How to tell what nutrients are missing in plants?

strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)September 29, 2013

Some municipals add hydrated lime to tap water to deodorize, plus to prevent pipes from corroding. Hydrated lime is unstable and binds up with phosphorus, potassium, iron, and other trace elements in soil.

Hydrated lime is DIFFERENT from stable alkaline elements, such as dolomitic, oyster shell, or calcium carbonate (which doesn't move much, thus pH change is slow). Hydrated lime in tap water raises the pH quickly and causes nutrients tie-up.

My roses are yellowish and don't bloom with my hard water, pH over 8. I have to put 1 tablespoon of gypsum (calcium sulfate) per 5 gallons bucket, to neutralize the bicarbonates (hydrated lime) in tap water.

I got lazy in doing that, so I dumped 1/2 cup of gypsum around some rose bushes. DISASTER! Lower leaves became yellowish, dry, brittle, and withered. Too much calcium drives down potassium. (University Extensions' info.)

Here's an excerpt from the link below: "Potassium can get poorly absorbed when having too much Calcium or ammonium nitrogen. Having too much sodium causes potassium to be displaced. Parts affected by a Potassium Deficiency are: older leaves and leaf margins turn yellowish."

Wholesome Organic Molasses has highest % of potassium at 20%, 10% calcium, 15% iron, 10% B6, and 8% magnesium, plus zero salt. I didn't test that on plants ... it tasted so good that I used in baking instead. NPK of that molasses is 3-1-5, highest in potassium & trace elements.

I tested the inferior brand of Brer Rabbit, 30 mg. sodium, 10% potassium, 2% calcium, and 6% iron ... it was great to make the blooms deep pink, but I'm not impressed with seedlings' growth.

I tested cocoa mulch, NPK 3-1-4 with all trace elements, pH 5.6 to 5.8. That stuff is high in potassium, lots of blooming ... except I have to dump alkaline soil on top of cocoa mulch, to prevent fungal germination due to the wet and acidic cocoa mulch. Also to prevent dogs from eating cocoa mulch and get sick. Below is Wise Portia rose, fertilized with cocoa mulch, NPK 3-1-4.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pictures of nutrient deficiencies in plants

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Thu, Jan 16, 14 at 12:38

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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

University of Minnesota Extension stated: " In addition, K (potassium) does not move that far so if soils remain dry, the roots still may not have access to potassium if it is near the surface. Movement of potassium is very limited even in sandy soils. "

EarthCo. professional soil testing company stated that 1/3 of soil tested is deficient in potassium. It's a problem in compacted, dry, and salty clay soil. For my rock hard clay at pH 7.7, EarthCo recommends adding 1/4 lb. of potassium, 1/4 lb. of phosphorus, 4 lbs. of gypsum, and 1.8 lbs. of sulfur per 100 sq. feet. My clay is tested super-high in magnesium. Magnesium is what makes clay sticky. Magnesium deficiency is rare, except for sandy soil. No need to add Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) unless the soil test recommends such. Even gypsum has a salt index of 8, and clay soil is already high in salt.

According to NOBLE plant foundation, nitrogen has high mobility of 10, potassium is a 3 (somewhat mobile), and phosphorus is a 1, immobile. One study showed phosphorus moves down only 1" below per year in loamy soil. With my rock-hard clay, phosphorus gunks up on top and burns surface root.

Most phosphorus contamination of ground water is from dish detergent. Here's a quote from Department of Environmental Conservation, "Dishwasher Detergent:
Beginning August 14, 2010, the law prohibits the sale of newly stocked, phosphorus-containing dishwasher detergents for household use. •Prohibit the application of lawn fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium between December 1st and April 1st. This provision DOES NOT impact agricultural fertilizer or fertilizer for gardens."

Below is an excellent link with pictures of nutrient deficiencies by John Sawyer, Department of Agronomy of Iowa State Extension. It's the best I have seen. The link stated that sulfur deficiency is favored in sandy and acidic soil, or soil low in organic matter, or cold & dry soils in spring that delay release of sulfur from organic matter.

