One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is, “Should I grow using synthetic or organic nutrients?” To answer this, it is best to understand how each system works and what they’re both best for:
Organic nutrients are derived from plants and/or animal remains. Organic nutrients aren’t immediately available so you may not see quick results, but they are better for your plant in the long run. When growing with organics, your garden will be much healthier and happier because the nutrients are helping the microbial life and strengthening the symbiotic relationship between the soil and the plant. With organic nutrients, nature is allowed to take its course instead of force feeding it artificial nutrients. This will also help prevent nutrient burn from over feeding and result in a better tasting harvest. Properly balanced amino, folic, and humic acids allow organic growers to compete with yields typically only seen with synthetic nutrients.
Synthetic nutrients are made to simulate the natural minerals found in organic matter. Instead of coming from something that was once living, they are mostly mined from rocks. For some growers, synthetics have distinct advantages over organics because they are able to be used immediately, last longer when mixed, and have a significantly longer shelf life. Synthetics immediately bond with water forcing the plant to consume nutrients which is very important if there is a deficiency or if it needs a major boost. This reaction causes synthetics to form salts, so media should be flushed every couple of days. Also, because synthetic nutrients are able to be used right away, the NPK rating is usually higher.*
The use of synthetics can make your plant grow faster but less healthy and should never be utilized when growing outside because they can harm living things such as fish and birds. Finally, another downside is that any plant grown with synthetics needs to be flushed very well or you will end up with a harsh chemical taste.
What type of nutrient should you use?
The type of nutrients you select should be based on your specific wants and needs. If you want the better tasting, healthier plants, then organic is probably your best option. Whereas, growers that have less time to devote to their harvests should utilize synthetics. No matter what nutrient option you choose, you should take pride in knowing that you are growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs!
For more information regarding whether a nutrient is synthetic or organic, visit OMRI.ORG.
*NPK ratio states how much Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium immediately available to the plant.