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How To Add Nitrogen to Garden Soil

Nitrogen is one of the most vital chemical compounds in garden soil. Improper nitrogen levels can impact the health of your plants. The best results demand attention to nitrogen deficiency in plants. Thankfully, it is easy to add nitrogen to soil. Here's a quick guide.

Why Do Plants Need Nitrogen?

There are many people who grow plants without giving a second thought to nitrogen. The truth is that nitrogen is a core nutrient that affects many elements of plant growth. Just like amino acids are essential to human health, nitrogen is a building block of plant life.

What does nitrogen do for your garden? Nitrogen helps to facilitate photosynthesis. It also helps to form chlorophyll and protein. Because nitrogen exists naturally in the earth's atmosphere, it tends to be overlooked. There are those who struggle to understand why their plants won't thrive, and the answer may be as simple as low-nitrogen soil.

What Is the Main Source of Nitrogen in Soils?

For humans, getting the nitrogen we need is not a problem. About 78% of the air we breathe is composed of nitrogen. Plants have a tougher time. They need nitrogen in the soil they inhabit so they can convert it for important processes.

Common sources of nitrogen in soil include animal manure. Organic waste is generally the nitrogen source for plants in areas of wild growth. Nature does a pretty good job of taking care of its own in this regard, but a little help can work wonders in your own garden.

What Does Adding Nitrogen to Soil Do?

When you add nitrogen to garden soil, the nitrogen ions are increased. This makes nitrogen accessible in a form that plants can use. Plants cannot breathe nitrogen the way that we do.

Once nitrogen is present in the soil, your plants will absorb it and convert it into a form that helps to promote all those important plant processes.

How To Add Nitrogen to Soil

Managing the chemical composition of garden soil can be a little bit intimidating. The good news is that you don't need a college education in chemistry to boost nitrogen levels in your garden. The process has become much easier over the years with the development of nitrogen-rich fertilizers.

There are multiple ways to raise nitrogen levels. Most experts agree that raising the level of nitrogen in garden soil organically is the best practice. It takes longer, but the process is more thorough.

If you choose to use a high-nitrogen fertilizer, there is a chance that nitrogen levels can be raised too high. This can cause plants to "burn" or become damaged. This is a faster process, but the risks are greater.

How do you increase nitrogen in soil organically? It's a good question. Your best bet is to add composted manure. Before you simply spread chicken or rabbit droppings on your garden, there are a few things you need to know.

Composted Manure as a Source of Organic Nitrogen

If you are a homesteader or someone who has animals on your property, the process of adding nitrogen just got a lot easier. All you need to do is collect and compost manure for a steady supply of fertilizer.

The thing to remember is that nitrogen levels in manure are very high. If you spread it directly on the ground around plants, you will probably cause damage. This is sometimes referred to as "burning" plants.

You will find that different types of manure have different levels of nitrogen. Those with higher levels will burn plants faster. Add the manure to food and garden waste to create a compost. Then begin with small amounts of compost and mix it in with the soil.

Understand that this is not a fast method of raising nitrogen. The nitrogen will last longer in the soil, though, and the process is better for the environment.

What Is the Fastest Way To Add Nitrogen to Soil?

If you don't want to wait for the effects of composted manure to take hold, you can use a commercial fertilizer that is specifically developed to raise nitrogen levels. These fertilizers are available in varying strengths, and using them is simple.

Most of these fertilizers are in pellet form. You simply add the product to your garden soil and mix it in. While these fertilizers work fast, you will need to use care with their application. Too much can burn plants and kill them.

Other Questions To Consider

Here are a couple of other questions that you may have about nitrogen levels in garden soil.

When Should I Add Nitrogen to My Garden?

This depends on the type of soil amendment that you have chosen to use. Composted manure will need to be applied well in advance of the gardening season because it takes longer to work. You can use nitrogen fertilizer after plants have been established. If you choose the fertilizer route, avoid adding the amendment in the hottest part of the day.

What Garden Vegetables Need Nitrogen?

All plants need nitrogen, but some vegetables tolerate it more than others. Tomatoes, peppers and greens can all tolerate high nitrogen levels. Cucumbers, squash and okra are also responsive to nitrogen amendments.

With this information on raising the nitrogen levels in your garden, you should be on the way to impressive results in no time. Your diligence will be rewarded in the form of healthier plants and higher yields.


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