also need calcium, magnesium, sulphur, carbon, hydrogen, and many other nutrients. These will be covered in a future article. 


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