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Dallas Morning News - May 25, 2017

What’s Wrong with Synthetic Fertilizers?


Root grow difference between healthy soil on right and not on left.

Gardeners are often surprised that I consider using the wrong fertilizers more of a problem than the use of toxic chemical pesticides. The high-nitrogen, synthetic fertilizers hurt the main thing we are trying to improve – the life and the health in the soil.

Artificial salt fertilizers hurt the soil with every application. They also volatize and become air pollution, wash away in rains and leach through the soil to contaminate the water stream. They damage microorganisms in the soil when they stay put. Organic fertilizers, on the other hand, work better in every way. They don’t volatize into air pollution, wash away easily or leach down to the water stream, but there's more. Organic fertilizers are gentle and build the health of the soil with every application. The volume of fertilizer needed actually goes down with time. More and more is needed with the synthetic stuff. Plants under organic fertility have larger and stronger root systems and are much more efficient at getting the proper nutrients, trace minerals, enzymes and microbes into the plants. As a result, plants have more carbohydrates thus less stress, fewer pest problems and better taste in food crops. Another great advantage of organic fertility is about a 50% reduction in irrigation needs. Plus, organic gardening is just more fun.

Here is one of the worst synthetic fertilizers:

The "weed and feed" fertilizers are the worst. Some contain atrazine, a toxic chemical herbicide that will damage or kill your trees and shrubs. Others contain 2,4-D and other toxic herbicides. Even the chemical boys agree that these products are bad. They have no problem with synthetic fertilizers or herbicides, but they agree that the “weed” and “feed” ingredients aren't suitable to be applied at the same time. The pre-emergent herbicide needs to be applied about 2 months earlier than the soluble fertilizer. We also agree that atrazine should not be used at all. 

Here is one of the best organic choices:

In second place for bad synthetic fertilizers are the nitrogen-only products such as 23-0-0. Not much can be done to the soil that will do more damage fouling up the soil chemistry than these single element fertilizers. 
Bronze bad medal goes to that group of high-nitrogen choices like the 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratios types. These high-nitrogen salt products are bad for plants, the soil, the water and the environment in general. Synthetic fertilizers are unbalanced, often contain contaminants, have no carbon energy, contain far too much nitrogen and have few trace minerals. 

Organic fertilizers go out from the same spreaders that are used for the synthetic stuff.

Natural organic fertilizers contain naturally buffered, slow release blends of major nutrients, trace minerals, organic matter and carbon. They have lots of beneficial life and most importantly - they contain nothing that will damage the soil or the roots of your plants.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still strongly opposed to the toxic chemical pesticides – but the synthetic fertilizers are worse and should go first.

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