Organic vs. Inorganic Fertilizer

A handful of red potash fertilizer.

Both organic and inorganic fertilizers have their perks as well as their drawbacks. While there is no right or wrong fertilizer to use, there are fertilizers that will work better for you and your garden.

Organic vs. Inorganic

Organic fertilizer consists of materials that come from the remains or the result of different types of organisms. Microorganisms found in the soil decompose the organic material, making its nutrients readily available to the plants.

Inorganic fertilizers are sometimes completely, or at least partially, comprised of man-made materials. Normally, manufacturers combine specific kinds as well as amounts of different elements. This is done based on the growing conditions that are needed, as well as the crop that is provided.

Organic Fertilizers

Organic fertilizer decreases the danger of over-fertilization because the nutrients are released slowly. The slow release of these nutrients also means they will be available over a longer period of time and fewer applications will be required. Organic fertilizer improves your soil. It does this by escalating the soils ability to hold water and nutrients. It decreases erosion and soil crusting caused by rain and wind. Using organic fertilizer adds more natural nutrients, feeds important microbes in the soil and improves the structure of the soil.

Organic fertilizers are known to have a bad smell. Many organic fertilizers are released slowly so your flowers and plants will stay nutrient deficient until the process of decomposing is finished. Because organic fertilizers contain lower percentages of the three key nutrients — nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium — you may need to to use more to make sure that your plants are getting the right amount.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Karen Thurber adds, "There are fast acting, organic fertilizers. Bat guano, fish meal, and worm casting all have nutrients readily available."

Inorganic Fertilizers

Inorganic fertilizers have the necessary amounts of the three main nutrients that your plants require to help them survive and flourish. They also release quickly so that your plants are able to get the nutrients they need as soon as possible. If there is an emergency and you need to get your plant fertilized quickly, inorganic is the right choice for you.

TIP: Karen advises, "Chemical fertilizers do nothing to build your soil. Using only chemical fertilizer over time will deplete your soil of valuable microbes. Frequently, organic matter in the form of manure or compost is added to the soil to remedy this problem."

Inorganic fertilizers can sometimes leach, which happens when irrigation or rain gets below the plant root level. Nitrogen is very vulnerable to all kinds of leaching.

TIP: Karen adds, "Excessive use of inorganic fertilizers can lead to a build-up of salts in the soil, causing damage to the plant. Inorganic fertilizers are manufactured using fossil fuels."

Organic and inorganic fertilizers both will provide your plants with the nutrients they need to grow. Choosing which you use depends on your growing situation.