Wednesday, April 05, 2006

What's the Big Deal with Miracle-Gro?

Sarah asked this question in the comments, and it's a good one. For me, a magazine published by a big company like Scotts is a little suspect. I mean, we're not talking about a group of passionated and dedicated gardeners who got together to share their love of horticulture with the world. I'd be equally nonplussed if, say, Home Depot decided to publish a garden magazine. It's just an advertisement delivery vehicle. (I know, the same is true of most magazines, but you get my drift.)

But what about the blue stuff itself? Well, as an entirely organic gardener, I don't use synthetic fertlizers like Miracle Gro or Osmocote. These chemical fertilizers are by-products of the petroleum industry, they're salt-based, and they're almost always overkill. Runoff of fertilizer chemicals in to streams and water supplies is a serious problem. You're also more likely to burn plants by using too much synthetic fertilizer, and you can even hurt the soil: there's nothing like high-nitrogen chemical lawn fertilizer to damage your earthworm population.

On the other hand, organic fertilizers like fish emulsion, bone meal, kelp meal, etc. are food for beneficial organisms that live in the soil and help feed plant roots. Worm castings, manure, and compost are full of beneficial microbes, as are many organic fertilizers that have species of good bacteria and fungi added. So when you add these organic products to the soil, you're not just feeding your plant, you're feeding the soil your plant lives in.

Organic fertilizers may work more slowly, but think of them as a complete meal. Synthetic fertlizers are a pill, and since they only contain a few major nutrients, it's not even like feeding your garden a multivitamin--it's more like feeding it vitamin C, D, and E and figuring that's enough.

So--no thanks, Scotts. No thanks, Miracle-Gro. If I need an arsenal of chemicals to keep my garden growing, I'll pass on the whole thing and read a good book instead.

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