Here is a link that might be useful: Iowa State Extension on nutrient deficiency

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Thu, Jan 16, 14 at 12:33

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 12:27PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Vinegar (acetic acid) doesn't help to green up plants. I tested it for the past 2 years with my pH 8 tap water, and soil pH 7.7. My experience: vinegar hurts plants, burns leaves in hot weather, and doesn't supply any nutrients.

Here's an excerpt from University of Georgia on thick pine bark mulch: "Anaerobic respiration can occur producing acetic acid (vinegar), phenolic and alkaloid compounds toxic to plants."

Banana peel has NPK of 0-3-42, but it's slow-released, and doesn't harm plants. Vinegar is fast-acting acetic acid which burns, and doesn't help with yellow leaves. I get HEALTHIER, greener plants using sulfate compounds as in gypsum (calcium sulfate), and potassium sulfate ... which supply sulfur to fix the yellowish problem.

Sulfur deficiency result in pale top leaves and stunt plant. Vinegar doesn't have sulfur, but gypsum is 21% calcium, and 17% sulfur. Sulfate of potash or potassium sulfate is 20% potassium, 23% sulfur, and 11% magnesium.

Here's a quote on NDSU extension: "Sulfur deficiency is characterized by a yellowing of younger leaves. In North Dakota, plants may be deficient early, with yellow leaves, then roots will reach gypsum deposits deeper in the soil and younger leaves may recover."

KSU Extension has a PDF file on nutrient-deficiencies, which stated that sulfur deficiency shows up as yellowing of younger leaves, most often in sandy soil low in organic matter.
Below is Excellenz von Schubert rose, prefers acidic soil. It's dark-green in my alkaline clay, pH 7.7 since I water it with molasses, plus gypsum (calcium sulfate), and potassium sulfate to supply sulfur. The sugar in molasses helps to acidify soil, plus molasses itself is acidic, no need to add harmful vinegar (acetic acid).

Here is a link that might be useful: Pictures of sulfur deficiency vs. nitrogen

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Sun, Sep 29, 13 at 17:23

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 2:03PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

I got lazy in fixing my pH 8 tap water, so I dumped Encap sulfur granules around Excellenz von Schubert rose ... doesn't work as well. Leaves became yellowish with my tap water, so I STILL have to fix my tap water with molasses pre-mixed with equal parts of gypsum and sulfate of potash. I use 1 tablespoon of that per 2 gallons of water.

Encap sulfur granules supply 11% calcium, plus 49% sulfur .... it's composed of 54% gypsum. Local store sells Epsoma sulfur, which releases 30% sulfur, but doesn't list calcium. Both are slow-acting, best to mix in the planting hole of alkaline soil in advance.

Found a great site on how to fertilizer hibiscus, which are treasured for its large, vibrant blooms. I agree with what the site stated: "Potassium assists in photosynthesis ... hibiscus, with their colorful, huge flowers need more potassium than most plants to assist in these building processes. Potassium also draws water into every plant cell, keeping each cell plump, hydrated, and healthy, which in turn makes the plant lusher and prettier, as well as more resistant to drought and disease."

I was foolish to dump high phosphorus NPK 0-52-34 on roses, rather than using it as diluted soluble, the result? Stunt growth. I tested tomato spikes NPK 6-18-6 (granular phosphorus) which I nailed deep into the soil ....the result was less blooms, and too many leaves.

Here's an excerpt from the below link: "hibiscus do not tolerate phosphorus well, and in high doses, it will slowly damage hibiscus plants over time... We watched the hibiscus go downhill within a couple of weeks of increasing phosphorus! As the trial continued, the hibiscus became stunted, their leaves yellowed, and they looked terrible!

We found out that in several species of plants, phosphorus ties up other minerals and nutrients, such as iron. So our hibiscus were being slowly starved to death. No matter how many nutrients we put in their fertilizer, their roots were absorbing less and less of everything the plants needed."

