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Organic vs Synthetic Fertilizers

Organic vs. Synthetic Fertilizers: Which is Best for Indoor and Outdoor Plants?

Fertilizers serve as plant food essential to their healthy growth and development. They come from organic (natural) and synthetic (inorganic plant food) sources and supply all the micro- and macro-nutrients for protein synthesis, food processing, growth, and reproduction. Also, easy to understand organic vs synthetic fertilizers.

The suitable applications of these fertilizers at the right time ensure the success of ornamental, fruit, and vegetable gardening. Spring and summer are the best times to apply organic (natural) and synthetic fertilizers. It is because plants actively need more nutrients for new growth and reproduction than in fall and winter (resting or dormancy period).

Organic vs. Synthetic

Fertilizers, whether organic or inorganic, are plant food that fulfills nutrient requirements and aid in healthy growth and development.
Applying the right amount of fertilizers is essential for healthy growth. Many beginner gardeners use more fertilizers instead of balanced amounts. They apply more for rapid plant growth and yield, resulting in overfertilization.
Overfeeding plants with fertilizers can cause as many problems as under-fertilization, water stress, and poor soil drainage. It causes abnormal growth of leaves with a dark green appearance, leggier stems, branches, and little to no flower production.
Moreover, overfertilization encourages lush green and vegetative growth in plants prone to pest and pathogen attacks.
Keep reading to learn more about organic vs. synthetic fertilizers and how to apply balanced amounts.

Organic vs. Synthetic Fertilizers

Organic fertilizers are plant food from natural sources such as compost, bone meal, manure, and worm castings derived from plants and animals. These fertilizers come from complex organic material upon decomposition by microbes, fungi, and invertebrates. Their composition consists of every micro- and macronutrient that enrich the soil slowly. Therefore, organic fertilizers feed the plants throughout their life cycle and need only once a year application.

Organic vs. Synthetic
Organic or natural fertilizers benefit plants and soil by supplementing nutrients and beneficial microbes.

Synthetic fertilizers (inorganic plant food or “man-made” compounds) are agricultural inputs prepared from naturally occurring raw materials. It includes air and natural gas. They comprise higher concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium with small amounts of micronutrients. 
These fertilizers are highly water-soluble and are aimed to feed the plant immediately. With their applications once a month, they quickly boost the foliage greening and overall growth of plants.
However, the results of their applications will not last long and need frequent applications to keep the foliage green.

Organic vs. Synthetic
Synthetic fertilizers are fast acting and available in various forms like pellet, granule, and spike.

What are Five Examples of Synthetic Fertilizers?

The popular synthetic fertilizer formulations are calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN), urea ammonium nitrate (UAN), ammonium nitrate (AN), potassium sulfate (PS), single superphosphate (SSP), triple superphosphate (TSS), and potassium magnesium sulfate. All these formulations are used to support plant growth and development. However, growers need additional fertilizers alongside inorganic plant food to prevent the deficiency of micronutrients.

Note: One of the significant differences between organic vs. synthetic fertilizers is organic plant food enriches the soil. In contrast, commercial fertilizers feed the plant and help in development.

Quick information on Organic vs. Synthetic fertilizers

Organic FertilizersSynthetic Fertilizers
Depending upon sources, organic fertilizers are more expensive.These fertilizers are readily available and inexpensive.
Organic fertilizers are available in small bags and are not economical for homeowners.Available in large quantities and economical for commercial applications.
They are always in bulkier form and are challenging to apply over large areas.They are easy to use due to their availability in several states (pellets, liquid, granules, and powder).
Application is made manually.Easy to use through machinery like disc spreaders that are readily available and cheaper than organic fertilizer spreaders.
Overapplication is rare and does not burn or kill the plants.These fertilizers can burn or deteriorate the plant to the ground when misapplied.
Prevent soil degradation and increase biodiversity by adding beneficial microbes.Promote soil deterioration and kill beneficial soil microbes.
These fertilizers have a high water-retaining capacity with a slow nutrient release.Have high water runoffs with the fast release of nutrients. Due to this, nutrient leaching comes in synthetic fertilizers. 
They have all nutrients and nourish the plant with trace elements.Precise nutrient levels to fulfill plants’ growth and reproduction needs. Also, these fertilizers do not have trace minerals to assist plant growth.
Organic fertilizer needs only once or twice a year application.Need multiple applications throughout the growing season, which results in soil compaction and microbial reductions.
Plants can withstand the overapplications of organic fertilizers.Over Applications of synthetic fertilizers burn plants by damaging their root system and leaves. 
Contains more micronutrients than synthetic fertilizers and slowly releases into the ground.Consist of high amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

How Organic vs. Synthetic Fertilizers Work?

