How Can Nutrient Deficiencies Affect Your Plants?

— Written By Bill Hanlin and last updated by JoAnne Gryder

nitrogen deficiencyThe warm, wet weather we have had lately has really kick started the growth of many plants in my yard. Now that plants are actively growing, they may start showing signs of nutrient deficiencies. Plant symptoms will vary according to which nutrient is deficient.

Nitrogen deficiency in plants is fairly common because it leeches easily in the soil. If there is not enough nitrogen in the soil, the oldest leaves on the plant will turn yellow while the younger leaves remain green. The plant may also be stunted.

Applying a fertilizer that contains nitrogen will usually take care of the problem. If you just want to apply a fertilizer which contains nothing but nitrogen, you can apply ammonium nitrate, urea, or blood meal to name a few. Do not over-apply fertilizers as they can burn the root system of the plant.

Another nutrient deficiency you may see this season is calcium. If you do not have enough calcium in your soil, the youngest leaves will be twisted and distorted. Many vegetable plants with calcium deficiencies will have fruit with blossom end rot.

Adding products to the soil like lime, gypsum, or bone meal will prevent blossom end rot. Too much or too little water also is a factor that causes blossom end rot so mulching around plants will help maintain moisture around the root system.

Make sure not to overdo the fertilizer application. Over vigorous vegetable plants are also more susceptible to blossom end rot and flowering may be delayed since the plant is putting its energy into growth and not flower formation.