The Secret to Soil Success
Author: Adam Fitzhenry Date Posted:23 August 2018
We all want green lawns, bright flowers and healthy produce. But healthy plants and lawns start with the soil and whether or not it's healthy. The trick isn't about using a lot of chemicals to get the growth going.
For healthy plants and lawns, you need a healthy soil containing a variety of elements and minerals. Some soils have a lot of these, and others don’t. And, due to the composition of some soils and their acidity (pH), often the minerals can be unavailable to the plants, or can be lost quickly through leaching.
By correcting the pH of the soil, you can free up some of these nutrients. You can also add nutrients coated with substances to facilitate their release to plants. That’s why we add humates and fulvic and humic acid to just about all of our products, and, as a standalone, Fulvic Humic Concentrate is one of our most popular products – it’s a strong binding agent for positively charged ions that are essential for plants.
To illustrate the importance of additives such as the humates we sell at The Plant Doctor, let’s use nitrogen as an example. Nitrogen is vital for plant life. It’s the main inclusion in chlorophyll, which is essential for photosynthesis. Nitrogen is also a component in amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.
You’ve probably heard about the nitrogen cycle. It describes how nitrogen moves between the atmosphere and the soil. Most of the nitrogen used by plants is deposited in the soil by rain, through manure, or applied by gardeners and farmers.
Plants can take up nitrogen as either ammonium (NH4+) or nitrate (NO3-). Ammonium and nitrate exist in a state of equilibrium that changes depending on the pH – the higher the pH, the more nitrate there will be compared to ammonium.
The positively-charged ammonium can bind to the soil, but nitrate, with its negative charge, can be quickly lost to the air, or carried away by water. So, there are two things that are important for keeping nitrogen in the soil for your plants to use – ensure the right pH (preferably neutral), and provide other materials for the nitrogen ions to bind to while remaining available to plants.
Humates provide a charged surface for nutrients to attach to – they are a cost-effective solution to nitrogen loss from soils, while also providing important organic matter. Humic and fulvic acid combined (humates) provide the best result for nutrient retention due to the increased number of places where ammoni and nitrate are able to bind.
Another option for retaining essential nutrients in the soil are zeolites, which are the main ingredient in our VolcaMin product. Zeolites have been proven to reduce leaching of both ammonium and nitrate from the soil, while keeping it available for plant absorption. Their strong negative charge also neutralises other harmful heavy metals.
It’s important then to ensure your fertiliser will have a positive impact on the pH of your soil, and whether it includes Earth-friendly additives to retain the nitrogen (and other essential elements) such as humates or zeolites.