It’s all around us: living a greener lifestyle is no longer a contemplation of some special group. “Green” is a catch-all phrase, though, and it can mean many different things: from organic and sustainable food choices to recycling, and of course, to the green right around us: our yards and gardens.
At Snow’s, our customers come to us this time of year for the products and advice they need to get their outdoor spaces ready for the season. And with so much attention to organic these days, there is a definite need to educate our customers on the finer points of both organic and manmade lawn and garden products.
Before getting into the details of organic or not, it should be noted that organic products are far better for Cape Cod’s fragile ecosystem, especially our waters, ponds and estuaries, so if it’s a viable choice for you, organic garden products should definitely be considered. In general, organic fertilizers supply natural, essential nutrients which can ultimately promote a healthier soil over a period of time. With those two things being said, you might ask why organic isn’t always the obvious choice. Well, while slow and steady may win the race, most inorganic fertilizers will work much more quickly, and depending on your situation, you may need to get results faster than Mother Nature would allow. Plants that have a very short season simply may not get the opportunity to thrive with an organic option.
Organic fertilizers are made up of natural ingredients. For example, if you look at the back of a bag of Espoma brand Garden-Tone® you will see poultry manure, bone meal and hydrolyzed feather meal among the ingredients listed. In most cases, these all-natural ingredients mean you can’t over fertilize.
On the flip side, manmade fertilizers are at least in part comprised of synthetic materials, and you do have to watch how much you use because too much could burn the roots of your plants. Synthetic in this case means chemical, but it’s often not as bad as it seems. As Snow’s garden expert David Christopher says, “While you certainly wouldn’t want a small child putting handfuls of chemically-treated soil in their mouth, there are many brands that are non-toxic. Look for the ones that say “pet friendly” right on the bag.”
Both manmade and organic fertilizers have something in common, too. Soil and plants need macro nutrients like potassium and nitrogen, and these will be present in any fertilizer you buy.
So, other than the issue of time (how fast you need your fertilizer to start working), what else should you think about if you’re considering organic? There are a few other key differences. After factoring in the actual time it takes to “kick in,” research tells us that organic fertilizers do more to improve soil health if you’re looking at it in years, not just one season. So if you are working toward a fertilizing program that is more effective over the long term, organic may be the way to go.
Another seemingly trivial – yet realistic – point to make is how a fertilizer smells. You may not expect roses, but remember that ingredient on the back of the Garden-Tone® bag…manure? Plants love this nutrient-packed organic gem, but as you can imagine, it doesn’t smell very nice. There’s a trade off with manmade products, too – you very well might rather the “farm fresh” smell of manure to the smell of chemicals that some inorganic fertilizers give off.
And there is a cost consideration. As with most organic products, they tend to be a little more expensive. But you get what you pay for. Think about organic eggs or chicken in the supermarket: for many of us it’s a premium worth paying. David says that when comparing costs, you should also take into consideration the fact that most natural fertilizers last longer, therefore need to be reapplied less often and require fewer trips to the garden center cash register.
If you want to explore organic fertilizers for pretty much any plant, soil, tree or vegetable, Snow’s carries the extensive Espoma line in sizes ranging from 4 to 40 pounds. Espoma is one of the pioneers in natural gardening solutions. These products contain mycorrhizae fungia – beneficial bacteria found naturally in the soil that enhances root development.
Snow’s also carries “Chickity Doo Doo” products: As the name indicates, these fertilizers are made with poultry litter (a chickens’ classy way of saying “manure”) and can used across the board for lawns, trees, vegetables and more.
Speaking of which, those early veggies are starting to come in? Lettuces, broccoli, parsley, some little tomatoes and herbs… and more is on the way, arriving every two weeks. For those that want to plant an organic vegetable garden in raised beds or boxes, the Espoma products work great, and Miracle Gro also has it’s own line of organic potting soil, too.
We invite you to come in and explore all the options…summer’s waiting!