Organic Fertilizer vs. Synthetic: Which One Should I Use?

Organic Fertilizer vs. Synthetic: Which One Should I Use?


Everyone fertilizes!


Folks are ‘going organic’ all over the place, and it’s been great.  People are making sure they are drinking organic coffee, cleaning their homes with organic cleaning products and making sure they use only organic fertilizer on their lawns, but what does ‘organic’ mean anyway?  Aside from being able to brag to your neighbors about your organic lifestyle, what are the practical benefits of using these products instead of their synthetic counterparts?


What does ‘Organic’ mean, anyway?

In the case of Organic fertilizer (this is a landscaping blog after all), the term ‘Organic’ has been ascribed to products that have been derived from living things, while having little to no chemical additives to make it more potent.  These products can be made from things like cotton seeds, manure (and other types of sewage), fish emulsion or even things like orange peels.  They have several benefits, such as keeping a good level of organic material in the soil, aiding water retention, providing nutrients, and even curbing erosion due to wind and rain.  The downside is that organic fertilizers tend to be expensive, and not generally very effective unless you really know what you are doing.

There are also the inorganic, or ‘synthetic’ types of fertilizers.  These are products that have been designed on a chemical level for the purposes of feeding and nourishing certain types of plants.  The ingredient list reads a little differently: Ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulphate, urea, etc.  Like the organic products, these also have their own upside: they have been designed to supply nutrients immediately for large crops, or for plants where the soil is not ideal for planting.  Synthetic fertilizer also tends to be cheaper, and far more effective than organic options.  These qualities lend themselves very easily to most amateur gardeners.

In practical terms, the organic fertilizer will cost you more, and not be as effective as the cheaper synthetic option.

its also important to note that ‘synthetic’ is not synonymous with ‘bad’ or ‘harmful’.  There has been a massive trend of associating organic things with everything that is good, while we tend to think of bad things when someone mentions ‘synthetic’.  This is not always the case.  Sure, genetically modified tomatoes and engineered corn might not be whats best for your body, but this is not the same thing as using a fertilizer thats been designed to feed your plants.

Good in -> Good out.

Some types of gardening make one type of fertilizer more appropriate than the other.  If you are growing vegetables or herbs that you will end up eating, you might chose the more cautious route of opting for the organic ferts.  This is the same principle that dictates that you feed livestock healthy food, since you will be eating what they produce.  Just be prepared to spend a lot more time and money making sure that your plants are properly fed.

On the other hand, if you are cultivating a colorful garden or some ornamental shrubs or trees, you will want them to be full and vibrant for as long as possible.  In these cases, using a synthetic fert will deliver the nutrients those plants need quickly and effectively.  Those flowers will pop much brighter and those trees will be fuller when they are well fed.  The same is true for your lawn (though it may make your grass taste funny, sorry goats!).

As with any project, there is a right tool for each job.  Making sure you understand exactly what you are setting out to do will ensure that you are able to choose the right tools.  Using the right fertilizer for your garden will help you make certain that you are getting the most from your time and hard word.


Happy Gardening!