Synthetic vs. Organic Fertilizer

fertilizers grow your own just grow it organic gardening

There are many different fertilizer options available on the market, and here’s what you need to know. Fertilizers fall into two categories; synthetic or organic.  Whichever you choose to use is entirely up to you. 

When it comes to fertilizers, I will say this, for a new gardener using synthetic fertilizer can give you the results you want faster with less effort. But easier isn’t always better, these results come at a cost. 

Let's start by describing what I mean by synthetic fertilizers; Synthetic fertilizers are fertilizers that have been refined and are no longer in their raw, pure form.  Altering the chemical structure of the fertilizers helps increase the nutrient availability to the plants.  These fertilizers can be petroleum-based, rock-based, or even organic based, just not in their original raw form.


Synthetic fertilizers


·       They release their nutrients to the plants rapidly.

·       They are inexpensive

·       Contain all the macronutrients


·       Since nutrients are readily and easily absorbed by plants overfertilization can occur

·       Does not add organic matter to the soil

·       Synthetic fertilizers add excess salts and phosphorus to the soil.  This can lead to Nutrient Lockout (Link to nutrient Lockout article)

·       Continued use can alter the pH of the soil

·       Incomplete fertilizers that lack all of the micronutrients

·       Have to consistently apply throughout the season since they are short-lived in the soil


Organic fertilizers are naturally occurring substances that go through no processing.  A majority of these products are by-products from other industries and are derived from plant or animal sources.  Read about my favorite organic fertilizers here. 

Examples include but are not limited to cottonseed meal, guanos, and chicken manure. Nutrients become available through a slow release process initiated by water and soil microbes. 


Organic fertilizers


·       Improve soil tilth

·       Increase and feed the soil microbes adding to the soil foodweb increasing the overall health of the soil

·       Slowly release nutrients and feed over a long period

·       Increase water retention in the soil

·       Cannot over fertilize plants

·       Able to make on your own and can end up costing you nothing

·       Made from renewable sources


·       More expensive than synthetic fertilizers.  Remember you get what you pay for.

·       Not fast acting as like synthetic fertilizers

·       There are advantages and disadvantages to using synthetic fertilizers

·       Relies on soil microbiology to become active in the soil.  Soil organisms become relatively inactive during the winter months when the temperature drops below 50°F


Organic fertilizers have more advantages over synthetic fertilizers.  They help restore the fertility of the earth and are renewable.  Yes, they are slow releasing, but with proper planning you should be able to receive all the nutrient benefits. 

Remember it is not just about your garden and your plants, keep the earth and environmentally friendly practices in mind whenever possible. There are enough issues in the let’s not add more problems from gardening.




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