Twila E. Palmer's Blog
There are many different types of fertilizers, both chemical and organic, available today in the marketplace. The type of fertilizer you select has a huge impact on the quality of your plant product. While home gardeners and farmers all over the world use chemical fertilizers, many are now shifting to carbon-based organic fertilizers due to the diverse array of benefits of the latter. Organic fertilizers are soil amendments that deliver nutrients to the soil, specially formulated from 100 percent natural organic sources. Organic fertilizers may also contain certain inorganic materials such as minerals derived from rocks, animal bones or marine life. Organic fertilizers also contain a wealth of other secondary nutrients, trace elements, vitamins and amino acids. Organic fertilizers contain none of the fillers, synthetic materials, noxious chemicals or poisonous toxins found in commercial chemical fertilizers designed to artificially mimic the ingredients found in nature. Chemical fertilizers offer an "empty" type of food directly to the plants. This is similar to the empty calories we obtain from eating pure refined sugar. Organic fertilizers include living microbes providing full service to plants by decomposing dead animal and plant residues to humus; develop soil structure, water penetration and retention, to shift soil pH towards neutral, suppress disease, and control nitrogen delivery to plants according to need. Without a doubt, growing with organic fertilizers is the only way to grow. Health concerns and safety issues are two of the biggest reasons for using organic fertilizers versus synthetic chemical fertilizers. As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, most everyone is aware of the many dangers of using chemicals on your plants or in the home. If you are growing edible plants such as vegetables, fruits, and herbs, you want to know with certainty where your fertilizer comes from and that it is 100 percent organic, free from seeds, weeds, herbicides and pesticide contamination. Using organic fertilizers ensures that consumable plants are free of harmful chemicals. As a result, the end consumers who eat organically grown plant products are less likely to experience food allergies or diseases such as cancer or gastrointestinal, lung and skin disorders, as compared to those who consume plant products cultivated using chemical fertilizers. Safety of handling and application of fertilizer is a major consideration for the gardener. Who wants to suit up in protective gloves, gear, and goggles to fertilize their plants? Most chemical fertilizers come with warning labels that they are poisonous, or can cause burns or irritation to the eyes, mucous membranes, lungs and skin; apply with caution. Organic fertilizers are safe to handle and do not present a health concern. There is no question about which one you would prefer to use around children and pets. Organic fertilizers are also safe for the eco-system as they are easily biodegradable and do not cause environmental pollution. Alternately, chemical fertilizers leach into the soil and eventually find their way into the water system where they are consumed by fish, birds and other wildlife; a major cause of diseases for human beings and is the force behind the extinction of numerous plant, animal and insect species. Organic fertilizers contain no such harmful compounds and therefore do not pose a danger to the eco-system even with increased usage. Another advantage of using organic fertilizer is that natural materials slowly break down, steadily releasing nutrients to the roots of the plant in a form they can readily absorb and use. Because natural materials decompose or break down over a period of time, the feeding process is slower and lasts longer than the immediate rush of water-soluble chemical fertilizers. Because organic fertilizers work more slowly and steadily than chemical fertilizers, growers don't have to worry about exact measurements and timing. The majority of organic fertilizers require soil organisms to break down and release nutrients, so they are available quickly when the soil is warmed, and the soil food web is most active. This time is also when you get the most rapid plant growth, and your crop needs it. Although organic fertilizers may also build up concentrations of some nutrients, a toxic accumulation of will not happen as long as the organic material can completely decompose. Additionally, because organic fertilizers gleaned from natural sources, only limited amounts of fossil fuels are used in production. Therefore, greenhouse gas emissions that enter into the atmosphere are lower in organic fertilizer production than it is in inorganic fertilizer production Organic fertilizers ensure that garden plots and farm fields remain fertile for hundreds of years. Farmlands located at the site of ancient civilizations such as China and India remain fertile, even though aggressive agriculture has been practiced there for thousands of years. Soil fertility flourishes because organic fertilizers were applied in the past. Today, the ever-growing reliance on chemical fertilizers threatens the viability of rivers and lakes polluted by fertilizer runoff and the land is rapidly becoming sterile, prompting farmers to further increase their dependency on chemical fertilizers or even give up cultivation of their farmlands entirely. If you want to keep your garden or growing plot healthy and fertile, avoid chemicals. Gardeners may obtain from local farmers organic materials such as worm castings or aged herbivore (chicken, rabbit, cow, horse, pig, lama, goat or sheep) manure and process or prepare their own organic fertilizer mixes or purchase packaged organic fertilizers from an online grower's supply store or local home and garden outlets. There is nothing new about natural organic fertilizers; manure from domestic farm animals was added to gardens, lawns, and pastures as a source of nutrient for centuries. While herbivore manure is a very effective source of natural fertilizer for outdoor growing, the pungent odor may turn some people away. Today gardeners and growers have the luxury of having numerous commercially available organic fertilizer products at our disposal. Some gardeners use plant based nutrient providers such as alfalfa meal, seaweed, corn, cottonseed, soybean meal, kelp, peat moss, kelp or mushroom compost, garden compost, forms of green waste such as lawn and leaf clippings, or the waste from sewage treatment plants. Other organic fertilizers may use animal based nutrients such as worm castings, livestock manure, fish meal, blood meal, bone meal, or bat guano. The common element that ties all of these organic fertilizers together is that they are all products of nature. Growers may wish to consider trying a few different mixtures to discover their garden’s preferred product.