We gardeners know that the elements nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium–or NPK–are essential for healthy plants. But a lesser known element can make a big difference in your veggie garden: silicon. Silicon is found all over and at the center of the earth, but it is often deficient in garden soils, or when present is in an inert form that plants cannot use.
Silicon is found in mineral form as silicon dioxide in rocks such as ignimbrite. Ignimbrite, meaning “fiery rock dust cloud” in Latin, is a volcanic tuff that forms when ash is ejected during a volcanic eruption. When silicon dioxide is rendered into a soluble powder and mixed with water, it forms silicic acid. This weak acid is the form of silicon that plants are able to absorb and use in their cells.
Why Would You Want to Feed Your Plants Silicon Anyway?
This trace element plays a variety of roles in plant growth.
- It enhances the production of chlorophyll.
- Improves the uptake of other nutrients as well.
- It strengthens cell walls of roots, stems and foliage.
- In the soil, it reduces nitrogen’s volatility, making more of it available for your plants.
- It also unlocks phosphorus to make it available for your plants as well.
- The powdered form of silicon also has the benefit of being absorbent like a sponge, so it retains moisture for the plants to use later, and allows for less frequent watering.
Silicon Products Available from Peaceful Valley
There are two silicon products that are available for your garden. MontanaGrow Organic Silicon is finely ground ignimbrite formed during an eruption that occurred 30 million years ago. It has not been treated or modified in any way apart from mechanical grinding and screening. It contains 76% silicon dioxide and 24% inert minerals that are mostly potassium compounds.
Cyco Silica is a synthetically modified form of silicon that is available as a liquid for hydroponics applications. It is made by treating silicon dioxide with potassium hydroxide to form potassium silicate. When applied, it breaks back down to provide both potassium and silica to the plants.
Application of Silicon to the Garden
- To use powdered silicon, mix 1/2 to 1 cup per 8 gallons of potting soil, or sprinkle 1 cup per 4 row-feet of garden bed and mix into the root zone.
- Or you can top dress it at a rate of 1–2 Tbsp per plant every one to two weeks.
- It is good for reducing transplant shock as well. Just dust 1 tsp to 1/4 cup on the bottom and sides of the root ball when transplanting.
- Always wear a dust mask when using powdered silicon, as it can irritate your lungs and potentially cause health problems if you breath in the dust.
- To use the liquid form of silicon, add 0.8 to 1.6 teaspoons per gallon of water in your hydroponics system. You may need to adjust the pH and TDS when using this product.
This season, don’t just focus on giving your plants the right N, P, and K. Give them silicon too, and grow organic for life!