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Your garden's soil is the key to its success - but what happens when your soil is lacking in certain nutrients? Today, you and I will look at 10 common soil deficiencies that could be holding your garden back. From iron to potassium, I will explain what each deficiency looks like, its impact on your plants, and how to solve the problem. By the end of this episode, you'll know how to give your garden the boost it needs. Let’s get growing!




Main Points

  • Your Soils Make Up

  • The Top Soil Deficiencies

  • How You Tell What Your Soil Needs



Resources Mentioned:


Is Your Garden Suffering From These Common Soil Deficiencies?


As any gardener knows, the soil you use is just as crucial to the success of your plants as the seeds you sow. Unfortunately, there are many soil deficiencies that can affect the growth and productivity of your garden. From nitrogen and phosphorus to iron and calcium, each deficiency can have its own set of symptoms that, if left unchecked, can cause significant harm to your plants. In this post, we'll explore the 15 most common soil deficiencies and provide you with practical solutions to restore your soil's nutrients. By the end of this article, you'll have the knowledge you need to create a thriving garden that will provide you with fresh produce year after year.


A quick disclaimer before we start. I am an organic grower and the solutions that I am going to provide are going to center around compost, organic matter, and natural amendments. When it comes to solving problems in your soil you need to think about the work of the soil, microorganisms, first.


I also want to say that deficiency can happen for many different reasons so it is important to not just look at the signs I am going to share below but to look over your yearly growing audit or notes for clues and to do a soil test. You can do a simple at home test but it is best to get your soil professionally tested and you will find in most communities these tests are not as expensive as you may think. If you want help conducting a garden audit grab my free Growing Audit Checklist. This checklist will walk you through each step!


Also the order that I am going to go with these deficiency is with the first three being the industries big three for your plant, to the micronutrient that are often forgotten, the last being the big three for your soil and that are overlooked by the big industry because the can’t make money off of them. Which is good news for you! The solution your soil needs may not take any expensive amendments but good and hardy nutrients that you can find right in your garden or homestead! Let’s get started.


Nitrogen Deficiency


One of the most common soil deficiencies that gardeners face is nitrogen deficiency. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant growth, and when it is lacking in the soil, plants can't produce the proteins they need to grow and thrive.


One noticeable symptom of nitrogen deficiency is slowed growth. Plants may also appear pale, and their leaves may turn yellow. In severe cases, leaves may become stunted and die off. If left unchecked, a lack of nitrogen can significantly reduce the yield of your garden.This again is where a garden audit can be useful. In an audit you keep track of your yield amounts for each bed, from year to year.



Luckily, there are several practical solutions to restore nitrogen to your soil. One option is to add organic matter such as compost, manure, or grass clippings, all of which are rich in nitrogen. Alternatively, you can use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer specifically formulated for plants in need of this nutrient.


Regardless of the method you choose, it's essential to regularly test your soil's nitrogen levels to ensure your plants are receiving the nutrients they need. With proper care, your garden can overcome nitrogen deficiency and flourish for years to come.


Moving on to the next common deficiency, let's explore phosphorus deficiency and how it can affect your garden's growth.


Phosphorus Deficiency



Phosphorus is another essential nutrient that plants require to grow and produce flowers and fruit. When phosphorus levels are low, plants may exhibit stunted growth and have difficulty developing a strong root system. Leaves may also appear dark green or bluish-gray, and older leaves may turn yellow or purple.


One common cause of phosphorus deficiency is soil that is too alkaline, which can prevent plants from absorbing the nutrient. Adding organic matter or using a fertilizer specifically formulated for phosphorus can help alleviate the issue.


To maintain healthy phosphorus levels in your garden, it's important to get your soil tested regularly and adjust your fertilization practices accordingly. By doing so, you can ensure that your plants have the nutrients they need to thrive.


Moving on to potassium deficiency, let's see how this nutrient affects plant growth.,



Potassium Deficiency


Moving on to a new common soil deficiency, let's explore how potassium affects plant growth. Potassium is essential for many plant functions, including photosynthesis, water uptake, and disease resistance. Like phosphorus, potassium is also mobile in the soil, meaning that it can move around easily and be taken up by plant roots.


Symptoms of potassium deficiency can vary depending on the plant, but some common signs include yellowing or browning leaf edges, weak stems, and stunted growth. Poor fruit quality and susceptibility to disease are also indicators of potassium deficiency.


To prevent or correct potassium deficiency, consider applying a potassium-rich fertilizer or organic matter to your soil. Compost, wood ash, and bone meal are all natural sources of potassium. However, it's important not to over-fertilize with potassium, as this can interfere with calcium uptake and lead to other nutrient imbalances.


Next, let's take a closer look at iron deficiency, another common soil problem that can affect your garden's health.


Iron Deficiency


Iron is an essential micronutrient that plays a vital role in plant health, helping to create chlorophyll and enabling the transfer of electrons within cells. Without sufficient iron, plants may exhibit yellowing between veins, a condition known as interveinal chlorosis.


Iron deficiency can occur in soil with a high pH or excessive phosphorus, which can inhibit the plant's ability to absorb iron. Additionally, waterlogged soil can also limit iron uptake. That is why I share in this episode about rainwater that utilizing rain gauge is so important so that your plant doesn't get over watered.


To correct iron deficiency, gardeners can apply iron chelates, which provide plants with readily available iron. In some soils, adding sulfur can also help reduce the pH levels and improve iron absorption. Organic matter can also help to release iron into the soil.


