There are so many different fertilizer products available, it can be a bit confusing trying to figure out which one is right for your plants. With both organic and synthetic options available, it can be even more puzzling to choose. Both types have benefits for your garden, and both can be used to help grow stronger and healthier plants.
Synthetic vs. Organic: What’s The Difference?
Both types of fertilizers have certain situations where they shine, and both feature the same three primary nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, often indicated as an “NPK” ratio. Organic fertilizers derive these nutrients from plant or animal sources, like blood meal, compost, bat guano, manure, seaweed, and worm castings. Synthetic fertilizers are made from human-made compounds like ammonium nitrate, ammonium phosphate, and potassium sulphate.
At the most basic level, synthetic fertilizers feed the plant, and organic fertilizers feed the soil. But its a little more complicated than that.
In liquid form, synthetic fertilizers deliver a fast boost to plants because the nutrients are delivered with water, straight to the roots. This makes the product easy for the plant to absorb and turn that energy into tasty fruit, luscious leaves, or beautiful flowers. The downside to synthetic fertilizers is that they don’t improve the health of the soil.
Synthetic fertilizers are great for demanding plants like tomatoes, many flowering annuals, houseplants, and other potted plants. Potted plants don’t have a ton of soil around the roots, so they tend to use up the available nutrients quickly. Liquid synthetic fertilizers can help them get the nutrition they need right away.
Plants like tomatoes, which grow fast and produce lots of fruit, need tons of nutrients. They can deplete the soil very quickly. Synthetic fertilizers in the form of liquid solutions, granular formulas, or fertilizer “spikes” can help deliver those nutrients consistently along with your normal watering schedule.
Organic fertilizers are more commonly available as a product you can spread and mix into your soil. They often release nutrients into the soil at a slower rate. This slower rate is fantastic if your soil is already pretty healthy, but if your soil is depleted of nutrients, it can take quite a while to see the results of your organic fertilizer.
However, organic fertilizers also do double duty; they add those three essential nutrients that plants need, but they also contain lots of other important trace nutrients, microorganisms, and beneficial microbes. These things all help to replenish and improve the health of your soil.
Organic fertilizers are an excellent option for outdoor garden and flower beds. Healthier soil helps plants grow stronger and produce better fruit or flowers. Adding organic matter is one of the best ways to improve your soil over the long term.
What Fertilizer Should You Choose?
You can use both organic and synthetic fertilizers. For immediate results, you may need to feed with synthetic fertilizers while adding organic fertilizer blends to rebuild soil health over time. Whatever fertilizer you choose to use, make sure to apply it according to the package directions.
With any fertilizer, it’s better to err on the side of caution and use less than you think you need. Too much fertilizer can burn the roots and leaves of your plants. Be conservative in your use of fertilizers, and make sure to follow the directions carefully. No matter which fertilizers you choose to use, give us a call or stop by the garden center to see what we have in stock!