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Organic Vs. Chemical Fertilizers

The pluses and minuses of each

The choice of using organic or chemical fertilizers has become a hot topic for debate among many gardeners. Increased awareness of the dangers of excess nitrogen from chemical fertilizers seeping into groundwater has raised concerns among many that chemical fertilizers should be limited in their use. Also, some gardeners disapprove of the origins of chemical fertilizers as byproducts of the weapons industry.

When gardening in the ground, there are many practical benefits of going organic. For example, using organic soil amendments, such as compost, help improve the overall quality of the soil by increasing organic matter and microbial activity.

When gardening in containers, however, the choice is not so clear. Organic fertilizers break down more slowly than chemical ones, which may be a drawback if you want plants that will grow quickly and put on a big display for a single season. Also, many organic fertilizers are derived from guano (bird poop) or fish, and give off a somewhat less than appealing smell for plants at nose level.

Biologically, plants cannot tell the difference between a fertilizer derived from a natural mineral or animal or one made in a laboratory. Whichever you choose, read the labels carefully so you apply the right amount to keep your plant happy.