Plants need nutrients for growth. Three elements-oxygen, carbon and hydrogen—come from the air and water. The other thirteen nutrients are found in the soil. Three of these thirteen are major nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Another three are secondary: calcium, manganese and sulfur. Seven are micronutrients: zinc, iron, magnesium, copper, molybdenum, boron and chlorine.
The major nutrients are needed by most vegetables in large amounts. They have a strong effect on the growth of stems, leaves, roots and fruits. You must make sure your soil has sufficient supplies of nitrogen, phosphorus and potash.
Among the secondary nutrients, calcium promotes early growth, magnesium is an important component
of chlorophyll, and sulfur is a constituent of protein. All are needed for healthy growth. Although the micronutrients are needed only in very small quantities they are important, and should not be overlooked.
Most garden soils are not perfect—they are generally deficient in one or several of the basic nutritional elements. For maximum production of healthy vegetables, it is therefore generally necessary to provide some kind of fertilizer to the soil.
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