Over years of growing, the soil in your yard can become depleted of the essential minerals that all plants need, and trying to grow anything in these conditions is likely to be a losing battle. Spotting a nutrient deficiency problem in your soil before it gets too far will give your plants the best chance of recovery, and here’s what to look for:
How to spot a nitrogen deficiency in plants
You may notice that the old leaves on your plant have turned yellow or pale green. This is often an indication of nitrogen deficiency which means your plant doesn’t produce enough chlorophyll for effective photosynthesis, resulting in dull and stunted growth.
How to spot an iron deficiency in plants
If your plants’ leaves are turning pale or see-through, there might be a lack of iron in the soil. This can happen when plants need more iron than the soil has to offer. As iron deficiency continues the leaf colors will fade until their green hue is completely gone.
How to spot a potassium deficiency in plants
The first sign of a potassium deficiency is yellowing leaves. The difference here, however, may be that new growth is affected as well as mature leaves and there will often also be small brown spots around the leaf edges on the youngest foliage.
How to spot a phosphorus deficiency in plants
If your plants are turning yellow, it could be a sign of phosphorus deficiency. A lack of this nutrient often causes dark brown spots to form on the edges and leaves will start to fall off if not treated soon enough.
How to spot a magnesium deficiency in plants
A magnesium deficiency, like a lack of iron in the soil, will cause leaves to appear pale. However, unlike an iron-deficient plant where veins are lighter than leaf tissue on both sides of the vein, a magnesium-deficient plant is greener around the leaf veins making them stand out more starkly.
If you catch these nutrient deficiencies early enough, applying a good fertilizer will usually reverse the symptoms before too much damage is done. Although any general-purpose plant feed will work in an emergency, try to use a product that’s enriched with the missing mineral you’ve identified.
However, the best long-term solution is to incorporate plenty of organic matter into your soil, using home-made compost or well-rotted manure. Over time, this will balance the soil’s nutrients to provide ideal conditions for every type of plant and make mineral deficiencies a thing of the past.