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"High organic-matter content is the primary reason compost and most other organic fertilizers are superior to chemical fertilizers. Chemicals don't provide the carbohydrates that are essential for a healthy soil food web, and some of them are so caustic that they can kill soil organisms and inhibit plant growth." (Organic Gardening, July/August, pg. 48).
Chemical fertilizer vs. organic fertilizer
Fertilizers are created to target soil nutrient deficiency, which is a prevalent problem among home garden owners. One distinct advantage chemical fertilizers have over organic fertilizers is the fact that they contain all three of the major nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium). Organic fertilizers can only either have high content levels of one of these three or have all three nutrients in low levels.
For its part, organic fertilizers are a much cheaper and cost-effective alternative to chemical fertilizers. Any home gardener can create his own brand of organic fertilizer by composting or mixing cow, sheep, or poultry manure with other organic matters. Chemical fertilizers on the other hand will have to be bought from a gardening store or horticulturists.
A noted aspect of organic fertilizer is its slow-release capability. This slow release of nutrients in organic fertilizers can be both beneficial and potentially harmful to plants. Slow release of nutrients means that there is less risk of over-fertilization. However, this could also mean that if the need for immediate supply of nutrients arises, organic fertilizers would not be able to provide the needed supply. In contrast, chemical fertilizers can prove plants with an immediate supply of nutrients when the situation calls for it.
Several chemical fertilizers have high acid content. Acids in chemical fertilizers, like sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid, lead to high soil acidity which would in turn result in the destruction of nitrogen-fixing bacteria, the microorganism that plays a key role in supplying a growing plant's nitrogen needs.
Plants certainly do not recognize the difference between organic fertilizers and chemical fertilizers. Their tiny root hairs will absorb those microscopic nutrients, regardless of where they come from or how they were manufactured. But even so, with today's growing environmental concerns, some people debate over the wisdom of using chemical fertilizers as a nutrient source.
If you have sandy soil with very little to no organic matter any nutrients you apply, no matter the source, will flow through and into the ground water (causing pollution) and wasting your money because that food will not be feeding your plant. Adding organic matter to sand fills in the pore spaces and helps hold both nutrients and moisture in the root zone so the plants can uptake what they need.
If you have clay soil with little to no orgnaic amtter in that soil any nutrients you apply, no matter the source, will be locked onto the clay particles and will not be available to the plants. Adding organic matter will seperate the clay particles, change the electric charge on the clay particles so the nutrients are not locked on, the plants roots will be able to move around to find both food and nutrients more freely so the plants grow stronger and healthier.
You do not need to add organic matter to your soil but if you do you may just as well take the money you would spend for "fertilzier" and through it into the nearest landfill for all the good it will do
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|