The importance of getting more calcium into your plants

Apart from the big three elements of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, plants also require a readily available source of calcium. Picture: Shutterstock

Apart from the big three elements of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, plants also require a readily available source of calcium. Picture: Shutterstock

Good health comes from good nutrition, and for plants there are 16 essential elements required for growth.

When all essential elements are readily available, growth will be strong, productive, and healthy. As soon as one element is lacking, plants will deviate from normal growth and are more susceptible to pests and diseases.

Apart from the big three elements of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, plants also require a readily available source of calcium.

Calcium is known as the building block of plants; it provides structure to the cell walls and is also used by plants in signalling in a response to stress where it converts environmental stimuli into plant cellular responses. Pretty impressive stuff that underpins its importance as an essential element.

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So, if calcium is so important, why not just add some lime to your soil? Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

The most common forms of calcium available to gardeners comes in the form of agricultural or garden lime and dolomite.

The problem with these products is that while they will add calcium as an element to the soil, it is not in a readily available form to the plant and will also raise soil pH.

What is this you may ask? In simple terms, pH simply refers to the acidity or alkalinity of the soil which is an indication of whether the soil is sweet or sour.

The pH scale ranges from 0-14 with seven being neutral and below that acid and above, alkaline and the availability of nutrients in a soil is largely determined by the soil pH.

So how do we then increase the availability of calcium to plants without raising pH? Applying calcium in a chelated form is the answer.

One of the best ways to achieve this is with a product which contains calcium nitrate in a soluble form readily available for plant uptake, such as Seasol Gold.

The beauty of this product is that it only has maintenance levels of nutrients so regular applications will not have an impact on soil pH in the immediate sense but will have positive effects on plant performance.

The benefits that can be expected in using this formulation of seaweed solution are improved root growth, stress protection and increased plant productivity, flowers and fruits, so when it comes to getting the best performance out your plants, go for gold.

  • John Gabriele is a horticulture teacher with a love for green spaces.