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What do plants need for growth?

Soil

Soil provides a base which the roots hold on to as a plant grows bigger. It also provides plants with water and the nutrients they need to be healthy. In turn, some plants become healthy food for us. Nutrients in the soil also help plants grow strong. Some nutrients that plants need are nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. It is important for soil to be loose and not packed down. If the soil in a field is packed down (also known as being compacted), farmers plow it up before they plant their seeds. Think of compacted soil as a snowball. When snow falls, it is fluffy. To make it into a snowball, you have to pack it tightly with your hands. It becomes heavier and is not as light-weight. That is what compacted soil is like. Compacted soil makes it harder for plant roots to spread out. This limits their access to soil nutrients and weakens the plant’s hold in the ground. The more room roots have, the more soil the plant can hold in place so it doesn’t wash away during a rain storm.

 Sun

 The sun provides warmth and energy for plants to survive. Plants use the sun’s energy to makes their own food energy in their leaves. Not enough sun will slow down a plant’s growth and even kill it. Too much sun can be a problem too, if the plant and soil are drying out too quickly.

Air

Plants take in carbon dioxide from the air to use in the process of PHOTOSYNTHESIS (making their own food energy) and give off oxygen which we use. Pollution in the air, from machines, fires, and other sources, can block sunlight from plants. Harmful chemicals in pollution can be bad for plant growth too. The wind also carries pollen and seeds of plants to help spread them around. This is the plant’s way of making more of its own kind.

Water

It comes from the sky as rain or snow and it flows on top of or through soil into lakes, rivers, and streams. Water is very important to plant growth. Water helps the plant move nutrients from the soil up through its stems and leaves. Water keeps the plant moist, flexible, and helps the plant make its own food. When growing your own plants, pay attention to how often it rains and how long the ground takes to soak up the water. If it hasn’t rained in a while and the soil feels dry, you may need to water your plants. You can do this with a hose, a sprinkler, or a watering can. However, there is such a thing as over-watering your plants. A plant’s roots not only need room to spread out in the soil, they also need air! If the ground is OVERSATURATED, it has too much water and not enough air. Some plants can die if the water is not drained away soon enough.

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