“Properties of Soil for Maximum Growth Results!”

For vegetable gardening we break down the properties of soil into sixteen chemical elements, or nutrients, important for plants to grow well.  These sixteen elements are divided into two groups known as non-mineral and mineral.  They are further broken down into macronutrients and micronutrients.

properties of soil

Within the properties of soil the non-mineral elements are Hydrogen (H), Oxygen (O), and Carbon (C).  These elements are found in air & water and are absorbed by the plant in a process called photosynthesis.  Photosynthesis is when plants use the energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide (CO2 – carbon & oxygen) and water into plant food in the form of starches and sugars.

The properties of soil also contain mineral elements.  There are thirteen mineral elements, or nutrients, which are broken into two groups known, Macronutrients and Micronutrients.  Large amounts of macronutrients are needed for plant growth as compared to micronutrients.

Macronutrients are divided into two additional groups called primary nutrient and secondary nutrients.

  • Primary Macronutrients:
    • Nitrogen (N)
    • Phosphorus (P),
    • Potassium (K)
  • Secondary Macronutrients:
    • Calcium (Ca)
    • Magnesium (Mg)
    • Sulfur (S)

Micronutrients are still essential nutrients for plant growth, but in very small (micro) amounts.  You may also hear these elements called trace or minor elements.

  • Iron (Fe)
  • Manganese (Mn)
  • Boron (B)
  • Copper (Cu)
  • Zinc (Zn)
  • Chloride (Cl),
  • Molybdenum (Mo)

The properties of soil don’t stop here as there are dozens of other micronutrients certain plants may sometimes need, but the seven listed above are the most important for the vast majority of plants.

Most gardening soils need additional macronutrients throughout the season.  The majority of micronutrients needed by plants are found naturally in soils though sometimes it may be necessary to supplement one or more of these nutrients into the properties of soil.

Never, Never, Never, add additional macro or micronutrients without knowing what your soil pH is. Even after you know what your soil pH is you absolutely have to know what the current levels of all the macro and micro nutrients are in order to ensure you don’t over or under fertilize.  The best way to know these levels is through a professional soils test.

See Gardening Soil for more details on the properties of soil and on the effects of soil pH and nutrients.