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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Lareau

We Know Chemical Fertilizers are Bad for Your Garden, but Why?

Updated: Feb 7, 2018

Three Main Reasons to Avoid Chemical Fertilizer

Everyone knows that you need chemical fertilizer to have healthy plants, right? Absolutely not! Chemical fertilizers are costly and in the long run prove ineffective and even detrimental to the landscape.

Let’s explore what I mean by chemical fertilizer to understand this further. Google defines chemical fertilizer as ‘any inorganic material of wholly or partially synthetic origin that is added to the soil to sustain plant growth’. Why would we choose to add synthetic ingredients to the soil to sustain plant growth? The answer is likely because nutrients are immediately available.

In chemical fertilizer, Phosphorus quickly binds to minerals in the soil and becomes unavailable to the plants. Nitrogen and Potassium are also immediately available and due to highly soluble properties, easily leach into the water table and do not stick around in the soil to feed the plant after the initial application.

Furthermore, chemical fertilizers disrupt the natural partnership between plant and micro organisms by providing these nutrients via an unnatural method. When there is food, ie carbon sugars created by the plant, microorganisms will thrive in the soil around the plant, fix carbon into the soil and create aggregates which trap water to be slowly and thoroughly absorbed.

When chemical fertilizer is present these communities can go dormant and even die. The plant no longer has the incentive to offer carbon sugars to the soil organisms around them but its nutrient needs are being met by the chemical fertilizer, so the populations of microorganisms die of starvation.The plants and soil both suffer from the lack of microorganisms.

The soil loses its ability to hold water, transfer nutrients and begins to show signs of desertification. Signs of desertification include surface cracking, lack of color, high pest or disease incidents with plant population and hydrophobia when watered. Unsurprisingly, the key to transforming a desertified landscape back into a healthy one is a thriving microorganism population in the soil.

Three Main Reasons to Avoid Chemical Fertilizer

Increased Cost: Consumers have to constantly apply the fertilizers to maintain their garden’s healthy appearance and the plant becomes chemically dependent on the fertilizer.

  1. Environmental Pollution: Application of these fertilizers creates Nitrates in streams and waterways due to runoff and contributes to massive amounts of environmental pollution.

  2. Long term Negative Effects: Chemical fertilizers disrupt the natural beneficial partnership between microorganisms and plants. This can result in desertification of the soil.

In contrast to chemical fertilizers, compost and other organic material (debris), slowly break down in the sun, wind and rain and consistently offer nutrients in a more spread out timeframe. The plants are able to fully digest and benefit from the nutrients around them because soil microorganisms have enzymes which make phosphorus and other elements available to the plant. Also, this supports the beneficial relationship between plants and microorganisms to create thriving life above and below the soil.

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