Like all living organisms, plants require nutrition to live and develop. Nutrients come in the form of fertilizer, via organic or inorganic sources, and are obtained by plant roots from soil solution or through the pores on leaves. The three most important fertilizers for plants are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Nitrogen produces amino acids and proteins to build plant tissues. Phosphorus plays a role in root, flower and fruit production, while potassium helps a plant transport water, nutrients and carbohydrates within their tissues. Soils in our area usually contain plenty of potassium but we do need to supply a source of phosphorus and nitrogen.
Here’s a cool bit of information about nitrogen that I have always found interesting. I’m sure you have noticed just how quickly things have burst into vibrant green growth with the onset of our monsoon. Sure, it’s because of the extra water and humidity that allow plants to really open up their pores and draw a lot of water, nutrients, and carbon dioxide for peek photosynthesis. But there is another huge factor that plays out during a monsoon storm – lightning! Lightning is able to break the very strong bond energy of nitrogen floating around in our atmosphere.
Nitrogen occurs naturally in gaseous form in our atmosphere as two atoms of nitrogen bound together by a powerful triple bond. It requires a very high amount of energy to break that bond and release the nitrogen to form into a compound that plants can use. The process to break the bond of nitrogen can only occur by high energy industrial processes, soil microorganisms, or by atmospheric lightning.
When electrical discharges occur during storms, the broken nitrogen molecules combine with oxygen in the atmosphere to form oxides. The nitrogen oxides are dissolved by rain then brought down to the soil and plant surfaces to be immediately absorbed as nitrate. Now that’s something neat to think about the next time a summer thunderstorm is roaring through!
Even with this burst of immediate nutrition, large amounts of water will also wash the nitrates away, so we still need to be diligent with our fertilizing regime in our gardens.
What to plant in August: Continue planting short season warm weather crops through the end of this month. Examples include bush beans, summer squash, and 60-day corn varieties. Start thinking about which leafy greens or fall broccoli you might like to try and seed at the end of August. Check seed packets or plant tags for days to maturity to determine if there is enough time for a crop to set before our first frost. Monsoon time is a perfect time to plant a vegetable garden!
I still have many plants, herbs and some ornamentals available. Please contact me at email@example.com if you are interested in visiting my greenhouse or if you have any questions or comments. Happy monsoon gardening!