Organic fertilizers work slowly. It is because compounds present in a complex form upon which beneficial microbes work. They slowly break down the compounds into nutrients that feed the soil. Therefore, organics take longer to nurture the soil, making your plant healthier and more vibrant. They are an ideal choice for vegetable gardening and perennial flowering beds to keep the soil healthy and promote the lush green growth of plants.
Synthetic fertilizers work like a drug for their rapid action and immediately turn the lawn and landscapes greener. They are formulated with certain nutrients to fulfill specific growth requirements. For example, ammonium nitrate contains higher amounts of nitrogen to support the vegetative growth of plants.
They are best for container gardening to achieve short-term awesomeness.

Deciding between Organic and Synthetic Fertilizers

Both organic and synthetic fertilizers can be used based on the type of crops, their nutritional requirements, and gardening purposes. For a quick nutrient supply to restore the green growth of plants, apply synthetic fertilizers with NPK concentrations of 20-10-20.
While for soil and plant health over an extended period, use organic fertilizers as a soil drench at the planting time. They will also control the harmful pathogens in the soil and prevent the plant from wilting.
Be sure not to overdo the organic vs. synthetic fertilizers because too many applications can burn the leaves and roots of your plant. Such over-applications with fertilizers weaken the plant’s root system and encourage root rot and premature falling of leaves.

Note: The higher water solubility of synthetic fertilizers leaches down the nutrients to the subsoil, damaging their texture and rhizobacteria.

FAQs on Organic vs. Synthetic Fertilizers

Is Organic Fertilizer better than Synthetic?

Both organic and synthetic fertilizers benefit plants’ healthy growth and development. However, organic fertilizers are safer for soil and plant health. They slowly release nutrients and make them available to plants for longer while improving the soil structure.
Organic fertilizers also improve the water movement into the soil and assist in the deep hydration of the root system. In addition, these fertilizers feed the soil microbes as well and enhance their decomposition ability. Thus using organic plant food will keep the soil and plant healthy— a win-win situation for plants, dirt, and their microbes.

What is the Disadvantage of Synthetic Fertilizer?

There is no doubt that synthetic fertilizers are faster-acting and readily accessible to plants to cure their nutrient deficiencies. With this only advantage, these fertilizers deplete the soil of nutrients and harm its microbes, disturbing the soil’s ecosystem. 
They do not contain micronutrients, and the rapid release of nutrients makes it difficult for roots to absorb them.
Chemical fertilizers also pollute the environment and cause many problems, from liver damage to human infertility problems. 

What are the Two Disadvantages of Organic Fertilizers?

Organic fertilizers are expensive compared to synthetic fertilizers. Also, these organic plant food takes longer to release nutrients to the soil and are available to roots than synthetic fertilizers. They may contaminate the soil with microbes that invade the roots when soils are too wet.

Can Organic Fertilizer Burn Plants?

Organic fertilizers do not burn plants in somewhat dry soils when applied in balanced amounts. When these fertilizers are used in wet soils, they clog the roots, depriving them of oxygen and nutrient supply. Due to this, the aboveground plant parts turn yellow and brown top leaves with a burnt appearance.

What type of Fertilizer is Best for Plant Growth?

Plant food or fertilizers rich in nitrogen is best for plant growth and development. It boosts the new leaf growth when applied in springtime. Also, nitrogen-rich fertilizers restore the lush green growth of foliage, protein synthesis, increase the food-making process, and the formation of new branches.

Which Fertilizer has the Maximum Nutrients?

Synthetic fertilizers have the maximum amounts of nutrients, mainly urea and ammonium nitrate, and consist of a high nitrogen percentage.

What are the Five Benefits of Using Organic Fertilizers?

Organic fertilizers are eco-friendly plant food compared to synthetic fertilizers. These are the top five benefits of using natural plant food.

  1. Organic matter improves the soil structure by adding beneficial microbes.
  2. These fertilizers help plants grow and develop by preventing disease occurrence.
  3. Organic matter improves the soil’s water retention capacity and fertility.
  4. Microorganisms in organic fertilizers break down complex molecules into accessible nutrients for roots.
  5. Organic fertilizers are not harmful to plants when overapplied.