**** From Straw:

That's what I did to William Shakespeare 2000 own-root rose. I dumped too much granular phosphorus on top ... its leaves and blooms became tiny, despite our recent wet and cool rain. The bush is small, so I can dig up and replace the soil tainted with crystallized triple-superphosphate. Phosphorus is best in soluble and small dose. Too much on top burns root.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hibiscus fertillizing: potassium and phosphorus

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Sun, Sep 29, 13 at 17:26

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 2:17PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

There's a PDF file from Texas A & M that stated, "Excess phosphorus reduce the plant's ability to take up micronutrients, such as iron and zinc.... Iron deficiency is yellowing between leaf veins. Zinc deficiency shows a bleaching of tissues."

See below link on sulfur deficiency, here's an excerpt:

"Sulfur (dissolved as sulfate) is readily leached from the soil, and weathered soils in high rainfall areas frequently have a low sulfur status. Regular high levels of phosphorus application may displace sulfur from the soil matrix and contribute to sulfur depletion...

Sulfur deficiency symptoms are associated with severe stunting, accompanied by reduced leaf size, and reduced activity of axillary buds, resulting in less branching. More excerpts from below link "Sulfur (dissolved as sulfate) is readily leached from the soil, and weathered soils in high rainfall areas frequently have a low sulfur status."

Here is a link that might be useful: Pictures of sulfur defciency

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Thu, Jan 16, 14 at 12:29

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 5:42PM
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This is really what I needed. I was using vinegar water on my EvS and just getting so-so results in the ground. I will try the molasses. Redwood compost in the potting mix that already has peat has brought the plant back to green but I know this plant would rather be out of the pot and in the ground. What do you think of burying the cocoa mulch in the planting hole for EvS?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 6:54PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Hi Kitty: I should had listened to Kim Rupert (Roseseek). He warned me that cocoa mulch is sticky and will glue up with my clay. I was curious and tried anyway. It was great at 1st, tons of earth worm in wet spring. But the dry & hot weather hit and that became glued up.

I mixed cocoa mulch in a few pots, then planted bands immediately. Anaerobic decomposition gave off acids, and stunt bands. But the hole which I layered clay, then sand, then cocoa mulch ... then leave it alone to decompose for 3 months. That was great. That's where I planted Stephen Big Purple rose with lots of cluster blooms.

On the bag of Cocoa Mulch, it said can be used as soil amendment in the fall, and let it decompose through the winter, before planting in the spring. Cocoa Mulch is acidic at pH 5.6, NPK 3-1-4 with all trace elements. If buried fresh would give off even more acid ... great to amend soil ahead, but would hurt plants if not decomposed in advance.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 10:43PM
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Hey Strawberryhill !! Just sayin hey and keeping up with all your interesting posts :) Will need them for future reference anyhow :)

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 9:38AM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Thank you, Alana, for checking in. I'm glad my experiments are useful. I would love to see pics. of your roses and learn about your garden.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 12:00PM
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Mines in pots ATM, hope to have them in the ground this spring :) I only have a couple in ground and only a couple are blooming right now. I got to get a new camera as well :( What's the best way to winterize in pots? I can put some it the green house but it's not big enough for all. I saw where christopher was putting his in a circle of bricks and putting leaves on top. I wouldn't bother but for the last two years in feb. we have gotton snow, it don't last but 4 days tops, but that would be enough to do dammage since it don't stay snow but melts in to ice that stays for the four days. Thanks in advance for any help strawberry and as soon as I get them settled in the ground I will post pictures :)

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 12:29PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Hi Alana: Yes, I would love to see your pics, and esp. of your children. I love seeing kids next to roses. See the link below for a previous thread. I update what I wrote in that thread:

The biggest enemy is drying out and fluctuation of temp.

1) Fluffy stuff that rain/ melted snow can penetrate. I saw my neighbor piled up bark mulch around her HTs, all survived. I tried winterizing rosemary in full sun for many years but failed, until I found a shady spot and dumped fluffy leaves to keep its roots moist through the winter.

