Just like humans, plants need to have adequate amounts of minerals in order to remain healthy. One of these includes nitrogen, an important aspect in the nucleic and protein build up in plants.

Plants suffering from nitrogen deficiency display the following traits:

The chlorophyll content of the plant leaves is reduced which results in pale yellow color. Older leaves turn completely yellow.

Flowering, fruiting, protein and starch contents are reduced. Reduction in protein results in stunted growth and dormant lateral buds.


A nitrogen deficiency can have several causes:

- Excess potassium, zinc and manganese in the soil or substrate.

- Too much chloride in the soil

- Too little nitrogen available in the soil or substrate

- Too high pH level in the root environment

- Dysfunctional root system due to damage, disease or low temperatures of the soil

- Nitrogen is easily soluble and therefore easy to wash out

There are two routes to go when fixing a nitrogen deficiency in the soil, either organic or non-organic.


     To correct a nitrogen deficiency using organic methods requires time, but will result in a more even distribution of the added nitrogen over time. Some organic methods of adding nitrogen to the soil include:

1) Adding composted manure to the soil

2) Planting a green manure crop, such as borage

3) Planting nitrogen fixing plants like peas or beans

4) Adding coffee grounds to the soil


     Nitrogen as a plant fertilizer is common when purchasing chemical fertilizers. When looking to specifically add nitrogen to your garden, choose a fertilizer that has a high first number in the NPK ratio. The NPK ratio will look something like 10-10-10 and the first number tells you the amount of nitrogen. Using a nitrogen fertilizer to fix a nitrogen deficiency in the soil will give a big, fast boost of nitrogen to the soil, but will fade quickly.