As concern for the environment grows, so does our concern about what kind of chemicals we are using on our farms and in our gardens. The over use of synthetic chemicals and their negative impact on our environment and our health are widely known.
So what is a grower supposed to do when they want to have lush, healthy plants that provide a bountiful crop or a beautiful landscape, but want to avoid methods that are less lethal to the environment? After all, most plants that are grown for the production of food or for garden landscapes require some amendments, such as fertilizer, to enhance the growth of the plants.
Fertilizers are popular because they help plants grow by providing nutrition to the plant. The three main essential nutrients, also referred to as macro nutrients, that plants require include nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). These are the three most common nutrients that you will find in fertilizers. Chemical sources of these nutrients require high dose percentages to achieve the desired results which tend to kill much of the microbial activity in the soil, while natural sources of these nutrients provide lower percentages and promote a living soil.
People love chemical fertilizers due to the ability to achieve immediate results. The plants provide higher yields, and the gardener is happy because the plants are vibrant and lush. However, overall soil quality needed for sustaining plant health suffers. Unfortunately, the long term hazards associated with using these chemicals on our lands are not taken into consideration.
Examples of the negative impact upon water quality include the dead zone problem in the gulf of Mexico, where ocean life can no longer live. The contamination of local ground water sources affect everyone’s drinking water. When the plants or lawns do not absorb all of the chemicals used, they wash away resulting in “run-off,” USGS Article; problems with Nitrogen and Water.
A recent toxic algae bloom in the great lakes created from fertilizer run-off left 400,000 residents of Ohio without drinking water for days. It was obvious that there was real trouble when Lake Erie turned to a dark, bright green, Toledo Water Crisis. Severe water pollution issues from fertilizer run-off are not limited to Lake Erie.
According to Daniel Sobota, a National Research Council Fellow who works with the EPA and who has spent the last 3 years studying nitrogen sources in the U.S., it’s pretty clear that synthetic chemical fertilizer is the largest source of nitrogen to the U.S. landscape,” Causes of Our Nitrogen Problem, EPA
Contaminants such as heavy metals from industrial waste are also found in chemical fertilizers including lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury and molybdenum. Even though these metals are highly toxic, applying some of the surplus of toxic waste on our land has become a legal way to recycle and dispose of hazardous waste.
The EPA argues that the amount of hazardous waste used in fertilizer is limited; however, these heavy metals and other poisons end up in our water and food. These toxins enter our food cycle directly (as in our fruit and vegetables) or indirectly though the feeding of livestock and farm animals. Chickens, cows and pigs eat corn, soybeans and grains all of which are heavily doused with pesticides and fertilizers. As you chow down on that great steak, burger or chicken breast, you may also be ingesting traces of heavy metals and other nasty chemicals. One way to reduce your exposure to poisons that are negatively impacting your health is to grow with natural fertilizers, like Vine Vitality, for your farm or garden.
Natural and organic sources of fertilizers are less concentrated than synthetics and come from plant or animal matter, including manure, compost, kelp, blood meal, cover crops, bone meal, worm casting, green sand, kelp and fish. Colorado State University Extension; Organic Fertilizers gives some great examples on what types of animal and plant matter are used in natural and organic fertilizers. The biggest reasons for using natural fertilizers are improving long term soil health while minimizing the health risks to ourselves and our environment.
Both chemical and natural fertilizers come in different forms and can be applied in different ways depending on the product. Some products are tilled in or applied in granular form to the top of the soil. Liquid fertilizers, such as Vine Vitality’s Natural Fertilizer, are applied as a foliar spray. The foliar feeding method delivers the nutrients directly to the foliage of the plant instead of having to be tilled in.
Natural fertilizers provide long term health support of a plant due to the fact that the nutrients are released more slowly into the soil allowing the nutrients to break down while also supporting the roots and micro organisms that live in the soil. Improving the soil in this way makes the plant less susceptible to pests and more resilient to disease and extreme weather. In addition, natural fertilizers often contain many micro-nutrients in contrast to the chemical fertilizers which only have a few nutrients in large amounts.
Too much sugar in our diet makes us fat, weak and prone to disease. Over time, chemical fertilizers also make plants weak and prone to disease as the plant becomes more dependent on the chemicals to grow without a healthy soil to support it. As the soil dies from repeated applications of chemical fertilizers, our water quality, air quality and health quality are also diminished.
Using natural fertilizers provide health for your plant and soil over the long term. Soil health is a critical piece to growing healthy plants, healthy crops and livestock and therefore healthy people. The long term health of the plant, the soil, micro organisms, ecosystems and the health of people far outweigh the short-term benefits from using chemical fertilizers. Natural fertilizers like Vine Vitality assist in healthy, responsible and abundant growing!
Master Gardener, Naturalist, Writer