Synthetic versus natural gardening what does it all mean
exactly what makes synthetically produced fertilizers any worse for
your garden than naturally produced ones? This is one area in which
a lot of balony gets thrown around - and regrettably believed by
many good people.
The simplest and most natural of the commercial fertilizers may be
lime. the world has an inexhaustible supply of limestone (calcium
carbonate), and it's simply ground to powder in powerful rock
crushers, bagged, and sold to the public. We even receive much of
our magnesium from the same process, when the raw material is
All twelve of the other nutrients man can control are also mined
from the earth. However, we have learned over time how to remove
impurities, such as heavy metals, and increase the concentration of
the individual nutrients, by running them through a simple
concentration process. This is often a sulfuric acid bath, which
leaves us with a much higher concentration of the original nutrient,
plus sulphur, which is itself a very important nutrient.
So, we benefit by getting a much higher concentration of the
nutrient we want, plus sulphur, with no heavy metals, and it costs
MUCH less, because it weighs only a fraction of the original raw
Are those fertilizers synthetically produced? I don't think so, but
perhaps they are by some peoples' definition.
Even nitrogen is mined out of the ground! This may surprise many
people, but it actually is - in Chile, South America - where huge
mines of sodium nitrate exist. Can you imagine the cost to get it
to the USA, though? And what would we do with the sodium salts??
Thank goodness we have found a better, more efficient, and therefore
far less costly way to produce nitrogen fertilizers.
About 90 years ago two German scientists, Fritz Haber and Karl
Bosch, discovered and commercialized the processes by which nitrogen
could be separated from other elements in different compounds and
made available as fertilizer. These discoveries arguably served as
the single most important component leading to exponential global
agricultural growth, and the Haber-Bosch process is still the
process used today.
I believe we owe much of what we have today to the use of nitrogen
that's produced by the Haber-Bosch process, and whether or not it's
synthetic is, to me at least, irrelevant.
If there is a valid important argument against the synthetic
production of chemicals having to do with the garden, it should be
limited to pesticides and herbicides. And we won't go there at this
I do hope that members of the Mittleider Method Gardening Group are
able to understand and appreciate the value and importance of
mineral nutrients in helping us grow strong, healthy plants, and
that you will not worry about "natural" or "synthetic" any more.