3) Shady spot is more stable in temperature than a full-sun location where freeze-melt fluctuation will damage roots. Karen in MI made the same observation.

3) Thick stuff like a heavy car-cover, a thick thermal blanket, but one that you can uncover easily to water your pots twice a month. My neighbor covers her tree-rose with thick Burlap and they are green to the tip with our -20 below zero winter.

Here is a link that might be useful: Seil ... Wintering pots

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 1:11PM
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Thanks Strawberry hill!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 1:28PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Hi Alana: I'm glad I could be of help. If you want Annie L. McDowell's cuttings, please let me know via HMF. Google "HMF and Chicago IL 5a" and my garden will show up, click the tab PM to private mail.

DessertGarden (Lyn) noted that the banana peels she gave to her Excellenz von Shubert in pot caused a decrease in leaves and smaller leaves. Her water is softened with potassium chloride, add banana peels at NPK 0-3-42 increase the potassium further. According to eHow, high potassium drives down nitrogen.

I notice the same with my 2 pots which don't have nitrogen-fixation clover in them. I ran out of Jobes Organic NPK 2-7-4 with beneficial bacteria & fungi, and didn't add to these 2 pots. Both pots show nitrogen deficiency: smaller leaves, stunt growth, and older leaves become yellow.

My experiments with chemical fertilizers? They did more harm than good. Next year it's back to balanced organics, to nourish soil organisms for healthy roses. Found the answer to, "why alkaline clay has plenty of nitrogen". Higher soil pH means more bacteria. More soil bacteria plus organic matter means more nitrogen fixation. Here's an excerpt from the below link:

"Microorganisms have a central role in almost all aspects of nitrogen availability and thus for life support on earth:

•some bacteria can convert N2 into ammonia by the process termed nitrogen fixation; these bacteria are either free-living or form symbiotic associations with plants or other organisms (e.g. termites, protozoa)

•other bacteria bring about transformations of ammonia to nitrate, and of nitrate to N2 or other nitrogen gases •many bacteria and fungi degrade organic matter, releasing fixed nitrogen for reuse by other organisms.
All these processes contribute to the nitrogen cycle."

Here's why decrease in soil pH means more fungi, less bacteria, and less nitrogen in acidic soil:

Contrasting Soil pH Effects on Fungal and Bacterial Growth ABSTRACT
"The influence of pH on the two principal decomposer groups in soil, fungi and bacteria, was investigated along a continuous soil pH gradient at Hoosfield acid strip at Rothamsted Research in the United Kingdom. This experimental location provides a uniform pH gradient, ranging from pH 8.3 to 4.0, within 180 m in a silty loam soil.

The growth-based measurements revealed a fivefold decrease in bacterial growth and a fivefold increase in fungal growth with lower pH. .. Below pH 4.5 there was universal inhibition of all microbial variables. "

See the link below on the role of soil organisms in fixing nitrogen.

Here is a link that might be useful: Nitrogen fixation cycle

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Mon, Sep 30, 13 at 17:53

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 5:50PM
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Let me get a membership Strawberryhill, I don't have one :) Got a free one for now, I'll see if that works! It's not letting ,me :( Is it because I'm not premium?

This post was edited by Alana7bSC on Mon, Sep 30, 13 at 19:51

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 7:41PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

I found University of Kentucky document on "Organic Fertilizers and Composts for Vegetable Transplant" where it document the growth of vegetables by different fertilizers: Chemical Peters 20-10-20, Fish emulsion 5-1-1, and Omega 6-6-6 (blood meal, bone meal, and sulfate of potash).

The study also reported the growth rate when composts are added: worm castings, cow manure, and horse manure. The cow manure had a pH of 4, the worm casting near neutral (pH 6.8), and the horse manure is very alkaline (pH 8.2). The best performance was with cow manure, then worm casting, and least is horse manure (stunt tiny plants, and yellowish).

