How to Apply Nitrogen to Garden Soil
Nitrogen is the most leach nutrient in garden soil, the presence of nitrogen is so important because nitrogen supports plant life in so many ways. This macronutrient is a major component of chlorophyll, chlorophyll aids plants in converting the energy of the sunlight into sugars from water and carbon dioxide.
Nitrogen is also a major component of amino acids which form the building blocks of plant proteins and enzymes, without proteins plants will wither and die. The structural material of all living matter and enzymes is made up of proteins, enzymes make it easy for the vast array of biochemical reactions within a plant.
11 Ways to Add Nitrogen to Soil
1. Compost- Adding compost to your garden plant beds is an all-natural way to supply your garden plants with nitrogen, compost is derived from edible plant materials such as leftover vegetable and fruit parts, eggshells, coffee ground, leaves, grass clippings, plant leaves, etc…
These organic materials will release nitrogen and other nutrients slowly over time, this process may take a while but your soil and garden plants will benefit in the long run. What I love about composting is there are no side effects, the presence of composting will increase microbial activity and you will save money by using those kitchen scraps that are beneficial.
Never add diseased leaf clippings and grass clippings to your compost bid which will encourage pathogen or disease. Never add meat scraps product to your compost because this move will encourage rodents, and give off a foul odor as it decomposes and will contaminate your edible food crops.
2. Synthetic Fertilizers- Synthetic fertilizers are man-made, these fertilizers in water-soluble or liquid form will release nitrogen quickly to garden plants. However, caution should be taken before applying these types of fertilizers because if applied too heavily or in high concentration will lead to plant burn, wilt, deterioration, and possibly death. Before applying synthetic fertilizers read and follow the manufacturer’s directions for the best results.
3. Soil Tilling- Soil tilling has its benefits but frequently tilling the soil can overwork garden soils, when this happens the soil’s structure will degrade depleting the soil of nitrogen. Infrequent tilling will help to preserve the soil’s structures, this infrequent tilling will make the soil more resistant to erosion, increase the soil’s water holding capacity, promote biological activity, and garden soil will not be compacted, and increase organic matter content that will boost the soil’s health.
4. Adding Mulch- The addition of mulches does not only increase the aesthetics of a well-designed garden but mulch can also add nitrogen to the soil as it decomposes over time. Mulch also suppresses weeds, helps to retain moisture for garden plants, keeps the few top inches of garden soil cool, can protect plants roots from injury during the winter months, can help to reduce nutrients from being leach from the soil, improves drainage and structure and provides a habitat for beneficial insects that helps to support plant life.
5. Worm Casting- Worm casting is another all-natural way to add nitrogen to the soil for the uptake of garden plants, for more on how to worm cast refer to this link worm casting.
6. Animal Manure- This natural organic is so beneficial to plant life, manure such as chicken, duck, cow, horse, and turkey are great. Animal manure however can be pretty costly so you may want to shop around for the best prices. Never apply manure when fresh which can lead to plant burn.
7. Seedweed- Can also be used, the older generation back in the day would collect seaweeds from coastal areas wash away the salt thoroughly with fresh water then apply it to their garden bed. My wife and I tried this method many years ago and it worked in our favor. Seaweed fertilizers can also be purchased in liquid form
8. Plant Nitrogen-Fixing Plants- Plants such as legumes and beans are considered to be plant nitrogen-fixing plants that add nitrogen to the soil as they grow. These plants are known to fix nitrogen in the soil instead of removing it, this is one reason why crop rotation is recommended and should be planned out for several years. Its also recommended to avoid or cut back on fertilizing garden plant bed areas where bean crops were grown the year before because the soil may contain high amounts of nitrogen.
9. Grass Clippings- The use of grass clippings can help to increase the soil’s nitrogen level, when cutting your lawn use a mower that has a grass clipping catch bag. Once the clippings are collected can be raked in or scattered onto plant beds, some of that clippings should be allowed to remain on the lawn or return and raked into the lawn. The recycling of grass clippings will give your lawn a nitrogen boost.
10. Fish Emulsion- Fish Emulsion is produced from fish by-products, while this fertilizer carries an odor, will supply your plants with the nitrogen that they need. A few times my wife planted fish in our garden and it worked well for our plants.
11. Blood Meal- Blood meal is dried animal blood that is also used to supply garden plants with nitrogen, when applying blood meal always follow the manufacturer’s direction first because an incorrect application of this fertilizer can burn plants
Signs of Nitrogen deficiency
If you are not sure that your garden plants have a nitrogen deficiency here is what to look for
- Pale yellowish green leaves
- Deficiency will appear first on the lower leaves (older leaves)
- Slow plant growth
- The plant begins to thin out
- Garden plants produce weak branches or shoots
- Flower and fruiting will be reduced
- Some species of plants will show signs of stems having purple strips
- Reduction in the growth of new leaves
What Causes Nitrogen Deficiency
- A plant root system that is dysfunctional or damaged by disease, the wrong transplanting procedure, or some other reasons
- Natural soil depletion is also another factor, remember nitrogen is soluble and will leach quickly away from the plant’s roots and out of the soil, especially during frequent rainfall
- Incorrect soil pH (potential Hydrogen) this is why it’s always best to get a soil pH test done, if there is a chemical imbalance will look up some nutrients. A soil pH test can be done by a lab, a professional gardening or landscape company or you can carry out the soil pH test yourself with a home test kit. But if you’re not sure or comfortable with doing the test yourself then hire a credible company.
- Too much chloride, zinc, manganese, or potassium can prevent certain nutrients such as nitrogen to be absorbed by garden plants in great quantities
- If insufficient nitrogen is being provided by the source that’s being used or incorrect application of nutrients, therefore it’s best to read and follow the manufacturer’s directions (fertilizers bag label) for the best results
As soon as you discover your garden plant/plants have a nitrogen deficiency don’t allow this deficiency to persist because your plant/plants will continue to drastically decline.
The final word on how to add nitrogen to the soil
Now that you have a proper understanding of nitrogen, its importance, and how it’s used by plant life you can go ahead and make applications. Nitrogen is so important that we cannot afford to deprive our garden plants of this major macronutrient that is a must for plants to grow healthy and vibrant. If we would expect our garden plants to be good to us then we must be good to our-garden plants that is depending on us to provide the nitrogen they need.
About the author
Norman loves being in the garden, both at home and for his job....
he is 'Natures Little helper' being outdoors, growing his vegetables and flowers from an early age.
Now having spent over 22 years in the profession he want to give some of his knowledge to others...
his vast array of hints and tips you will find scattered over this site will help you no end growing plants in your garden.