Updated: Aug 8, 2019
Just as us humans need nutrients to have energy to do the things we love, plants too need nutrition to survive.
There are important nutrients we need in large amounts such as carbohydrates and proteins, and in smaller amounts it is important for us to have some fats in our diets. You can also say that in even smaller amounts, we need nutrients such as iodine which we get from our salt, Vitamin C from oranges, Vitamin D from the sun, and other small yet important nutrients.
Plants have similar categories of needs. Instead of Carbs and proteins you could say they need nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These three are considered the primary plant nutrients.
Just as we need fats but in smaller amounts than carbs and proteins, you could say plants need calcium, magnesium, and sulfur in the same respect. These are considered secondary plant nutrients.
And finally, just as we don’t need an overload of Iodine, Vitamin C and Vitamin D—yet if we don’t have them, they cause significant effects to our health—plants need Boron, Chlorine, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum and Zinc in small amounts. These are considered plant micronutrients.
Now.. because plants need the most amount of Nitrogen, you can’t just douse your lawn with nitrogen fertilizer and call it good. In fact, of all the different types of nitrogen molecules—there are only two types that plants can internalize. The same is true for other nutrients as well. If you’re stuck on a desert island and someone drops off cans of corn, tuna, and peaches off without a can opener, you’ll be as desperate as your plants are if you dump random forms of nutrients in their soil without considering their real needs. The one advantage you have is you can use your hands and maybe a rock. Your plants are stuck.
So how do you find that perfect balance? We decided to let the professional of all professionals do it for us—mother nature. Instead of dumping more nutrients into the soil to drown them in “symbolic cans of food” they can’t open, we decided to give them the tools they need, the tools mother nature has taught us to use—microbes.
Canned food is not what most people would consider “gourmet.” In the same sense microbes aren’t simply a “can opener” but so much more. There are millions of different soil microbes which can play just about a million different kinds of roles. Some microbes break down the nutrients into the form the plants can eat, or bind to heavy metals so your plants don’t eat them. Microbes can create the right soil temperature, cause plant roots to reach into places they otherwise wouldn’t, break up hard soil, bind up soil that is too loose, void off plant disease or predators, produce antibiotics, convert energy sources, allow your plants and plant roots to breathe better—and the list goes on and on!
Microbes truly are at the heart of healthy plant nutrition. So instead of a can of tuna, think gourmet steak. You aren’t just handing your plants a can opener, you’re giving them a professional chef.
Primary Plant nutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium (What plants need the most of)
Secondary Plant nutrients: Calcium, Magnesium, and Sulfur (What plants need a good amount of)
Micronutrients: Boron, Chlorine, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Zinc. (What plants need small amounts of)
The only form of Nitrogen plants can intake is Nitrate (NO 3 — ) and ammonium (NH 4 + ). Atmospheric nitrogen is (N 2 ) and is in the air we breathe. Bacteria work together to turn N 2 to Ammonia (NH 3 ) and then to Nitrate (NO 3 — ). Other types of bacteria may turn it back to Atmospheric nitrogen (N 2 ). This is part of what is called the Nitrogen Cycle.
Microbes are capable of:
Breaking down the nutrients into the form the plants can intake, binding to heavy metals so your plants don’t eat them.
Create the right soil temperature, cause plant roots to reach into places they otherwise wouldn’t, break up hard soil, bind up soil that is too loose, void off plant disease or predators, produce antibiotics, convert energy sources, allow your plants and plant roots to breathe better and so much more!