Happy Earth Day 2021! What a year it has been. My own garden has been a lifesaver for my mental health. Perhaps you feel the same.
While we should enjoy nature today, Earth Day also comes with a to-do list. Why? Well, there are a lot of changes to be made. There are thousands of good actions you could take today and in the future, such as growing a vegetable garden, starting a compost pile and, yes, planting the right flowers for the bees. If you are working on actions good for the Earth, bravo.
Why Synthetic Fertilizers are So Bad
While gardening can be great for the Earth, there is one gardening practice that needs to go–the use of synthetic or chemical fertilizers. They are incredibly damaging and a strong emitter of greenhouse gases. Let’s dig into some of the problems.
- Much of the nitrogen in synthetic fertilizers will turn into a gas, nitrous oxide (N20). Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas and 300x stronger than carbon dioxide, so it dramatically heats up the Earth.
- Nitrogen easily leaches into bodies of water, causing algae blooms and a lack of oxygen. This in turn causes massive fish deaths.
- Excess nitrates and nitrites leach into drinking water supplies and are harmful to your health, causing birth defects, cancers and thyroid problems.
- Synthetic fertilizers kill or inhibit the microorganisms and biology of the soil. They also degrade the quality of soil. The soil biology drives the growth of the plants. Without healthy soil microbial populations, we won’t have healthy plants.
- Many of the synthetic fertilizers also come with harmful ingredients. Think of the lawn fertilizers that also contain herbicides for weeds. These ingredients can cause long lasting harm to your soil and plants. Herbicides can also harm the biology of your soil. Systemic herbicides, such as glyphosate, can stay in the soil for years. Future populations of bees could be harmed by one application of herbicides today.
- Synthetic fertilizers are made by chemistry from fossil fuels.
Over application of fertilizers is common. Homeowners apply 10x more than farmers use per acre.
Choose Organic Fertilizers
No fertilizer bag is likely to use the word “synthetic” on the bag. Synthetic fertilizers are the norm, dominating the selection at your average garden center. I assume fertilizers are synthetic unless they say otherwise.
Instead look for and choose a fertilizer that is Organic. Organic fertilizers are often made from natural ingredients such as animal manure, not fossil fuels. The NPK ratio on an organic fertilizer will likely be smaller than a synthetic but that is OK. Organic fertilizers are slow release (hence the smaller numbers) but will last for the whole growing season. They work great. Synthetic fertilizers are fast release and will dissipate quickly–requiring you to reapply later in the season.
Ask your garden centers to offer a full range of organic fertilizers and minimize the synthetic ones. Once you find an organic fertilizer you are happy with, tell the world about it.
Choosing organic food or supporting your local organic farmers also helps tremendously. And share this post with others.
I would love to hear in the comments section the good-for-earth projects you have planned or an organic fertilizer you love. Myself, I am working on reducing our grass and expanding some flower beds this spring. Here’s to a fabulous growing season!