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Your plant's health is Elementary my dear | What’s in your soil?

May 14, 2020

Whats wrong with my fruit tree? test soil for lacking nutrients

When we are feeling run down we are more susceptible to health issues. We usually take ailments to feel better. Whether it’s herbal tea, antibiotics or Grandmas’ secret recipe, we know what helps us to feel better, regain our strength and bounce back. Our garden isn’t too dissimilar to us.

The health of your plants is very important, and at times they can be looking a little on the down side and when they are not healthy, they are more likely to be attacked by pests and diseases.

Your soils contain many nutrients that your plants require, some are only necessary in small doses and others need to be constantly acquired by your plants to assist with their day to day living.

Most people have heard of NPK, but do you know what it represents and how it assists the health of your tree and how other elements benefit or harm your garden?

Nitrogen (N)

A nitrogen deficient leaf on a fruit tree

Image by globalnetacademy.ed.au

Nitrogen gives your plants the energy they require to produce fruit and grow. It also assists the chlorophyll molecules to make the leaves nice and green and it is a necessary food for photosynthesis. Nitrogen is absorbed best when the pH level of the soil is 6.0 and 7.5.

Symptoms of Nitrogen deficiency in fruit trees

Stunted shoot growth, thin foliage cover and die back of twigs. Poor fruit set and fruit size. Older leaves appear pale green-yellow.

Symptoms of excess Nitrogen in fruit trees

Thick skinned, large puffy fruit, vigorous vegetative growth, delayed maturity, percentage of juice and juice quality declines, shorter storage life and chance of re-greening. 

 

Phosphorus (P)

Phosphorus deficient stone fruit tree

Phosphorus deficient apple tree

 

Image by growabundant.com

Phosphorus assists with photosynthesis, respiration and cell division and aids in the storage of energy.

Phosphorus is absorbed best at pH 6.5-7.5.

Symptoms of Phosphorus deficiency in fruit trees

Fewer flowers, misshapen fruit, open centres, thick coarse peels, pulpy fruit, lower juice and more acid. Old leaves are a dull bronzed green

Symptoms of excess Phosphorus in fruit trees

Smaller fruit, higher percentage of juice, chance of re-greening and thinner peel.

 

Potassium (K) 

Potassium deficient leaf

Image by westcentalfs.com

Potassium helps with energy storage and assists with photosynthesis, respiration and cell division. Utilised for stress and disease resistance.

Potassium is best absorbed when pH is 6.0-10.0.

Symptoms of deficiency in fruit trees

Small leaves, slower growth and heavy leaf fall. Severe deficiency causes heavy fruit and flower drop. Small smooth skinned fruit that colour early in the season, they also split easily and are more susceptible to albedo breakdown.

 

Carbon (C)

Carbon aids soil fertility. This can be increased using shredded newspaper or cardboard in the garden or by planting green manure or cover crops, like Lucerne and Alfalfa, as a mulch.

 

Boron (B)

Boron deficiency in fruit trees

Image via pinterest.com

Boron helps cell division, seed development and to transport sugars through the plant.

Boron is best absorbed when pH is 5.0-6.8

Symptoms of Boron deficiency

Lopsided, malformed grey to brown fruit with gum pockets, stumpy roots, yellow veins on young leaves. Heavy fruit shedding.

Symptoms of excess Boron

Yellow dead leaf tips, leaf fall and die back and reduced yield.

 

Calcium (Ca)

Calcium deficient leaf

Image by eplants.com

Calcium holds cell walls together

Calcium is best absorbed when pH is 6.7-7-4

Symptoms of Calcium deficiency

Deformed leaf and shoot growth.

 

Manganese (Mn) 

Manganese deficiency in fruit trees

Image by growerssecret.com

Manganese assists with photosynthesis

Manganese is best absorbed when pH is 5.0-7.4

Symptoms of Manganese deficiency 

Young leaves are mottled pale green with inter-veinal yellowing. Reduces growth and a slight loss of yield

 

Magnesium (Mg)

Magnesium deficiency in fruit trees

Image by greenwaybiotech.com

Magnesium is the photosynthesis powerhouse. Without Magnesium, chlorophyll cannot capture sunlight.

Magnesium is best absorbed when pH is 6.5-8.5.

Symptoms of Magnesium deficiency

Yellowing towards apex of leaves with a triangle area remaining green at the base in older leaves, can also cause defoliation (loss of leaves) and shoot dieback. Fruit are smaller and yield lowered.

Symptoms of excess Magnesium

None known.

 

Zinc (Zn)

Zinc deficient leaf

Image via pinterest.com

Only small amounts of Zinc are needed. It is utilised by the plant for phytohormone metabolism- growth hormone production and internode elongation, which is when cells divide multiple times, this elongates the cell giving it thickness. It also helps with protein synthesis, stress tolerance and chlorophyll formation.

Zinc is best absorbed when pH is 5.0-7.0.

Symptoms of Zinc deficiency

Leaves are generally narrow and small with creamy white to yellow blotches on young leaves. Terminal growth is retarded, tree vigour is reduced and small twigs or stems die. Poor fruit quality and lower yields.

Symptoms of excess Zinc

Unknown.

 

Iron (Fe)

Iron deficient leafm on fruit tree

Image via youtube.com

Iron gives the plant oxygen during chlorophyll production and helps with the green colouration.

Iron is best absorbed when pH is 4.0-6.8.

Symptoms of Iron deficiency

Stunted abnormal growth, young leaves are chlorotic and tips, veins and margins remain green the longest. Reduces plant yield and lowers vigour.

Molybdenum (Mo) 

Molybdenum deficient leaf

Image via pinterest.com

Molybdenum converts nitrate to nitrite and then to ammonia, this is then used to synthesis amino acids.

Molybdenum is best absorbed when pH is 8.8-10.0.

Symptoms of Molybdenum deficiency

Similar to nitrogen deficiency, yellow spots on leaves in Spring.

 

Copper (Cu)

Copper deficiency in fruit trees

Image via keys.lucindcental.org

Copper aids with tissue strength, stress tolerance, respiration and helps to metabolise carbohydrates and proteins, it is also necessary for photosynthesis.

Copper is best absorbed when pH is 5.0-7.0.

Symptoms of Copper deficiency 

Peel may be brown with gum stained areas. Dark brown gum pockets on young shoots and shoot dieback. Fruit splitting is more likely.

Symptoms of excess Copper

Stunted roots and shoots.

 

Sulphur (S)

Sulphur deficiency in fruit trees

Image via extensions.unh.edu

Suphur is similar to Nitrogen however it is only needed in small amounts.

Sulphur is best absorbed when pH is 6.0-10.0.

Symptoms of Sulphur deficiency

Young leaves are pale green/yellow with lighter veins and have stunted growth.

 

Sodium (Na)

Excess sodium in fruit trees

Symptoms of Sodium deficiency 

None known

Symptoms of excess Sodium

Leaf burn, defoliation and dieback.




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