These nutrients are commonly referred to as macronutrients, as plants require them in relatively large amounts. It is important to note that the amount and availability of these nutrients may vary depending on the source and the soil conditions. It is recommended to test the soil and adjust the nutrient levels accordingly. Additionally, some of these sources may take time to break down and become available to the plants, so it is important to plan ahead and apply them well in advance of planting.
Nitrogen is essential for the growth of leaves and stems, and it is an important component of chlorophyll, the molecule responsible for photosynthesis. Natural sources of nitrogen include composted manure, blood meal, feather meal, fish meal, soybean meal, alfalfa meal, and legume cover crops. Nitrogen can also be fixed from the atmosphere by nitrogen-fixing bacteria through a process called biological nitrogen fixation, which can occur during fermentation. Legume crops, such as beans, peas, and clover, have a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their root nodules, which helps them to access nitrogen.
Phosphorus is necessary for the development of strong roots and flowers, and it is a key component of ATP, the molecule that provides energy to plant cells. Natural sources of phosphorus include bone meal, rock phosphate, guano, and composted poultry manure. Phosphorus can be made more available to plants through the process of fermentation. Composting organic matter, such as kitchen scraps and yard waste, can help break down the organic matter and release the phosphorus.
Potassium helps regulate water balance in plant cells, and it is important for the development of strong stems and roots. Natural sources of potassium include kelp meal, wood ash, greensand, composted banana peels, and comfrey leaves. Potassium can be made more available to plants through fermentation. Composting organic matter can help break down the organic matter and release the potassium.
Calcium is essential for cell wall formation and helps regulate the movement of other nutrients throughout the plant. Natural sources of calcium include gypsum, eggshells, crushed oyster shells, and bone meal. Calcium can also be derived from the fermentation of eggshells or bones. Crushed eggshells or bones can be added to a compost pile, where they will break down over time and release calcium.
Magnesium is a component of chlorophyll and is necessary for photosynthesis. Natural sources of magnesium include epsom salt, dolomite lime, and kelp meal. Magnesium can also be derived from the fermentation of seaweed or kelp. These materials can be added to a compost pile, where they will break down over time and release magnesium.
Sulfur is essential for the synthesis of proteins and is important for the development of healthy plant tissues. Natural sources of sulfur include elemental sulfur, gypsum, and composted manure.
Iron is necessary for the synthesis of chlorophyll and other enzymes. Natural sources of iron include composted manure, leaf mold, and chelated iron.
Manganese is necessary for the growth and development of plant tissues. Natural sources of manganese include composted manure, leaf mold, and rock dust.
Zinc is necessary for the synthesis of proteins and is important for the development of healthy plant tissues. Natural sources of zinc include composted manure, rock dust, and seaweed.
Copper is necessary for the synthesis of enzymes and other proteins. Natural sources of copper include composted manure, leaf mold, and rock dust.