Trace Elements

Trace Elements

A Trace element,also called Micronutrient,is any chemical elementrequired by living organisms in minute amounts to live. Exact needs vary among species, but there are 8 essential trace element every plant needs to thrive. These essentialplant micronutrients include copper, boron, zinc, manganese, chlorine, nickel, iron and molybdenum. Lack of a necessary plantmicronutrient in the soil causes plant deficiency diseases. From

  • 8 essential trace elements
  • Needed in varying amounts
  • If one or more nutrients are lacking in the soil, plant health declines, even though an adequate amount of other elements are available

Like vitamins for plants. Trace elements (aka micronutrients) are only needed in tiny amounts but are critical to a healthy landscape. Each trace element plays a unique role in how plants grow, fight off disease and stay looking beautiful.

Plant Nutrition

Plant Nutrition

Proper plant nutrition not only involves the 16 essential nutrients for plant growth, but also the ability for plants to absorb and break down nutrients into a form they can use.

  • There are 16 essential nutrients for healthy plant growth
  • Synthetic fertilizers can be a good thing with controlled release
  • Just because its ‘organic’ doesn’t mean its safe

NPK, the three numbers on your fertilizer bag are just the start when talking about healthy and sustainable plant nutrition. Take a closer look at the nutrition plants need and how it is broken down into a form roots can use. Also, find out the real story behind Organic vs. Synthetic fertilizer and decide what’s best for you.

NPKis used to label fertilizer based on the relative content of the chemical elements nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) that are commonly used in fertilizers. When you notice three numbers on a bag label such as 8-4-3, this is telling you that the fertilizer contains 8% nitrogen (N), 4% phosphorus (P) and 3% potassium (K).
For your landscape to live and grow, your plants will need to receive 14 essential nutrients needed for healthy plant growth. Even though each of these nutrients are essential, plants do not use the same amount of each one. In fact, nutrients are categorized by the relative amount plants use:
Primary Macronutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K)

• Secondary Macronutrients: calcium (Ca), sulphur (S), magnesium (Mg)
• Micronutrients / Trace Elements: boron (B), chlorine (Cl), manganese (Mn), iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), molybdenum (Mo), nickel (Ni)
• The macronutrients are consumed in larger quantities whereas trace elements are needed in only tiny amounts.

As your plants continue to grow, they will consume these nutrients and use them to make new leaves, flowers or fruits. You will need to replenish the soil with not only just NPK, but all the rest of the essential nutrients as well.

The Fix it! Program is the place to start when your landscape needs a little TLC. Click here to learn more.
The Feed it! Program is the best way to maintain the beautiful landscape you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Click here to learn more.

Planting Depth

Planting Depth

The depth at which plants are planted in the soil relative to the rootball or root flare.

  • Planting too deep is a very common practice that can have deadly consequences
  • 75% of trees in your local nursery are buried too deep in the container (Maynard 1995)
  • 93% of professionally planted trees are planted too deep (Smiley and Booth 2000)

When a tree is sick or not doing well, the culprit is often assumed to be either insect, disease or fertilizer-related. While this is sometimes the case, when investigating the reason for a plant’s decline, planting depth should be added to the list of likely suspects. In fact, a study done in 2000 by Smiley and Booth found that 93% of professionally planted trees and 75% of nursery-grown trees are planted too deep!

To find out if your tree or shrub has been planted too deep, there are a couple things to look for:

1. Check for root flare
Root flare is the part of the tree that functions as a transition from the trunk to the roots. It should be located just at ground level and will typically have a tapered or flared shape. If a tree enters the ground straight like a telephone pole and lacks a root flare, it may be an indication that the tree has been planted too deep.

2. Check for root depth
In most cases, tree roots should be located just beneath the surface of the soil. To test this, dig down gently around the base of your tree to locate the roots. When planted correctly, tree roots should be no deeper than 1/2″-1″ deep. If the first roots you find are much deeper than this, it may mean that the tree has been planted too deep.

After identifying a tree that has been planted too deep, some corrective action needs to be taken. If the tree is young or small enough, replanting is the best option. If replanting is not an option, the next best thing is to keep pulling away soil from the trunk of the tree until the root flare is exposed and roots are 1/2″-1″ below the soil surface.
Symptoms of trees planted to deep in the landscape include:

  • Reduced growth rate
  • Dwarfed leaf size and/or defoliation
  • Yellowing (often mistaken for poor soil nutrition)
  • Late spring leaf emergence
  • Early fall coloration
  • Bark splitting
  • Increased susceptibility to borers
  • Girdling roots
  • Branch dieback
  • Eventual tree death


Soil Compaction

Soil Compaction

Condition when soil particles have been packed tightly together forcing air out from the pores between the soil grains. Normally, compaction is the result of heavy machinery, people or animal traffic. Affected soils become less able to absorb water from rain or irrigation, thus increasing runoff and erosion. From:

  • Tightly compacted soil has no air for roots to grow
  • Water runoff and poor plant growth are symptoms of soil compaction
  • Any soil type from clay to sand can be compacted

Hard compacted soil can make it hard for roots to break through and grow deep. It also decreases drainage and the ability for air, water and nutrients to circulate through the soil. Compacted soil is a common yet often overlooked problem in the landscape that if gone untreated will make it very difficult for your landscape to thrive no matter how much you feed and water.

Plants have difficulty in compacted soil because the mineral grains are pressed together, leaving little space for air and water, which are essential for root growth. The ability of a soil to recover from this type of compaction depends on climate, mineralogy and fauna. Soils with high shrink-swell capacity, such as vertisols, recover quickly from compaction where moisture conditions are variable (dry spells shrink the soil, causing it to crack). But clays which do not crack as they dry cannot recover from compaction on their own unless they host ground-dwelling animals such as earthworms.

