Calcium is a vital element to all life forms on the planet. For us humans it builds and maintains bones and teeth; regulates heart rhythm; helps regulate the passage of nutrients in & out of the cell walls; assists in normal blood clotting; eases insomnia; maintains proper nerve and muscle function; lowers blood pressure; important to normal kidney function and in current medical research reduces the incidence of colon cancer, and reduces blood cholesterol levels.
If we lack sufficient calcium it can result in arm and leg muscles spasms, softening of bones, back and leg cramps, brittle bones, rickets, poor growth, osteoporosis ( a deterioration of the bones), tooth decay and depression.
Acute deficiency symptoms are avoided because of the large skeletal stores. Prolonged bone resorption from chronic dietary deficiency results in osteoporosis either by inadequate accumulation of bone mass during growth or increased rate of bone loss at menopause. Dietary calcium deficiency also has been associated with increased risk of hypertension, preeclampsia, (A pregnancy disorder) and colon cancer.
Our main source of dietary calcium comes from dairy produce and vegetables.
Plants, like us, need calcium in their diet for their good health.
Plants, unlike us, calcium (once fixed) is not mobile in the plant. It is an important constituent of cell walls and can only be supplied in the xylem sap. Thus, if the plant runs out of a supply of calcium, it cannot remobilize calcium from older tissues.
If transpiration is reduced for any reason, the calcium supply to growing tissues will rapidly become inadequate. A more common problem caused by this is blossom end rot in tomatoes.
Without adequate amounts of calcium, plants experience a variety of problems, symptoms of which in crops are often called physiological disorders.
The symptoms of calcium deficiency are: Necrosis at the tips and margins of young leaves, Bulb and fruit abnormalities, Deformation of affected leaves, Highly branched, short, brown root systems,
Severe, stunted growth, and general chlorosis. Chlorosis is a yellowing of leaf tissue due to a lack of chlorophyll. Calcium deficiencies reduces the uptake of some minerals such as magnesium.
It must be remembered that these problems are caused by an inadequate supply of calcium to the affected tissues. These deficiencies can occur even when the soil appears to have an adequate presence of calcium. Garden Lime (A common supply of calcium) is often derived from lime stone which is hard and can take between 3 to 10 years to become available to plants after application to the soil.
Calcium is found in many minerals in soil, but is relatively insoluble in this state. Calcium is not considered a leachable nutrient. Many soils will contain high levels of insoluble calcium such as calcium carbonate, but crops grown in these soils will often show a calcium deficiency.
High levels of other cations such as magnesium, ammonium, iron, aluminum and especially potassium, will reduce the calcium uptake in some crops. A common misconception is that if the pH is high, adequate calcium is present. This is not always true.
Calcium plays a very important role in plant growth and nutrition, as well as in cell wall deposition.
The primary roles of calcium are: As a soil amendment, calcium helps to maintain chemical balance in the soil, reduces soil salinity, and improves water penetration. Calcium plays a critical metabolic role in carbohydrate removal. Calcium neutralizes cell acids.
Another aspect that is often over looked is that calcium is the fuel that feeds the soil life.
If you want healthy gardens and plants you must build up a healthy soil food web of beneficial microbes and fungi along with all the other creatures that live in the soil including the gardeners best friends, worms. Worms along with other soil creatures hate water soluble fertilisers such as general purpose fertilisers, Nitrophoska Blue, chemical sprays and herbicides. Avoidance of these chemicals is a must, instead using all the natural products such as animal manures, compost etc.
It is not only the use of water soluble fertilisers that make the soil acidic and undesirable to worms etc, acidic soils is a natural aspect of many New Zealand soils; to be a bit on the acidic side due to our rainfall and other factors.
There are 3 common products which contain ample amounts of calcium, Gypsum (calcium and sulphur)
Dolomite (calcium and magnesium) and garden lime. Both Gypsum and Dolomite are pH neutral as the sulphur or magnesium balances out the alkalinity of the calcium. These two natural products can be used anywhere in the garden to advantage and most importantly to be used around acid loving plants.
This also includes tomatoes, potatoes, pepinos, blue berries and strawberries as they all prefer a slightly acidic soil.
There is two problems with garden lime as many garden limes come from lime stone (calcium carbonate) and the particles can take many years to breakdown and be of benefit to the soil and plants. Some limes are softer or finer particles and these readily breakdown.
Which ever type, lime is a powder and is messy to apply and if there is a breeze at the time of application, a percentage will end up where you don’t want it including over yourself.
Recently a New Zealand company produced a product that overcomes both these problems.
The product is called Rapid Lime and it comes in small pellets or balls which makes the spreading of it very easy to the target areas. Once wet, the balls breakdown and release the fine particles that are readily available to the soil life and plants.
Farmers and horticulturists love the product as application is so much easier than the common powder limes and being ‘rapid’ they know its doing its job straight away.
Another secret with calcium or lime is to have an ongoing supply to the soil and plants. This means a number of small applications each year rather than a big dose in the traditional winter application.
A few grams per square metre every 3 months will do a lot more good giving a continual supply to soil and plants.
When I first obtained Rapid Lime a few weeks back, I tested its breakdown on some beans that I had growing in containers. The beans had basically finished for the season (or so I had thought) but in a couple of weeks of applying Rapid Lime, they burst into new growth and flowers and a late crop is coming available for picking.
Rapid Lime is coming available in a number of garden centres in 1200 gram and 3 kg jars.
Ideal at this time of the year for planting out of brassicas, sweet peas and snow peas as well as a general application to vegetable gardens. Rapid lime can also be used in the mash you feed your chickens to harden up their egg shells. If you have a puppy then occasionally add a little to their food for the calcium they need for their growing bones. I learnt the later, one time when a chap came into the garden centre that I used to run and purchased a bag of garden lime. He said that it was not for the garden but for his pups that he was rearing, it was a much cheaper way of obtaining the needed calcium rather than the expensive packets at pet shops and vets.
We all need ample calcium as do our gardens and Rapid Lime makes for ease of application and quick results.