SuburbanHomestead
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organic v. chemical fertilizer hugelkultur bed

Here is episode three of the webseries I am making about gardening. I have previously share the other two in the past. In this one I discuss organic fertilizer versus chemical for the hugelkultur bed I created.

What do you think?

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rainbowgardener
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Re: organic v. chemical fertilizer hugelkultur bed

I don't have time right now to watch your video (and in general I find videos a very slooowww way of transmitting information compared to just reading it).

But hugelkulture is a permaculture technique designed to simulate natural processes working in a forest floor, create a very enriched bioactive environment with lots of fungal activity. I can't imagine why you would want to put synthetic chemical fertilizers on it and risk disrupting all that.

I haven't done hugelkulture myself, but my understanding is that you do need to supplement with nitrogen for the first couple of years, because all that wood is sucking up a lot of N in the process of breaking down. If I were doing it, I would supplement with some organic, high N sources like chicken manure or in my case duckweed skimmed from my pond.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

billw
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Re: organic v. chemical fertilizer hugelkultur bed

It's an impressive video - clearly a lot of work went into it. That said, I'm skeptical that you would find a real difference between organic and chemical fertilizers for your purpose, which is primarily to supply N to the upper layers while the wood rots. Even though they will be competing for N at the core, roots will still reach deep for that water and be able to reach the other nutrients liberated by the microorganisms breaking down the bulk as a consequence.

Maybe you should do an experiment and try both.

SuburbanHomestead
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Re: organic v. chemical fertilizer hugelkultur bed

rainbowgardener wrote:I don't have time right now to watch your video (and in general I find videos a very slooowww way of transmitting information compared to just reading it).

But hugelkulture is a permaculture technique designed to simulate natural processes working in a forest floor, create a very enriched bioactive environment with lots of fungal activity. I can't imagine why you would want to put synthetic chemical fertilizers on it and risk disrupting all that.

I haven't done hugelkulture myself, but my understanding is that you do need to supplement with nitrogen for the first couple of years, because all that wood is sucking up a lot of N in the process of breaking down. If I were doing it, I would supplement with some organic, high N sources like chicken manure or in my case duckweed skimmed from my pond.
Thanks for your consideration and for the reply. This is exactly what I discuss in the video. I believe organic fertilizer to be superior for the exact reasons you described. You are right, reading is the most effective way of transmitting information fast, but videos can reach a wider audience and maybe inspire people to garden when they wouldn't otherwise. If you get a chance take a look at the video! :D

SuburbanHomestead
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Re: organic v. chemical fertilizer hugelkultur bed

billw wrote:It's an impressive video - clearly a lot of work went into it. That said, I'm skeptical that you would find a real difference between organic and chemical fertilizers for your purpose, which is primarily to supply N to the upper layers while the wood rots. Even though they will be competing for N at the core, roots will still reach deep for that water and be able to reach the other nutrients liberated by the microorganisms breaking down the bulk as a consequence.

Maybe you should do an experiment and try both.
That certainly makes sense. Although I am a firm believer for organic gardening a true scientific test would be interesting, but it would have to take into account several aspects of the use of chemical fertilizer that aren't usually accounted. Thank you for watching the video and replying! Thanks for the feedback!

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w_r_ranch
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Re: organic v. chemical fertilizer hugelkultur bed

I agree with many organic farming methods, however a vast majority of information on commercial organic products is just plain marketing hype. Chemistry is chemistry & truth be told, plants/microbes can't tell the difference between a naturally derived fertilizer and one that was produced synthetically in a lab. To a plant's roots, a nitrogen molecule is simply a nitrogen molecule. In gardening, there is no 'magic' panacea... just as there is no one 'correct' way to do things.

Having said that, gardening is all about trial and error. It's about celebrating our successes, learning from our mistakes and enjoying the process...

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rainbowgardener
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Re: organic v. chemical fertilizer hugelkultur bed

" Chemistry is chemistry & truth be told, plants/microbes can't tell the difference between a naturally derived fertilizer and one that was produced synthetically in a lab. To a plant's roots, a nitrogen molecule is simply a nitrogen molecule."

Sorry, but that is just not true. The nitrates in chemical fertilizers are highly concentrated, highly soluble so they do not stay in the soil long, not in a good form for plants to use. Plants actually do not in nature get most of their nutrients directly from the soil, they get them from microbes in the soil which process the nutrients in to forms the plants can use. But the chemical salts in synthetic fertilizers can kill those soil microbes, making the plants totally dependent on what they can get directly. Synthetic fertilizers are out of balance, containing intensely concentrated NPK and none of the other at least 15, probably more, secondary and micro-nutrients plants require. In fact by being so concentrated, the chemical fertilizers lock up other nutrients in the soil and make them unavailable.

