One question that comes up when gardening is whether you should use organic fertilizer or inorganic fertilizer.
Whatever their source, certain nutrients are needed for plants to grow and thrive. In many cases, those nutrients are present in the soil. Some times they are not. Without a soil test, you simply cannot know for sure. If a soil test shows there are nutrient deficiencies, you will need to add fertilizer. Should you use organic or inorganic fertilizer?
“Better living through chemistry” has been the victory cry against countless diseases, inconveniences, and poor crop yields. There is no denying that the introduction of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides was a boon to farmers around the world. Of course, we now recognize that everything comes at a price and that it is important to weigh the pros and cons of every situation.
The downside of chemical pest killers is that the pests evolve faster than we do and the point is reached, sooner or later, where the pests can handle the poisons but we can't. Inorganic fertilizers, however, are a different story.
One advantage of inorganic gardening is that you know exactly which nutrients are present and at what concentration. The same cannot be said for composted chicken bedding. Also, inorganic fertilizer is generally in a form easiest to use by plants.
There are also synthetic fertilizers, such as ammonium sulfate, that start out as naturally occurring minerals, which are then processed. These modified minerals are considered acceptable for use in organic gardens.
Organic fertilizers come from manure, compost, bone meal, feather meal, and blood meal. Each of these amendments comes from a plant or animal source. Surprisingly, many of these nutrients must be acted upon by microorganisms to convert them into inorganic forms that plants can use. If it is too hot or too cold for microbes to be active, that organic fertilizer may not be as helpful as we might wish.
That being said, organic fertilizers tend to contain a wider variety of nutrients and microorganisms, which may or may not be advantageous for our plants. Believe it or not, there is still a lot we don’t know about plants.
A rose is a rose
As far as your plants are concerned, it doesn’t matter. To a plant, a molecule of nitrogen looks the same, whether it came from a factory or buffalo urine. It really doesn’t matter. The same is true of all plant nutrients. To a plant, the source of the molecule is meaningless. So why do we care one way or the other?
In both cases, too much fertilizer can burn plants, excessive application can lead to run-off and pollution, and their proper use can improve plant health and production. For me, I lean toward the organic side of the fence simply because it makes me feel good. I like the idea of it. Even though I know that, at the molecular level, it doesn’t really matter.
Did you know that the real difference between organic and inorganic is simply the presence (or lack thereof) of a carbon molecule? Nearly all inorganic compounds lack carbon.
Now you know.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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