The best overall yield was with Peter's chemical fertilizer NPK 20-10-20 at 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of water. The next best yield is Omega 6-6-6 (hydrated blood meal, bone meal, and sulfate of potash) at 1 teaspoon per gallon of water.

My conclusion: The experiment was done with vegetable seedlings in pots, thus a higher demand for nitrogen (nitrogen moves with water and leaches out easily). As you can see from the pictures of link below, less fertilizer and frequent application is best.

The best growth was with Peter's 20-10-20 at 1/2 teaspoon per gallon, fertilized 3 times a week. However, the study mentioned that organic fertilizers need to be supplied more often to achieve the rate of growth provided by chemicals.

Here is a link that might be useful: University of Kentucky & organics and vegetable seedlings

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 6:06PM
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Hey Straw,
I really appreciate your willingness to experiment & then share your findings.
A lot is very applicable to my new situation dealing with very alkaline caliche & heavily alkaline well water.
I re-potted some young bands from this spring & last fall that had not done much. They were in some bought local topsoil & just did nothing this year. The past few weeks I've set them in a mix of that soil with some pelletized gypsum, pine fines & aged horse manure. It's a real fluffy mix & in the short time they've been re-potted they have all put out new growth. I'm sorry it's so late in the year because the improvement is very marked, but I look forward to next spring.

I've also pulled some plants that underperformed & replanted them in this mix. They are putting out new basals!

Fighting chlorosis is an ongoing battle here. The uptake of so many nutrients, like iron, is affected by too alkaline soil & water. I'm looking forward to the next growing season & putting this information to use. I had no idea that gypsum would be so beneficial here. Thanks :-)

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 10:17PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Hi Bluegirl: Thank you for joining me here in Organic Roses Forum, much appreciated.

Yesterday I almost ripped my arm carrying buckets of concrete clay, thanks to my mixing peat moss (pH 4) last year with my pH 7.7 clay. Fine particles like peat moss and alfalfa meal glue-up with clay into concrete blocks. Pine fines also glued up, once decomposed. Wood chips takes longer to glue up, due to larger size.

The place where I layered coarse sand with clay ... still nice and fluffy after a decade. Coarse sand is inorganic, doesn't decompose, thus stay separated from clay.

University of California Extension chart below listed 1 ton of gypsum as equivalent to 5.38 ton of sulfur. It also listed 1.09 ton of Ferric Sulfate as equivalent to 5.85 ton of sulfur. I already killed 2 rhododendrons with iron sulfate ... that stuff burns root fast. See link below:

If your soil is acidic, hold off the gypsum. That stuff is great for alkaline soil and water .... but there are better sources of calcium for acidic soil, like bone meal and dolomitic, see link below "Types of calcium for best bloom formation".

Gypsum provides 22% calcium, 17% sulfur, with salt index of 8.1, used to de-salt sodic soil, also to neutralize bicarbonates (calcium hydroxide) in alkaline tap water.

Gypsum is great in breaking up clay at the bottom of the hole. Sulfur is slow-acting, but gypsum is fast-acting ... 1 ton of gypsum is equivalent to 5.38 ton of sulfur. Gypsum is also cheap at $7 for 40 lbs. bag at the feed store, versus $6 for 1 lb. bag of sulfur.

I made the mistake of dumping gypsum on top ... made the surface soil acidic, great for fungal germination. My Evelyn rose broke out in rust and black spots. Plus the scent went away, thanks to too much calcium. That's why folks put lime in bagged soil to deodorize. Too much gypsum also made Evelyn's blooms almost white.

Since I already over-dosed on gypsum, I'll use sulfate of potash to neutralize my alkaline tap water. I like its effect better: shiny glossy leaves, deeper color, bigger blooms ... thanks to the potassium.

Bluegirl, I am more impressed with the instant-green-up of soluble sulfate of potash (aka potassium sulfate) at 23% sulfur and 20% potassium. Sulfate of potash exists naturally, just like gypsum ... both are mined products.

