When growing plants there are two important nutrients that often we forget: calcium and magnesium. If we provide plants correct doses of both nutrients, we get better results.
Calcium builds strong stems and leaves. When calcium is taken up by the plant it forms pectin, the glue that binds cell walls together, so a steady supply of calcium is necessary throughout the plants life cycle to strengthen its vascular system. If the plant has a healthy vascular system, it is also able to take up water and all the other essential minerals more efficiently, resulting in a stronger, more disease –resistant plant.
Maintaining adequate levels of magnesium throughout the crop cycle is also essential. Magnesium is the central element in chlorophyll, essential for absorbing light energy and converting it to high-energy sugars. Magnesium also activates more than 300 known enzymes in plant cells, including the enzymes that load sugars for transport throughout the plant. It is especially important when the energy need of the plant are highest, such as during periods of rapid vegetative growth or during heavy fruiting and flowering.
When plants are suffering a deficiency of either of these two nutrients, there are some symptoms that appear in plants. A Calcium deficiency normally shows up in new growth at the growing tips of the plant, causing deformed leaves and reduced root growth. If there is a magnesium deficiency, part of the leaves will turn yellow, because of the lack of chlorophyll, the green pigment in plant leaves and the central element of magnesium. Magnesium deficiencies are fairly common in indoor gardens, due to the powerful HID grow lamps that indoor gardeners often use. As the light become more intense, plants need more magnesium to efficiently use the light energy.
Calcium and magnesium supplements for plants
There are different kinds of calcium and magnesium supplements for our plants. If we add these products, we will give plants the nutrients they need for growing healthier and to the max. Calcium and magnesium supplements may be derived from carbonates, nitrates or sulfates, and it can be added in standard concentrates, powdered supplements or organic supplements.
It is important to be careful with supplements derived from nitrates during flowering, because an excess of nitrates during this stage may delay or event prevent flowering. That’s what happens with standard concentrates, derived from nitrates.
Calcium and magnesium are 98% water soluble and available to the plant, just make sure the powdered supplement is thoroughly diluted with water and mixed well. They should be added to water before any other fertilizers or additives. Powdered supplements contain some nitrates, but not nearly as much as liquid concentrates.
Organic supplements are derived from calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. One of the benefits of calcium and magnesium carbonate is that they contain no nitrate. Therefore, it won’t interfere with flowering. The down side of going organic is that calcium and magnesium carbonate are only sparingly soluble, so in some ways, organic calcium and magnesium may actually change clean water into hard water. The result is the potential for limescale in the root stem. To avoid this, if you choose to use an organic calcium or magnesium product, always use an amino acid supplement with it.
However, added high doses of calcium and magnesium supplements can cause deficiencies too in our plants, like limescale in the root stem, damaging roots and avoiding the plant capacity to absorb necessary nutrients. So it’s important to quantify the doses of nutrients we added to our plants, according to the type of plant or growing stage.
Saturation of calcium and magnesium happens when we add these supplements to water without knowing the exact doses of calcium and magnesium that our water already contains. We can use our EC meter to measure the total quantity of dissolved mineral salts in our water but that still will not tell us what the percentage of calcium and magnesium are.
To simplify this process, most growers prefer to use Reverse Osmosis water (RO). That way, they can start to irrigate with pure water (0,0 EC), without dissolved salts, that means without calcium and magnesium. By starting with pure water, growers can then add the exact quantities of nutrients and supplements their plants really need. Learn more about reverse osmosis.
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