Magnesium Deficiency


Magnesium is another vital nutrient that plants require for proper growth and development. Magnesium plays a crucial role in chlorophyll production and energy transfer. Without sufficient magnesium, plants may exhibit yellowing between veins, similar to iron deficiency.


Magnesium deficiency can occur in soil with a low pH or sandy soils that have insufficient magnesium. To correct magnesium deficiency, gardeners can add Epsom salts or a magnesium-rich fertilizer. Additionally, adding organic matter to the soil can help to increase magnesium levels.,


Calcium deficiency is another common soil deficiency that can affect plant growth and development.



Calcium Deficiency


Calcium deficiency is another prevalent soil issue that can cause stunted growth and delay in the development of plants. This deficiency can result in poor root development, blossom end rot in tomatoes, and necrosis in the leaves of certain plants. Soil testing is the best way to diagnose calcium deficiency in your garden. Liming the soil can raise the pH levels and add calcium to the soil. Gardeners should aim for a pH level of 6.5 to 7.0 for optimal plant growth. Composting is also an excellent method to add calcium to the soil. Incorporating eggshells, bone meal, or crushed limestone can help to increase calcium levels in the soil.


I share my full story about my battle with Calcium Deficiency in my own garden in the podcast episode above. You may be surprised by how I solved this problem for myself!



Sulfur Deficiency


Sulfur deficiency is another common soil issue that can impact the growth and health of plants. This deficiency often occurs in alkaline soils or those with low organic matter. Gardeners can address sulfur deficiency by incorporating organic matter such as compost or manure into the soil. Additionally, fertilizers containing sulfur like ammonium sulfate, gypsum, or sulfur-coated urea can be added to the soil. Regular soil testing is crucial to identify any nutrient deficiencies, including sulfur, and prevent them from becoming severe.


Up next, let's take a look at the impact of micronutrient deficiencies on your garden's soil health.




Micronutrient Deficiency


While macronutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus get a lot of attention in soil health, micronutrients such as iron, manganese, and zinc are just as important for plant growth and development. These nutrients are required in small quantities but are critical for important plant processes like photosynthesis and enzyme activation.


Micronutrient deficiencies can result in stunted growth, yellowing of leaves, and poor fruit production. Soil pH plays a vital role in micronutrient availability, and deficiencies often occur in alkaline soils. Soil testing can reveal any micronutrient deficiencies, and it's essential to address them promptly.


Gardeners can address micronutrient deficiencies by applying fertilizers containing chelated micronutrients or incorporating organic matter into the soil. Additionally, foliar sprays containing micronutrients can be used to address any immediate plant needs.


Now that we've covered micronutrient deficiencies, let's turn our attention to another common soil issue: carbon deficiency.


Carbon Deficiency


Micronutrient deficiencies are often the first to blame from the big fertilizer industry, where I believe carbon deficiency is the root to most soil problems. Carbon is an essential element for plant growth as it is a major component of organic matter in soil. Without an adequate amount of carbon, soil can become compacted and lack the necessary nutrients for plants to thrive. Additionally, a lack of carbon in the soil can lead to decreased microbial activity, which further exacerbates the problem.



To combat carbon deficiency, gardeners can incorporate organic matter into their soil. This can be achieved by adding compost, grass clippings, or leaves into the soil. As the organic matter breaks down, it releases carbon into the soil, providing an optimal environment for microbial activity and nutrient availability. Gardening practices such as no-till cultivation can also help maintain carbon levels by reducing soil disturbance and allowing organic matter to decompose naturally. I wrote another blog post all about using no-till practices in your garden and the benefits for your soil so if you want to learn more, hop over and give it a read.


And in fact I wrote a book that dives into this topic of deficiency and goes deeper, it is called Dirt: Finding the Solution to Building Soil Health


Now that we've addressed carbon deficiency, let's move on to another common soil issue: oxygen deficiency.



Oxygen Deficiency


One of the most overlooked soil deficiencies is oxygen deficiency, which can severely affect your garden's growth. When soil is compacted or waterlogged, it restricts the oxygen flow to the roots. The roots need oxygen to breathe and absorb nutrients, and without it, the plants will struggle to grow properly.


To prevent oxygen deficiency in your garden, ensure proper drainage by avoiding overwatering and planting in well-draining soil. You can also aerate the soil by using a garden fork to loosen it up, creating air pockets for better oxygen circulation. Another strategy is to use organic matter such as compost, which can help improve soil structure and increase oxygen flow to the roots.


By addressing oxygen deficiency in your garden, you will provide your plants with the necessary oxygen to grow healthy and strong. So, make sure to incorporate these practices into your gardening routine to create an optimal growing environment for your plants.,


In conclusion, the quality of your soil is vital to the success of your garden. Nutrient deficiencies can dramatically impact the growth of your plants, ultimately affecting the productivity of your garden. Our explorative journey into the ten most common soil deficiencies provides practical solutions for restoring your soil's nutrients, but early identification is key. Testing your soil regularly and making necessary amendments can create a flourishing garden year after year. As George Washington said, "I am sure there never was a productive garden without some tending and care." So go ahead, tend to your garden, and watch it thrive.


To learn more about improving your garden soil and becoming the expert of your soil I know you can be, grab the Building Soil Guide. To dive even deeper grab my eBook, Dirt: Finding the Solution to Building Soil Health where I walk you through the steps to unlocking the secrets in your soil!


Don’t let the world hold you back,


Pray, Just Plant




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