Monday, June 4, 2012

Some Benefits of Organics

As the summertime heat and humidity begin to move into the Lowcountry, I want to remind you of some of the benefits of using organic fertilizers, composts, mulch, wetting agents with biostimulants, and bridge products. Some of the things I write about are generalizations (ex. 10-10-10 is all synthetic – a fertilizer blender could put organic filler in the formula, but not likely).

When you purchase a typical 10-10-10 fertilizer, you are getting 30% nutrients and the rest of the bag is filler (70%). Filler usually consists of drying agents to keep the fertilizer from absorbing moisture and becoming clumpy. Filler is also limestone or other non-nutritional ingredients. The nutrients in a 10-10-10 are water soluble so the plant can absorb them. The 10-10-10 is usually all fast release, so once it goes out the plant better be ready to take it in, or the Nitrogen (what part hasn’t already volatized into the atmosphere as N2 gas) and the Potassium will leach through the soil profile or run-off into non-target areas.

Unlike humans, plants uptake only the nutrients that they need. No obese plants out there! A natural or organic fertilizer may have a lower N-P-K ratio; however, all the ingredients are either a food source for soil organisms, plant essential minerals or micro-nutrients. Organic fertilizers are not water soluble, and depend on beneficial soil organisms to convert the nutrients into a form that the plant can uptake. This is the same process that feeds the trees from fallen leaves and limbs in the woods. This process is the true, original slow release fertilizer. Nothing is lost to evaporation or run-off which is good with all the water around here.

With an organic fertilizer you generally have slow steady growth as the soil organisms meter out the nutrients. Slow steady growth is easier to maintain and less susceptible to disease and insect attack. The plant will grow deeper roots, making it more drought tolerant; therefore requiring less water (lower water bill).

A 10-10-10 might cause “flush growth” that requires more hedge trimming or mowing. The plant will be more susceptible to disease and insects. Excessive fertilization could also add to thatch in the lawn areas. A plant that is putting out a lot of new growth is often sacrificing root growth for top growth and the landscape needs more water as a result.

Well, I’m out of column inches, so I will have to continue next week.