Soil pH

Soil PH

Soil pH or soil reaction is an indication of the acidity or alkalinity of soil and is measured in pH units.
It is defined as the negative logarithm of the hydrogen ion concentration. The pH scale goes from 0 to 14 with pH 7 as the neutral point. As the amount of hydrogen ions in the soil increases the soil pH decreases thus becoming more acidic. From:

  • Lower pH is more acidic, higher pH is more alkaline and pH 7 is neutral
  • Too high or low of soil pH can hurt a plants ability to absorb nutrients
  • Most plants prefer a soil pH around 7 or neutral

Descriptive terms commonly associated with certain ranges in soil pH are:

  • Extremely acid: < than 4.5; lemon=2.5; vinegar=3.0; stomach acid=2.0; soda=2–4
  • Very strongly acid: 4.5–5.0; beer=4.5–5.0; tomatoes=4.5
  • Strongly acid: 5.1–5.5; carrots=5.0; asparagus=5.5; boric acid=5.2; cabbage=5.3
  • Moderately acid: 5.6–6.0; potatoes=5.6
  • Slightly acid:6.1–6.5; salmon=6.2; cow’s milk=6.5
  • Neutral:6.6–7.3; saliva=6.6–7.3; blood=7.3; shrimp=7.0
  • Slightly alkaline:7.4–7.8; eggs=7.6–7.8
  • Moderately alkaline:7.9–8.4; sea water=8.2; sodium bicarbonate=8.4
  • Strongly alkaline:8.5–9.0; borax=9.0
  • Very strongly alkaline:> than 9.1; milk of magnesia=10.5, ammonia=11.1; lime=12




The rhizosphere is the narrow region of soil that is directly influenced by root secretions and associated soil microorganisms.[2]Soil which is not part of the rhizosphere is known as bulk soil. The rhizosphere contains many bacteriathat feed on sloughed-off plant cells, termed rhizodeposition, and the proteins and sugars released by roots. Protozoaand nematodes that graze on bacteria are also more abundant in the rhizosphere. Thus, much of the nutrient cycling and disease suppression needed by plants occurs immediately adjacent to roots. From

  • Location where root hairs and soil meet
  • Tons of microbe activity
  • A healthy rhizosphere is key to a healthy landscape

The most important area for plant growth and health is the 1 millimeter of soil surrounding each root called the rhizosphere.This tiny area is teaming with activity and it is where the plant interacts with its soil environment and all the other living organisms that make life possible. In fact, there may be up to 1 billion organisms in a single teaspoon of healthy soil.



a type of fungus whose name is derived from the Greek mykós meaning “fungus” and rizameaning “root”. Mycorrhizae or “fungus root” forms a unique symbiotic or beneficial association with the roots of plants. This association issymbiotic because the relationship is advantageous for both organisms. The plant gains increased access to water and nutrients in the rhizosphere (surrounding soil). The mycorrhizae uses the excess carbon from the plant as a food source. From:

  • 95% of all plants form symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizae
  • The mycorrhizal relationship benefits BOTH the plant and mycorrhizae fungus
  • Increase the surface absorbing area of roots 100-1,000X

Our Heroes! Greek for “fungus root”, mycorrhizae is an amazing soil microbe that forms a symbiotic relationship with the roots of nearly every plant in the world. They are an important component of soil life and soil chemistry. Some of the great benefits they provide plants are: increased water & nutrient absorption, drought resistance and disease resistance.

Beneficial Bacteria

Beneficial Bacteria

Microscopic, single-celled organisms. They reproduce by fissionor by forming spores. They can practically live everywhere and in all kinds of environments, such as soil, hot springs, radioactive waste, and even in the bodies of other organisms. While some bacteria are bad and cause illness and disease, there are far more bacteria that are harmless or have beneficial effects. Beneficial bacteria living in and around plants and animals are essential for good health.

  • Very small organisms
  • Most bacteria does NOT cause disease
  • People & plants need beneficial bacteria to be healthy

Our Heroes! These tiny one-cell microorganisms are safe and work with Mother Nature to provide many benefits to your landscape. Including selected strains of bacteria in your soil can really do some amazing things. Some of the great benefits they provide are: decompose organic matter, break down nutrients into a form plants can use, enhance soil structure, disease resistance for plants and filter pollutants in soil.



Proper watering is very important to the health of your landscape, and no doubt can be one of the more mysterious topics. Some important things to consider whether you’re installing a new sprinkler system, managing an existing one, or watering by hand are: considering watering root zones, finding the right sprinkler head, water coverage, shallow root zones & soil compaction.

  • Proper watering is important
  • Different plants need different amounts and watering times
  • Plants talk! If the leaves of your plants are turning brown from the tip inward, it’s a sign they need more water

When to water? How often to water? How much to water? Watering in general seems to be one of the more mystifying topics in the landscape. This is most likely because the best way to answer all these questions is with: it all depends. As frustrating as this may be, things like the weather, soil type, sprinkler type and plant selection play a big role in deciding how to properly water. However, there are some easy steps you can take to make watering a much easier and more manageable task.

While there a lot of details regarding the hows, whens wheres -here is a basic rule of thumb to follow to tell if your plants need water: Dig down a couple inches and ball up soil in your hands. If the ball of soil falls apart, your plants need water.If the ball of soil is squishy wet, your plants have too much water. If the ball just sticks together, the water is just right.

Special Topics

The world beneath our feet is fascinating and so complex! Dig deeper into what’s involved in creating places where plants love to grow by learning about the different topics below.

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