What Nutrients Do What

I don’t know about you but I get very confused by all the different nutrients that fruit and vegetables need. I’ve struggled for years to remember what nitrogen does for plants and why phosphorous is useful.

Urghh! My head feels like it might explode sometimes as I rush indoors to consult my gardening books to check that I’m ‘doing the right thing’ for the right plant.

Then suddenly, the other day, this image popped into my head and everything just dropped into place. The Strawberry-Carrot, an imaginary plant that helps me figure out what nutrients do what.

What I realised is that reading and re-reading paragraphs about NPK (never learned the Periodic Table first time round – unlikely to now) and trying to memorise the benefits of dried fertilizers vs liquid just didn’t work for me. I’m that person who needs something visual to work with.

The Strawberry-Carrot does everything I need it to. It tells me that if I add a nitrogen based fertiliser then I’ll get lovely green leaves (perfect for leafy veg like Spinach and Kale) and that if I want to boost flower and so fruit production then I should be adding potassium (perfect for Fruit and Tomatoes, etc). And finally, if it’s root growth I want then phosphorous is my man (perfect for root crops like Carrots, Parnsips etc).

Of course it’s not as easy as this. There are other nutrients that come into play, like calcium and sulphur and trace elements like manganese, iron and blah, blah. But let’s not confuse the issue. I’m just happy that I’ve finally pinned the main ones down.

9 Comments on “What Nutrients Do What

  1. If you ever actually manage to create a plant like that you’ll make a mint!!

  2. A really clever idea. It’s stuck in my head now. Thanks.

  3. That was pretty concise, and pretty, too. Now I have a question. I am just beginning to learn what to do with onions. Had pretty good luck with Spring/Summer ones in spite of the weather (we had heat when we needed cold and cold when we needed heat)
    My question is, do I add phospherous when I plant onions as I do when I plant daffodils

  4. I love your strawberry-carrot. It’s brilliant! :) I’m just learning about gardening myself, so it’s really helpful to be able to look at something like that!

  5. Hi, I’m also new to gardening so love this post (and your whole site) as I know v little about which nutrients do what. I did know that they were needed though, and I’m trying to add them using organic sources from around the house (limited budget). I’ve just added chopped banana and coffee grounds to my tomatoes and courgettes for K and N. Hope they like it! Any thoughts about would I add for P if I were to?

  6. There are also intermediate elements for example iron, which plants like rhododendrons, camellias etc. require in higher levels than other plants or you will get signs of deficiency in the leaves ( if plants show signs of lack of iron water with sequestrene)Then there are trace elements of which there are too many to mention but still required.