Which form of plant nutrition is better in broad terms – chemical fertilizer or compost? Fertilizers, whether chemical or organic, supply to the plants the elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and iron that are essential to their growth and develop. Compost is bulky organic matter, of either plant or animal origin, which has to break down to an inorganic or mineral state before the essential elements can be taken up by the plants’ roots. For this reason, manufactures of fertilizer products tend to dismiss compost as not being fertilizer at all. If the term “fertilizer” is defined as narrowly as they find convenient, then this may be true. It is blatantly false however, to imply that compost is not a source, albeit indirectly, of plant nutrients.
Applying chemical fertilizer is the most efficient, cost effective method of feeding plants. One only has to look at the farming industry, with its massive, annual consumption of fertilizers, to see that this is the case. It is, together with chemical pest control, the main reason behind the high prices in the supermarkets of organically grown produce, whose growers do not use chemical fertilizer. If chemicals give farmers get better yields in the field, then logically, they should provide superior results in the garden as well. Indeed, in the first year or so after planting the garden, this often appears to happen; the trees and shrubs may grow quicker, while flowers are both more numerous and stronger in color.
To achieve similar performance with compost, one has to use massive quantities – about 30 liters per square meter when preparing the soil – a method that is clearly far more expensive and laborious. Yet more and more landscape professionals, not only organic gardeners, choose to use compost. Why is this case?. The most significant benefit of compost is in its role as a soil conditioner, for in the long term, the health and vitality of the soil is infinitely more important than the short-term boost provided by chemical fertilizers. Compost, whether commercially prepared or homegrown, is the humus of a natural eco-system. For what works in nature, works in the garden too.
Organic matter in the soil is raw material for a vast variety of organisms, from microbes to the earthworm. A high humus percentage builds up the soil’s fauna and flora, which dramatically increases the aeration of the soil, reduces the level of pathogenic organisms, and actually improves plant nutrition, by improving the availability of trace elements such as magnesium and iron.
The advantages of humus as a soil conditioner are negated by the long-term application of chemical fertilizer. The population of earthworms is virtually eliminated while the reduced range of organisms generally, creates favorable conditions for pest and disease organisms to take rootHealth Fitness Articles, unbalanced by the natural predators that are part of a healthy eco-system.