Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash are vital to every healthy plants growth. Each element provides the necessary nutritional elements needed in building the plant structure. Nitrogen aids the flower and leaf development. Phosphorus serves plant cell and stem development growth, while potash strengthens stems, tubers, and roots. All three must be present in order for a plant to thrive. Without sufficient quantities of even one of these nutrient elements, poor results will occur.
Nitrogen is important for the formation of the plants proteins. It is an essential element of chlorophyll, the green chemical found in plants. It permits the plants to manufacture starches and sugars. Most of the compounds in plants; amino acids, aromatic compounds, etc, require nitrogen. It is the grow element that forces soft, lush growth when used in excess. Because of its importance in plant growth, it is essential to have a regularly available supply. Since nature cannot provide nitrogen in sufficient quantities, it is necessary to have other sources available, namely organic and commercial fertilizers and manures. Nitrate of soda, sulfate of ammonia, dried blood, cottonseed meal, and different manures are some of the materials you can use to supply extra nitrogen when it is needed in larger amounts than your garden soil is able to provide.
Phosphorus also plays an important part in the plants composition of proteins and amino acids. It is associated with the plants cell division. It contributes to stiff stems that hold the foliage up to receive sunlight. Flowering and seed formation requires this nutrient element. It is a bit difficult to manage because it locks up rapidly, almost as soon as it touches soil. Therefore it must be applied in excess of the actual amount used by the plants. Most gardens that are regularly fertilized are practically low grade phosphate mines. This built up phosphorus is usually an insoluble form that the plants cannot use. Sources of phosphorus include superphosphate, sometimes referred to as acid phosphate, phosphate rock, and the scared cow of the gardeners of old; bone meal. Today’s bone meal is dehydrated and devitalized. It does not compare with the freshly ground bone meal introduced to the Victorian England gardens. Superphosphate is the most effective phosphorus amendment. It is alkaline in reaction to acid soils.
Potash, potassium hydroxide, also referred to as potassium in the big three plant nutrient element hierarchy, is generally neglected in plant nutrition. This is because soil analysis usually reveals adequate supplies present. The problem is that the soil bound potash is insoluble and difficult for most plants to use. A soluble form of potash is necessary to encourage starch formation and the movement of sugars in the plant. It is also important to seed formation and to support stiff stems, tubers, and root development. Wood ashes, muriate of potash, and sulfate of potash are good sources of potash. Each should be used with caution. The initial potency of the chemical and salts contained in these compounds may injure the plant. It is important that sufficient water be applied following the first few days after application.Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash must be synthesized into their elemental forms before they can be absorbed into the plant. Water, bacteria, and the soils microorganism work in combination to create the catalysts that encourages this synthesis. Correct monitoring and maintenance of these big three plant nutrient elements will result in a lush, healthy, bountiful garden. Neglecting even one will result in disaster. There is only one other way to put it…without them your garden will die.
Eco-Farm, An Acres U.S.A. Primer: The definitive guide to managing farm and ranch soil fertility, crops, fertilizers, weeds and insects while avoiding dangerous chemicals