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Why Organic Fertilizers Are Better Newsletter



My audiences and readers are often surprised when they hear me explain the fact that I consider using the wrong fertilizers more of a problem than the use of toxic chemical pesticides.

The most important point in growing plants of any kind is the health of the soil. The synthetic salt fertilizers damage the health of the soil with every application. Organic fertilizers improve the soil with every application and work better in every way. It’s true they don’t volatize into air pollution, wash away easily or leach down to the water stream, but there's more. Organic fertilizers build the health of the soil, plant production never dips but instead gets better and the volume needs of fertilizer actually go down. Plants under organic production have larger and stronger root systems and are much more efficient at accessing nutrients, trace minerals and enzymes. As a result, plants have a better supply of complex carbohydrates and that relates to stress control and taste in food. Another great advantage of organic fertility is a 50% reduction in irrigation needs. Plus, organic gardening is just more fun.

There are all kinds of problems with synthetic, high-nitrogen fertilizers. For starters, they have unidentified fillers and the nutrients are basically salts. They are harsh and can burn plants. These salts build up and damage soil health and plant roots. Because the nutrients in synthetic fertilizers are basically in the anionic form, they do not bind to the soil and plants only use a small portion of the nutrients - the rest pollutes. These fake fertilizers are a significant source of pollution and environment destruction. They volatize and pollute the air, leach into the soil to contaminate aquifers and wash into waterways to contaminate and cause weed growth. They are extremely damaging to the beneficial microbes in the soil - both bacterial and fungal. Some such as ammonium sulfate, are deadly to earthworms.

The small percentage of high-nitrogen, synthetic fertilizer that gets into plants forces fast growth that results in weak, watery cell growth and sick plants. Plants grow and flower in the short run, but the imbalance and weak cells cause stress and plant health is decreased. Nature’s job is to take out sick plants and to encourage the survival of the fittest. That is done with insect pests and disease pathogens. Synthetic nitrogen pushers advise people to buy products where the slow release portion of the product is in the 60% range. The attempt to slow these fake fertilizers down is humorous. Organic fertilizers are 100% slow release.

# 1 Bad Fertilizer Choice - Synthetic “Weed and Feed” Products. Some recommended "weed and feed" fertilizers contain atrazine, a toxic chemical herbicide that is quite effective in killing your trees and shrubs. Others contain 2,4-D and other toxic herbicides. One of the most interesting points about these products is that even the non-organic people agree with me that these products should not be used. Although the "chemicals are OK" crowd has no problem with synthetic fertilizers and toxic herbicides, they do acknowledge that the two ingredients in these products aren't suitable to be applied at the same time. The pre-emergent herbicide part of the products needs to be applied about 2 months earlier than the soluble fertilizer part of the products. Plus, we agree that atrazine should not be used on residential property period because the roots of trees cover the entire property of most lots.

Some of the specific products that you should definitely avoid are Scotts Bonus S, Vigoro, Lesco and other “Weed and Feed” products.

It’s truly amazing that anyone ever buys and uses these and other “Weed and Feed” products - but then again, nobody reads the labels!! The reason for these warnings is that these products will damage and even kill the roots of desirable plants.

#2 Bad Choice In Fertilizer - Nitrogen Only Products such as 23-0-0. Our “land grant” university recommends this serious mistake as do those who sell these products. Not much can be done to the soil that will do more damage than these single element fertilizers. If you just bought some, take it back. Plus, almost all soils need at least some P and K (phosphorous and potassium).

#3 Bad Fertilizer Choice - High-Nitrogen choices like the often-pushed 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 contain naturally buffered 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 roots of your trees and other plants. Organic fertilizers aren’t all perfect but they are almost always better than the high-nitrogen, synthetic, salt fertilizers.

Some of the best choices in organic fertilizers include corn gluten meal, Espoma, Lady Bug, Medina, MaestroGro, Good Natured, GreenSense and Nature's Guide. Espoma is easily found in stores across the country and the other six are primarily available in Texas.

Here are some other useful resources from

To discuss this newsletter or any other topic, tune in each Sunday 8am - 11am central time to the Dirt Doctor Radio Show. The call-in phone number is 1-866-444-3478. Listen on the internet or click here to find a station in your area.

Please share this newsletter with everyone in your address book and all your friends on Facebook and Twitter to help me spread the word on the proper way to select, plant and maintain plants.

Naturally yours,

Howard Garrett
The Dirt Doctor

P.S. For the past 100 years, our agricultural and medical education has moved away from lifestyle and natural organic recommendations towards manufactured toxic chemicals and pharmaceutical management. Our poor health is directly related to this industrial evolution which is destroying the nutrients in and the medicinal quality of food that has existed for thousands of years.

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