8 Ways to Add Nitrogen and Phosphorus to Your Plants Naturally
If you look at your garden and notice that it’s no longer looking the same and that the leaves have lost greenery and may be turning rather yellow, it may be time to add some phosphorus and nitrogen to fertilize your plants. If this sounds like your case, then read one, and we’ll tell you how to do it and in the best way – that is, completely naturally!
Why are phosphorus and nitrogen necessary for plants?
Both nitrogen and phosphorus are fundamental nutrients for the life of your plants, whether they’re garden, outdoor, or indoor plants. Regarding the former, it can be said that it’s a vital element for synthesizing proteins and amino acids, including DNA.
Nitrogen is very abundant in nature, since it makes up 78% of the air we breathe. However, it needs to be fixed to the soil so that it can be absorbed through the roots.
And even when it’s found in a variety of forms, it can sometimes be unavailable to plants, since it’s lost through different processes, such as erosion, volatilization, and leaching.
On the other hand, phosphorus is used in different ways by plants, intervening in a great variety of processes, from the storage and transfer of energy to the formation of structures (roots, seeds, fruits); since it’s a basic component in the macromolecules of nucleic acids and phospholipids.
Phosphorus comes from animal products; and 90% of it is available in the soil. However, once added, it’s rapidly transformed into less soluble compounds. Therefore, only a small part of it’s absorbed by the plant, and over time its availability decreases more and more.
Signs that your plants need phosphorus and nitrogen
There are laboratory methods to determine the amount of nitrogen in the soil by assessing mineralization through incubations. Not all of us have the equipment or knowledge to do this, but we can observe the plants.
Yellow leaves are usually the most noticeable symptom, especially if they are old. These begin to turn pale, from the veins, becoming paler and paler, until they fall off and drop.
Other symptoms associated with nitrogen deficiency are sparse or scanty foliage, thin stems, and a general appearance of weakness. You can notice this when you compare them with other specimens of the same species in a neighboring garden or park.
As for phosphorus deficiency, the symptoms observed in plants are as follows:
- Dark colored leaves
- Stunted growth
- Unseasonal flowering
- Poorly developed foliage and roots
- Reproductive organs are affected
- Stunted seeds that do not germinate
The best natural ways to add phosphorus and nitrogen to your plants
There are many ways to correct the above symptoms and get your plants back to their happy, healthy state. There are fertilizers on the market that allow you to achieve this that include various helpful nutrients. However, there are also ways to add nitrogen and phosphorus to plants naturally, without even needing to buy a fertilizer. Let’s take a look at what alternatives are available to you!
1. Natural composted fertilizer
Composting is a process of using organic waste to create a natural fertilizer. The result, called compost, is a product rich in beneficial microorganisms as well as various nutrients, including phosphorus and nitrogen.
This method is very economical. Not only does it make it possible to use resources that are already available, but it also reduces the amount of waste to be disposed of. Fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells and plant leaves can be used for this purpose. It isn’t recommended to incorporate meats, oils, dairy products, or bread.
Like this article? We think you may also like to read: How to Make Your Own Compost at Home
2. Nitrogen fixing plants
There are some plants that contribute to the nitrogen-fixing process for your plants in a natural way. Among these are leguminous plants, since they produce a symbiosis with certain bacteria (Rhizobium). So this is excellent news, because in addition to improving the quality of the soil and the life of your garden, you can also get a food product.
3. Coffee grounds to add nitrogen to your soil naturally
It’s said that coffee grounds are very beneficial for plants, providing them with several necessary nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, in addition to the aforementioned nitrogen and phosphorus. This is a very simple and budget-friendly alternative. You just have to save those coffee grounds (after your coffee has been strained) and wait for it to dry, before placing it in your garden soil.
4. Worm humus
Worm humus is another of those wonders that allow you to add nitrogen and phosphorus to your plants, in an organic way. It’s obtained from a process in which earthworms decompose organic material through the action of their enzymes and their microbiota.
To make it, first, you need a closed container, which will be the vermicomposter. You can buy one for this purpose, make it out of wooden planks, or reuse a container.
Choose a site with low light, relatively low temperature (20 °C) and high humidity. Then, place the container, prepare the base (it can be cardboard), add the worms and food, and wait for your organic fertilizer.
When using it in pots or the garden, it’s recommended to remove the top layer of soil to renew it, and then replace it with the worm humus.
5. Marine products to add nitrogen to you soil
You can add other sources of phosphorus for your plants organically with marine products, which are rich in phosphorus. These include fish meal and crab shells.
The liming process refers to the use of an alkalinizing material, which is added to the soil in order to reduce its acidity level, increasing the availability of some nutrients (such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and molybdenum), and reactivating microbial activity.
Several materials are considered in this process; some are organic and others are inorganic. Research on the subject points out some advantages of using dolomite lime as well as calcium carbonate.
It should be noted that this should be done very sporadically (every two or three years) and without overdoing it. It can also be done prior to planting, to prepare the soil.
7. Plant matter fertilizers
Several species can be used as plant matter fertlizers, much like the pioneers to prepare a field. This is the case of the turnip or Brassica rapa, which is widely cultivated in the world and is considered green manure. The results obtained in several researches indicate that this plant helps in the recycling of nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus.
This is the name given to the symbiosis that occurs between fungi and certain plants, especially in the roots of vascular plants. Mycorrhizae improve nutrient absorption, playing a decisive role in phosphorus.
It’s possible to implement this type of association, through a process that, although somewhat complex, is worthwhile; the steps are as follows:
- Collect mycorrhizae on tree roots or on plants such as legumes, grains, onions, and plantains. They look like little white balls.
- They can then be placed on a cloth and left to dry in the shade.
- It’s recommended to prepare a substrate, which can include worm humus.
- Once the pellets are dry, they are ground and mixed with the soil.
- The substrate is placed in a bed to cultivate the mycorrhiza.
- Seeds of leguminous plants or some grasses can be sown.
- Finally, after a few months, the stems of these plants can be cut, irrigation is suspended and the container is emptied to harvest the mycorrhizae.
The advantages of using organic fertilizers
The first and most obvious advantage with these techniques that we’ve explained in this article is that you are helping to renew the soil, by adding nitrogen and phosphorus to your plants in a natural way. Therefore, you’re not using chemicals or resorting to store-bought items that aren’t only more expensive, but also often use plastic in their storage.
Plus, even though non-natural fertilizers add a good amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium (making an effect very fast), the problem with them is that they also fade soon.
Therefore, it will always be necessary to fertilize organically to provide a more lasting effect. Finally, the best part about turning to organic fertilizers to add nitrogen to your soil is that this is something that you can do right at home without the expense and with a little patience, thus enjoying the benefits of slow gardening or organic gardening, as some people call it.
So what are you waiting for? Give these methods a try!
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
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