There are many people, including some professionals, that still insist chemicals and organics are the same and make no difference to the plant. This theory is based on the molecules that are entering the plant roots. At an elemental level, this is chemically true, but it avoids examining the ways the two options get to that stage; organics work with a food chain while chemicals bypass it. This logic is like one person running an entire marathon while another competitor starts the race two feet from the finish line.
We know that the use of organics in gardens across Canada is increasing, but is there any value in this practice? Remember, the fact that you garden is exciting and something to be proud of, no matter your methods. The following ideas will scratch the surface of that organic marathon that builds soil and feeds plants by creating reactions that can’t be achieved by chemicals.
Organics work with the 90 percent of soil organisms that are beneficial, keeping them healthy, growing the soil, strengthening the soil and our plants. We are comparing a three-billion-year-old organic trial to a 60-year chemical trial – there are all sorts of reasons to consider an organic product this season.
The first part of organics that most people notice right away is that the numbers are lower on the product label. Don’t be confused though, numbers are only part of the story. Organics are the original slow release fertilizers, from the way they break down to the way they move through the soil. Chemical options are generally water soluble (even if they have a slow release coating) and wash easily through soil. In fact, some even turn into gas and float away into the air above your gardens and lawns. Even though the numbers are lower, organics certainly have the power to provide very good nutrition for your plants while releasing less nutrients into the environment.
Organics aren’t available without help from soil organisms. These organic materials feed millions of organisms in soil, and these organisms release the nutrients slowly to plants. Organics build ecosystems from the ground up, recycling nutrients, growing biodiversity, and feeding your soil, which in turn, feeds your plants. But fertilizer isn’t even the best part about organic fertilizers! All organics contain something known as organic matter which essentially means carbon. Most of us know about carbon thanks to the discussion on climate change and carbon dioxide. Carbon, or organic matter, is one of the most important parts of a quality top soil. Topsoil can actually hold far more carbon than the plants we grow in it, so taking care of our life-giving topsoil also helps sink carbon out of the atmosphere. One clear distinction between organics and chemicals is that generally organics outperform chemicals when it comes to building carbon in soils.
Soils that hold more carbon have better structure, hold more air, store more water, and support more life. Essentially they contain more of everything good for your plants. In fact, long-term research has shown that organically managed soils high in carbon help plants through stressful weather conditions such as drought and extreme temperatures – and these seem to be becoming more common all around the world.