YOUR GARDEN PLANTS NEED MINERALS TOO
Hello fellow Earthlings and welcome to the garden.
In our ongoing quest to
grow healthy gardens without the use of synthetic and potentially hazardous
chemicals we are often faced with some very basic problems. I was asked by
a reader a few weeks ago to explain why I thought natural/ organic
fertilizers were better when chemical compounds seem to work so much faster
and appear to be benign enough. I wrote back asking this reader if they
were serious and not just my first heckler. The reader wrote back and said
that he was, in fact, serious even though he had been reading my weekly
column for over two years and was very familiar with my "dogma".
I got the
hint and thought about how to convince this doubter who has read about soil
quality, water pollution, and biological diversity why our way is better.
Logic didn't seem to work and the common sense of naturally tending to the
garden wasn't convincing enough for this person. So I came up with an
answer to this detractor of the natural way that he couldn't argue with.
This is what I came up with.
Dear Gilligan, (Name changed to protect the environmentally challenged)
Thank you for your insights regarding plant growth and the perceived
ephemeral trendiness of organic and natural gardening. I have to
respectfully disagree with your statement that blue crystals (product name
deleted) and other synthetic chemical fertilizers perform better than plant
foods and fertilizers that are of natural origin. Your statement that
chemical fertilizers are harmless to the environment and to the people
exposed to them is also something I have to take issue with but your
question challenging me to give you a quality that organic plant foods have
that chemicals don't is where I'll respond.
Natural/ organic plant foods provide a far greater abundance of essential
plant nutrients than chemical compounds used for this purpose. No chemical
fertilizers manufactured today have the capacity to supply plants with the
variety of micronutrients that organic plant foods commonly supply.
Natural/ organic fertilizers carry along with them these minerals
inherently. Without resorting to flowery language, this essence of life is
the one thing that synthetics can never provide. The subtle, natural way
these organic plant foods works depends on their ability to promote
stimulate plant growth by focusing on the soil-plant dynamic. These natural
plant foods promote the growth of symbiotic bacteria and fungi in soil that
allow soils to more effectively supply plants with the essential minerals
needed to function properly. Although organic plant foods do not often work
as quickly as your chemicals they do work far longer. Long after the
nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in your chemicals are depleted or
flowing down the storm drain system, organic plant foods combined with
sunlight continue to provide nourishment to the complex biological process
known as photosynthesis, thus plant growth.
Plant growth is not sustainable by providing only major nutrients like
nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (what are referred to as complete
fertilizers in conventional chemical manufacturing). For the most part
chemical fertilizers only provide these three nutrients. Some have a little
sulfur and iron or calcium added, but they are nowhere close to providing
the other minerals essential for healthy plant growth. Boron, Magnesium,
Chlorine, Manganese, Copper, Zinc, and Molybdenum are commonly provided by
natural/ organic plant foods in addition to the N-P-K (nitrogen,
phosphorus, potassium), Sulfur, Calcium, and Iron sometimes provided by
chemical products. It is also good to note that chemical fertilizers are
often antagonistic to the symbiotic organisms in the soil due to their high
analysis which can commonly be over 30% nitrogen. The really bad part of
this is that most of these nutrients are lost to runoff that ends up in the
storm drain system. They eventually find their way into our lakes, streams,
and ocean causing one of the most destructive types of water pollution.
Your argument for the use of chemical fertilizers is a good one. These
products do, in fact, supply high quantities of a few nutrients. But if any
single ephemeral quality exists between chemical and organic plant foods,
it is with chemicals. These products are potentially dangerous to the
environment and are certainly antagonistic to the natural systems that
nature and four billion years of evolutionary improvement have provided for
plants. Soon chemical fertilizers will be found out by the general public
as temporary (ephemeral) solutions as plant foods. Then the innate common
sense of gardeners and farmers alike will then kick in and natural/ organic
plant foods will e the norm. Thank you for your interest in this subject. I
hope I have stated my argument to your satisfaction.
And that is how it went. To all of you users of organic plant foods that
are periodically waylaid by neighbors willing to criticize you for your
practices in the garden, I offer you this argument in favor of your plants,
the environment, and common sense. Next time we will be discussing fall
care of your roses to ensure an amazing fall bloom and prepare them for
next spring. See you in the Garden!
Got questions? Fax the Doc at 760.632.8175 or Email him: email
Don Trotter's natural gardening columns appear nationally in environmentally sensitive publications.
Look for Don's book Natural Gardening A-Z from Hay House at bookstores everywhere and at all online booksellers and check out Don's columns in Hearst's Healthy Living Magazine coming soon.
Enjoy some of Dr. Curly's past gardening articles from our growers archive.
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