Below is bouquet with Evelyn rose (big pink) and Crimson Glory (red). Evelyn was fertilized with high potassium cocoa mulch NPK 3-1-4, high potassium horse manure, plus soluble gypsum & sulfate of potash.

Deep purple rose is in the middle, made small by my failed experiment of dumping high phosphorus (bone meal) on top and burnt the plant .. I haven't learned my lesson after burning geraniums that hot summer with bone meal.

Here is a link that might be useful: Types of calcium for best bloom formation

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Thu, Jan 16, 14 at 13:06

    Bookmark   October 31, 2013 at 10:20AM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Since I'm into thornless roses. I like this blog by Aimee in Southern CA, describing the height of her rose, plus if they are thorny or not very useful. Among her roses, Gruss an Aachen, Reine des Violetes, and Excellenz von Schubert are almost thornless (few thorns at the bottom).

In her blog, Aimee mentioned about her hybrid perpertual rose balled up. Calcium is used to prevent botrytis and balling in roses. I have Paul Neyron, a hybrid perpetual ... no balling whatsoever in my limestone clay and in Ball professional potting soil with gypsum.

Unfortunately MircleGro potting soil doesn't have gypsum added, so my Comte de Chambord's 1st bloom was deformed. After I added gypsum ... perfect blooms for the past years in my alkaline clay. Same with Annie L. McDowell, it balled in the pot. But once I planted in my limestone clay, plus added gypsum & sulfate of potash, no balling whatsoever, even with prolonged rain. Below is a picture of Annie's bloom, with many petals:

See link below for Aimme's blog on her roses in Southern CA:

Here is a link that might be useful: Aimee's Rose Blog in Southern CA

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Thu, Dec 12, 13 at 15:11

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 2:43PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

My alkaline clay has plenty of nitrogen. According to Wikipedia, "By volume, dry air contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen,[1] 0.93% argon, 0.039% carbon dioxide.

More nitrogen-fixing bacteria at higher pH, no need for chemical nitrogen. Urea and ammonium nitrate are also highest in salt. I induced balling in Paul Neyron and Liv Tyler, when I applied high-nitrogen chemical fertilizer ... eHow stated that high nitrogen drives down calcium. High nitrogen also cause a spurt in soft growth, which enable insects to feast on the soft growth.

I had only one rose afflicted with RRD for the past years, after dumping too much acid fertilizer high in chemical nitrogen. It was also a multiflora-rose, shallow-root, more susceptible to salt-damage. Below is an excerpt on environment damage that high nitrogen cause:

"Nitrogen (with oxygen) naturally transforms into nitrates, and ingested nitrates are transformed into nitrites in the body’s digestive system ...

The United States Environmental Protection Agency warns of the danger of nitrites causing methemoglobinemia (Blue Baby Syndrome) in infants and reports that excess nitrates in drinking water “has been linked to cancer and birth defects.” Other possible links, according to a report published in Environmental Health Perspectives (February 2007), include insulin-dependent diabetes, central nervous system malformations, neural tube defects and hyperthyroidism.

Just as excess nitrogen in the body may be harmful, excess soluble nitrogen creates massive problems in the ecosystem. Nitrogen encourages plant growth in water. According to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), inorganic nitrogen runoff from agricultural fertilizer is mostly responsible for the eutrophication (increase in chemical nutrients) of an increasing number of lakes and oceans, which leads to harmful algal blooms (HABs), including red tides in the ocean and blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) in freshwater lakes." See link "Drowning in excess nitrogen"

The best way to trouble-shoot is to identify nutrient deficiencies in plants. Below is a site that show pictures of both major elements and trace elements deficiencies: nitrogen, calcium, potassium, sulfur, phosphorus, magnesium, boron, manganese, molybedium, zinc, boron, copper, and iron.

Here is a link that might be useful: pictures of nutritional deficiencies in tomatoe

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Thu, Jan 16, 14 at 12:48

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 12:22PM
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