The more soluble forms of N, or any chemical fertilizer, are soluble because they are a form of salt and dissolve well in water. But because of this characteristic, they leave behind salts in the soil. Salts have a detrimental affect on soil microorganisms. This provides an opportunity for pathogens to flourish and also contributes to soil compaction. https://www.naturesafe.com/index.php/201 ... rtilizers/

Clay particles and organic matter in the soil are negatively charged, attracting the positively charged cations (like ammonium, NH4+, and potassium, K+) and making the cations resistant to leaching. Negatively charged anions (like nitrate, N03-) are prone to leaching and can become a water pollution problem. Both ammonium and nitrate are important plant nitrogen sources and are commonly found in salt forms in fertilizers. [Synthetic fertilizers contain the negatively charged forms.] https://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/Gardennotes/231.html


Synthetics do not “feed the soil” – That is, strictly adding synthetic fertilizer only adds basic plant nutrients. Soils need much more than nutrients to stay healthy in the long run. The result is a steady decline in the overall health of gardens. Weeds and pests become more prevalent, forcing the conventional gardener to treat with pesticides. This results in a steady download cycle of greater fertilizer and herbicide treatments.
Your plants form a chemical dependency - Since nutrients are so readily available, your garden plants and lawn have no need to grow strong roots in their search for nutrients. With a stunted root system, they are less resistant to weeds and pests, forcing the constant use of pesticides. https://www.organicauthority.com/organic ... lizer.html

Adding compost, humus etc contributes to increasing the tilth of the soil while chemical fertilizers degrade it. This means that chemically treated soils hold less air and less water.


see also this article for lots more:

https://www.dirtdoctor.com/Synthetic-vs- ... _vq131.htm

Plant nutrition is an amazingly large set of complex, multi-directional interactions amongst plant roots, microbial and fungal life of the soil, and the soil and its huge variety of component nutrients themselves, which we are only beginning to understand. To me it seems obvious folly to think that we can wipe all that out, pour on 3 chemical salts and get the same effects.

You can see also https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... 92#p318292
where I collected links to a lot of our previous threads on this topic and a number of the arguments against synthetics all in one spot.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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w_r_ranch
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Re: organic v. chemical fertilizer hugelkultur bed

Objectivity is lacking, even in this forum, IMO... Sorry I ever posted a reply.

Maybe a mod could just delete my account & posts. I was under the impression that this was a 'helpful' gardening site, yet it doesn't appear to be anything other than a strictly organic site. Life is just too darn short...

WR

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rainbowgardener
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Re: organic v. chemical fertilizer hugelkultur bed

Hey, don't leave... I'm the one that is strictly organic and passionate about it. The site, as much as any one descriptor can be applied to a million posts from a thousand people, tends to be mostly organic, but definitely not strictly, with a range of viewpoints.

They are probably going to tell me to leave, especially if it seems like I'm driving people away, so you don't have to.

I try very hard to be objective, in the sense of scientific, data driven, citing evidence. I say very little in the way of opinion that isn't backed up with evidence. I hope we can all keep learning from each other. I know I have learned a ton in the years I have been hanging out around this site.

Sorry, if I offended you.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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ion
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Re: organic v. chemical fertilizer hugelkultur bed

rainbowgardener wrote:" Chemistry is chemistry & truth be told, plants/microbes can't tell the difference between a naturally derived fertilizer and one that was produced synthetically in a lab. To a plant's roots, a nitrogen molecule is simply a nitrogen molecule."
...
Clay particles and organic matter in the soil are negatively charged, attracting the positively charged cations (like ammonium, NH4+, and potassium, K+) and making the cations resistant to leaching. Negatively charged anions (like nitrate, N03-) are prone to leaching and can become a water pollution problem. Both ammonium and nitrate are important plant nitrogen sources and are commonly found in salt forms in fertilizers. [Synthetic fertilizers contain the negatively charged forms.] https://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/Gardennotes/231.html
...
Wait a minute, what you said does not counter what he/she said. I'm not gonna talk about naturesafe, because it seems to have a vested interest on the topic. So, I'll just say, “I'd be cautious about reports on off-shore oil drilling if they came from BP or any other petroleum company”.

However, the 2nd source is a good one, but does not disprove that the “plants/microbes can't tell the difference between a naturally derived fertilizer and one that was produced synthetically”. What they where talking about is ammonium vs nitrate (to be more precise: cation vs anion, and negatives of nitrate), they are not the same. So, that's not a good example to use. Nitrate can be synthesize or obtained from organic means, both are anions. So, nitrate, regardless how it is sourced, can be to leaching.

SuburbanHomestead
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Re: organic v. chemical fertilizer hugelkultur bed

Thanks everyone for joining the discussion (especially since it seems to be a heated one). I am no scientist and I am certainly experimenting when it comes to gardening. I believe it is important for us to study more and understand the ramifications of organic versus chemical fertilizers. I've had good results with organic fertilizers although it is not any scientific study. The additional info I present in the video is based on reading books and research of others. Certainly overuse of fertilizer--chemical and synthetic--coupled with pour erosion control and riverbed conservation can pollute. I feel it is easier to overfeed with chemical and thus it is more prone to leach and cause pollution. Even if on a molecular basis they are comparable, there are other issues to using synthetic fertilizers that we must remember: they use fossil fuels to be manufactured and they are an industrial process subject to patents, brands etc. An animal that produces manure as a byproduct without consuming fossil fuels is also a natural processor that is basically "open source" (as long as the animals are not genetically modified :)

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gixxerific
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Re: organic v. chemical fertilizer hugelkultur bed

rainbowgardener wrote: But hugelkulture is a permaculture technique designed to simulate natural processes working in a forest floor, create a very enriched bioactive environment with lots of fungal activity. I can't imagine why you would want to put synthetic chemical fertilizers on it and risk disrupting all that.

I haven't done hugelkulture myself, but my understanding is that you do need to supplement with nitrogen for the first couple of years, because all that wood is sucking up a lot of N in the process of breaking down. If I were doing it, I would supplement with some organic, high N sources like chicken manure or in my case duckweed skimmed from my pond.

I very much agree here.

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