Calcium is an element that is often overlooked and misunderstood. In essence, it is the king of the elements. Plants need more calcium by weight and volume than any other element. Calcium is the key to building soil fertility.
In many instances, calcium is thought of as merely a soil amendment used to neutralize acidity, but it does not. Calcium carbonate, which is usually applied as limestone, is what actually neutralizes acidity. The carbonate ions combine with the hydrogen ions that cause acidity to form carbon dioxide and water. Using up the free hydrogen ions neutralizes the acidity. The calcium is just along for the ride.
Calcium has many benefits for the plant. It increases the availability of the other elements that are tied up in chemical forms that are unavailable to the plant. It builds soil structure by causing a flocculation of the soil particles to produce a granulated soil rather than an adobe brick soil. Adequate amounts of available calcium promote the branching and elongation of the root system. It helps to promote cell division and it produces strong cell walls that are more resistant to invasion by pathogens.
Typical soil tests will often show a high level of calcium, but the vast majority of it is normally tied up in chemical forms that are not very available to the plant. Therefore, plants growing in high calcium soils may be suffering from a calcium deficiency. Furthermore, the availability of calcium is greatly decreased by high levels of potassium. It seems as though many turf managers pour on more and more potassium because they think it will toughen up their turf. This practice tends to lead to even greater calcium deficiencies. In addition, calcium cannot be transported inside the plant from old structure to new ones. Therefore, the plant needs a continual supply of calcium throughout the growing season.
This is where Nature Safe comes to the rescue. Almost all of our complete grades of fertilizer contain a substantial amount of calcium and it is all released in a chelated form (hooked to an amino acid). That keeps the calcium from being tied up chemically in the soil and it makes it readily available to the plant even if the other calcium in the soil is tied up. This readily available chelated calcium is one of the secrets behind the performance turf managers see when they use Nature Safe. This chelated source of calcium promotes the elongation and branching of the roots to produce a deeper, more fibrous root system that makes better use of available nutrients and water.
The Nature Safe product that contains the highest level of calcium is 5-6-6, with 7% calcium. That means that for every pound of nitrogen that is applied, a total of 1.4 pounds of calcium is supplied to the plants. Compared to the total amount of calcium contained in an average soil that is not very much, but since it is all available to the plant it makes a major contribution to plant health. While this chelated calcium will not serve to balance a soil that is in need of calcium, it will tend to the plant’s needs extremely well. It is still advisable to add sufficient chemical calcium from high calcium limestone or other sources to bring up the overall level of calcium in the soil. Just bear in mind that the chemical calcium will not be nearly as beneficial to the plant as the meat and bone meal calcium that is contained in Nature Safe.
Spring aeration is the best time to apply 5-6-6 to any turf. When it gets into the aeration holes it will cause a much more rapid recovery from aeration injury and the marvelous root system it produces will pay dividends for the entire year. If the 5-6-6 is followed up with regular applications of a product like Nature Safe 8-3-5 for the rest of the year the benefits to the turf will be evident all season long.