Magnesium & Phosphorous: A Colorful Conundrum

For the first time ever, this year, I have experienced two significant nutrient deficiencies. I mean, chromogenic transformation worthy nutrient deficiencies. I promised when I started this blog that I would share it all; the good, the bad and the buggy. That being said, here is my honest experience with magnesium and phosphorous.

Magnesium: Magnesium is a mobile molecule that plants can pull from mature leaves and redistribute to new growth when there is a shortage. Sure, this is an interesting adaptation BUT it also causes those mature leaves to yellow in a unique way. Before you think, “hmm, unique is cool” remember that yellow leaves are almost never a good thing where vegetable plants are concerned. You see, the veins remain green and the cells in between turn yellow. Take a look at the photo below. This is one of my Sunburst Hybrid Summer Squash plants that wasn’t getting enough magnesium. Fortunately, this is a fairly simple issue to fix. I put one teaspoon of Epsom salts (aka magnesium sulfate) in a gallon of water and applied it to my plants. The following weekend my plants had brand new, healthy green growth and the yellowing of mature leaves had stopped with no signs of further distress.

Summer squash suffering from magnesium deficiency.

Phosphorous: Ever hear of the N-P-K ratio (I hope so, it’s in my “What does it all mean?” post. [wink wink]) and the roles of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in plant growth?? Well, phosphorous is a critical component of root and fruit development. In other words, it’s kind of important. I always add a phosphorous rich supplement to my soil before planting in the spring but I’ve recently learned that when temperatures stay low for an extended period of time, phosphorous levels can be depleted early on. One of the key indicators of a phosphorous deficiency is when your plants’ leaves turn purple. Check out my beans, below. Initially I had suspected that they were supposed to be purplesque because the variety is Purple King. However, after doing some research, I realized that only the pods themselves are supposed to be purple. The leaves are typically a lush, rich green. Oops! I immediately turned to my trusty friend Amazon and ordered myself some Bat Guano. This is only one of many options for a liquid phosphorous supplement, but it came highly recommended. Furthermore, I worked some organic bone meal into the soil in between my plants (avoiding the roots) for a slow-release phosphorous addition. My beans have since added several new layers of healthy green leaves, full of functional chlorophyll.

Pole beans suffering from a phosphorous deficiency.

As anxious as this whole ordeal had made me, it has been yet another positive learning experience. I’ve made a few mental notes that I feel are worth sharing. The first being that there are no guarantees. I thought I had the phosphorous bit covered but each growing season presents us with different conditions and we all know that Mother Nature has a way of keeping us on our toes. The second and more important takeaway is that nutrient deficiencies do not have to end in tragedy. If they are caught early enough they can typically be reconciled and our plants can live on to produce a bounty crop, despite the hiccups. The third, for any gardening newbies reading this, is that even people who have been planting veggies for years face new obstacles and struggle to overcome issues in the garden. I hope that reading about my mistakes helps you to avoid, or at least recognize, them in the future. Cheers, friends!

6 thoughts on “Magnesium & Phosphorous: A Colorful Conundrum

    1. Thank you, I’m happy that the information is communicated in a transparent manner. I have made it my goal to use this blog as a way of breaking down gardening concepts for people with limited experience. I really hope to eliminate the intimidation factor and encourage people to give their green thumb a shot. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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