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Calcium for your Garden

Calcium is regarded as a vital nutrient for plant growth, health, and development. It plays a critical role in various processes within the plant, such as the development and maintenance of cell walls, the regulation of metabolic processes, and in promoting strong stems and healthy foliage. 

Calcium helps in reducing plant susceptibility to various pests and diseases. However, excessive levels of calcium can lead to an imbalance in soil pH, which can reduce nutrient absorption abilities and ultimately negatively affect plant growth. 

This article aims to provide an informative guide on the essential aspects of adding calcium to soil as it relates to gardening activities.

Table of Contents

Signs of Calcium Deficiency

Calcium is essential for plant growth; therefore, a deficiency in the nutrient can have detrimental effects on plants. 

Signs of calcium deficiency include stunted growth, curling of young leaves or shoots, bud and root growth inhibition, leaf scorching or spotting, yellowing of leaves, burnt leaf tips, blossom end rot on tomatoes, and bitter pits in apples. 

It is essential to identify these signs early and take corrective measures before the damage becomes irreparable.

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How to Add Calcium to Soil?

Calcium can be added to soil through various means, including:

1. Liming: Lime, which is commonly known as calcium carbonate, can be added to soil as a means of supplementing calcium levels. However, liming should not be applied without soil analysis, since the addition of lime can raise the soil’s pH, making it more alkaline. Additionally, Calcium nitrate and calcium chloride solutions can be sprayed onto foliage to correct sudden severe deficiency symptoms.

2. Gypsum: Calcium sulfate, which is commonly known as gypsum, can also be used as a fast-acting calcium supplement. It has a low CEC, and it will not affect the soil’s pH.

3. Dolomite: This supplement is mainly used for raising the pH of low-magnesium soils. Dolomite contains magnesium, carbonates, and calcium, which allows for the dual effect of raising calcium levels while maintaining or raising magnesium levels.

4. Bone Meal: Bone meal is a slow-release calcium supplement that is effective in moderately raising soil pH. Its high phosphate content makes it an excellent fertilizer for bulbs and root crops.

5. Eggshells: Crushed eggshells are another organic source of plant calcium, and they can be added directly to the soil and are an excellent long-term supplement for planting beds.

Factors to Consider When Adding Calcium to Soil

Before adding calcium to soil, it is essential to consider the following factors:

1. Soil Testing – A soil test can provide valuable information about calcium levels and pH levels. The test results help in determining if calcium is required, how much of it, and the most suitable supplement to use.

2. Plant Needs – Different plants have varying calcium requirements. Some plants require large amounts of calcium, such as broccoli and other brassicas, while others like beans and peas require less.

3. Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) – CEC measures the soil’s ability to absorb and hold calcium. High CEC soils contain more clay and organic matter that absorb and retain water, nutrients and promote healthy plant growth.

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Tips for Maximizing Calcium Uptake by Plants

Plants require calcium for several processes, and it is necessary to maximize plant calcium uptake. Here are some tips to achieve this:

1. Proper Watering – Sufficient watering is critical for proper calcium uptake by plants. Adequate water ensures that the nutrient is transported from the root to the leaves and other plant tissues.

2. Avoid Soil Moisture Stress – Both moisture deficiency and excess can affect calcium uptake. Therefore, it is essential to maintain the correct soil moisture.

3. Soil pH – Soil pH directly impacts the availability of calcium. Lowering the pH of the soil through the addition of elemental sulfur makes it easier for plants to attain calcium.

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