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Gardening with chemical fertilizer
- Are Chemicals Any Good?

* A quick solution ?
* A “no brainer” ?
* Are chemicals added to 'organic' fertilizers?

Chemical fertilizers make your plants produce - they can also be harsh, unforgiving, wasteful and lacking some nutrients that your plants need... That's a reasonable summary - there's exceptions on both sides, more detail below.

Some Are Better Than Others

Controlled release fertilisers (also known as 'slow release...') are long lasting. You find the tiny yellow capsules in the pots of nursery grown plants. They're especially useful for container growing. Nutra Allround Micro is one example that lasts 12 months.

Liquids and single nutrient feeds are the worst in my view - take care with quantity, where and when you use them.

Chemical fertilizers are rarely complete fertilizers and plants can become unhealthy. My organic garden works better because the soil is teaming with life, and there's more to enjoy - get the details on my link.

Gardening On The Moon

Not gardening by the phases of the moon but gardening up in space where there's no soil. The Aerogarden designed for Space Shuttles is a popular addition to the technological home and great when living in rooms with no garden space.

Advantages to Chemical Fertilizers

The rapid availability to plants of soluble chemicals is the main one when used in situations that require it. Packaging ready for use from a quick spray or watering can is attractive too. But these are also disadvantages.

Gardening With A Chemistry Set - A Growing Formula

You won't get far without running into a formula of chemicals needed to grow your plants.

The main elements that plants take from garden soil through their roots are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium - N:P:K. - plus Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Sulphur, and a few others... They are all needed! Find out what they do to your plants

Growers using chemicals pay attention to the fertilizer analysis or formula on the pack. This arises precisely because quick acting soluble chemicals can destabilise the nutrient diet of your plants causing unbalanced growth.

As Soil Amendments

Single nutrient fertilizers such as nitrogen fertilizers, or potash fertilizers invite problems. Even if your soil has nutrient deficiencies - chemical amendments e.g. potassium nitrate... are a wasteful and risky way to make it up. Concentrate on soil improvement with manure and garden compost instead.

Chemical fertilizers provide one of several techniques directly transferred from modern farming to gardening. These farming methods spoil gardens.

Are Chemicals Added To Compound 'Organic Fertilizers'?

They are added to some which are known as semi-organic. Take Arthur Bower's Bone Meal for example. The formula stated on some packs has been 7:7:7 - real bone meal isn't a balanced fertilizer? See my page on Bone Meal. So what's added? I can't say exactly, but it makes up for missing potassium nutrients to satisfy gardeners' expectations.

Elsewhere chemical amendments are added to make up for the slow release of the organic components. But wholly organic fertilizers are readily available.

Note that whether they are organic or chemical fertilizers, formula have to be stated on the packs. This is merely a laboratory analysis.

Organic v Chemical?

Do you like the taste of commercially grown vegetables? Perhaps you've tried organic fertilizers on their own with poor results. But it's not just about fertilizer, you have to be an organic gardener and 'do the other things' to make it work. Gardening is not big farming and those methods are not suitable.

Organic fertilizers are not totally free from the affects of misuse.

Potential Problems With Soluble (i.e. solids that dissolve)
Chemical Fertilizers

  • Because they are salts in substantial quantities they reduce the capacity of roots to absorb water,
  • Possible affects include burning on leaves and withering root hairs, especially when not properly used,
  • Chemical fertilizers need to be used with LOTS of WATER, and regular application may be needed,
  • Fast action risks nutrient imbalances and consequent improper growth,
  • Fast action can cause rapid growth that's sappy, and disease prone,
  • You may grow watery bland tasting crops, blossoms may wither,
  • They can stimulate growth that is not well-timed with external conditions,
  • Organic or chemical fertilizers can increase or decrease soil acidity. The difference is that soluble chemicals can do this quickly,
  • Destroy soil micro-organisms that are useful to your plants and soil conditioning,
  • The outstanding value of organic fertilizers lies in their kind nature, that nurtures soil, so your plants can fully access it's natural resources.

  • Soluble fertilizers (solids that dissolve) may not last long (check details on fertilizer pack) so plants can run short before season's end - and perhaps an early end to your blooms,
  • Are washed out and wasted leading to water pollution. This can pose health risks. Farms slurry spills are also responsible,
  • Sandy soils - perhaps infertile soils, are especially vulnerable to nutrient loss and chemical waste - work in organic matter.
  • Ordinary soluble chemical fertilizers are no good for containers where they wash out - try controlled release chemical fertilizer or organic fertilizers instead.

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The Are Many Organic Fertilizers

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