Whether you love vegetables or flowers, there’s a lot that goes into a beautiful and healthy garden. If you’ve tried garden fertilizers and other products from your local hardware store and still aren’t getting the results you’d like, the problem could be in your soil.
Lack of proper nutrients or poor soil conditioning could be affecting your plants in one way or another. If you think your soil could be to blame, it might be time to take some gardening cues from the farming community.
Farmers have been successfully using gypsum to enhance crop growth for over 150 years. Gypsum is a natural soil conditioner made up of calcium and sulfate that provides many useful benefits to small and large gardens alike.
Here are some of the ways all-natural gypsum can enhance your garden throughout this growing season.
Gypsum is an Excellent Source of Calcium
Calcium is an essential nutrient for plant growth and development, particularly for roots and shoots. It also acts as a balancing element, improving a plant’s ability to take in other essential nutrients such as ammonium nitrogen. Since calcium cannot move from old to new plant tissues, a constant supply of soluble calcium is required for optimum plant health.
Plants lacking in essential calcium exhibit symptoms such as:
- Discolored patches on fruits, such as blossom end rot on tomato plants, peppers, melons or squash
- Dead buds and root tips
- Shedding of blossoms or buds prematurely
- Weak stems
- Abnormal dark green leaves
- Burnt tips on the young leaves of celery, lettuce or cabbage
In most areas, calcium deficiency is the result of high levels of rainfall, acidic soil levels, or both. Regions that receive more than 40 inches of rainfall per year are particularly prone to calcium deficiency, including regions of the Pacific Northwest that are west of the Cascade Mountains and areas east of the Mississippi River.
Gypsum, made up of 21% calcium and 17% sulfate, is one of the best sources of calcium for every plant in your garden. While many gardeners tend to rely on limestone to provide a rich source of calcium, limestone is not water soluble and must come into contact with soil acids before the calcium ions are released to plant roots. Limestone also does not migrate well in soil, and often doesn’t reach the depth needed in order for it to be available to plant roots where it is needed most. Limestone also raises soil pH, which may not be needed or desirable.
Gypsum, however, requires moisture to dissolve and the form of gypsum mentioned previously also affects availability and moves quickly from the surface of the soil to the roots below. Gypsum also has no measurable effect on soil pH.
Gypsum Provides Essential Sulfur
Plants require sulfur for protein synthesis. Sulfur is also an important component to nodule formation on legume roots and is responsible for the characteristic smell of onions and garlic.
Though this deficiency is becoming more common than in past, it is still not more common than calcium deficiency, sulfur deficiency occurs throughout North America, especially in areas where rainfall totals are high.
Symptoms of sulfur deficiency include:
- Young leaves that appear light green to yellowish in color
- Small plants or plants with a spindly appearance
- Slow growth rate and a delay in plant maturity
Adding gypsum to your garden is a great way to ensure your plants have sufficient sulfur. Unlike elemental sulfur that is unavailable to plants until it is oxidized by soil bacteria, the sulfate in gypsum is ready for plant absorption immediately.
Gypsum Helps Break Up Compacted Soil
Tightly packed clay soils can be a problem in many gardens since water and other essential nutrients tend to puddle or run off the surface, rather than penetrate deep into the soil where plants can utilize them.
Gypsum can help loosen clay soils and improve soil structure by transforming fine, tightly packed particles into larger clumps that make the soil more porous, allowing air, water and nutrients to penetrate the soil more easily. This also helps to encourage better root development, resulting in stronger, healthier plants.
Gypsum Repairs Damage from Salt
Winter salt and de-icing products can damage grass and plants in garden beds, especially when they are left in one area for too long. The best way to avoid damage from winter salt is to remove salt from affected areas as soon as possible.
Excess salt can also be a problem in many coastal areas around the country.
When excess salt penetrates soil, plants absorb the salt through the roots. Because salt attracts water, excess salt in the soil can cause dehydration, robbing plant roots of essential water. The chloride in salt is also known to interfere with chlorophyll production and the process of photosynthesis, which can stunt plant growth or keep plants from producing flowers or leaves.
Trees, plants or grasses affected by excess salt will often appear brown and discolored. Applying gypsum to the soil in the affected area can help reverse the damage. The calcium sulfate combination in gypsum acts to replace the excess salt, healing the plants and encouraging new growth.
Applying Gypsum in Your Garden
Gypsum is non-toxic and safe to use around people and pets. It works well throughout the yard or garden and can be applied to lawns, in vegetable or flower gardens, and around trees and shrubs.
Gypsum is available in several variations including pulverized, granular, and pelleted. The type of gypsum you need will depend on how you plan to use and apply it in your yard or garden.
Pulverized gypsum is ideal for extended release and works best in broadcast or drop-style spreaders designed for powder.
Granular gypsum is a low dust, slower release formula that flows freely and works in any style of fertilizer spreader.
Pelleted gypsum is a fast acting, low dust formula that is easily applied with any fertilizer spreader.
The amount of gypsum you will need will depend on how you plan to use it and the conditions of your soil. At USA Gypsum, we recommend conducting a soil analysis to ensure the addition of gypsum will benefit your plants.
USA Gypsum offers high-quality, recycled gypsum for all your lawn and garden needs, shipped right to your door.