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Organic vs. Inorganic Fertilizer: What Are the Pros and Cons?

organic vs inorganicWhile your plants might not notice the difference, you may be debating whether you should purchase an organic fertilizer or an inorganic, or chemical, fertilizer. Both fertilizers produce the desired outcome of providing plants what they need to thrive. However, as the gardener, you may be wondering whether it would be better to use a more environmentally sound choice or a product that offers exceptional results. You also need to consider cost and application.

In this article, we’ve gone into detail about the advantages and disadvantages of each fertilizer. You’ll learn how organic and inorganic fertilizer each contains vastly different ingredients, as well as how the method of supplying nutrients to your plants varies in many ways. This overview will help you determine which product will make the most sense for your garden.

Organic Fertilizer

Organic fertilizer
Organic Fertilizer, Credit: Dr. Earth, Amazon

Perhaps the largest determining factor for choosing organic fertilizer is the preservation of the environment. You can gain peace of mind knowing that you’re adding natural materials to your soil, which will only enhance it and not build up toxic levels of chemicals and salts. Also, the production of organic fertilizer limits the use of fossil fuels and reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released.

Organic fertilizer is composed of plant- and animal-based byproducts and end products. If you’re sensitive to odors, know that the manures, mulched leaves, and compost used to make this product may produce a foul smell.

Organic fertilizer is rich in nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Unlike inorganic, or synthetic, fertilizers, the amount of each nutrient varies from batch to batch and is not labeled. If you prefer knowing exact data, you may not feel secure approximating the amounts to apply. But most educated guesses tend to produce winning results.

Relying on a slow release method, organic fertilizer requires you to have a certain level of patience. The soil must be warm and moist to allow the organisms within it to break down the organic materials. However, waiting pays off in many ways. The slow process reduces leaching, which takes those precious nutrients out of your plants’ reach, rendering them ineffective. In addition, your soil continues to be enriched over a long period of time.

The benefits of using an organic fertilizer do come at an elevated cost. But the higher price can even out in the long run when you consider that you’re investing in improved soil quality and preserving your patch of earth. Also, to reduce costs, consider purchasing manure from a local farmer or try composting on your own.

  • Many environmental benefits
  • Rich in naturally occurring nutrients
  • Slow release reduces leaching
  • Long-term soil enrichment
  • More expensive
  • Longer duration to see results
  • Foul odor
  • Approximated application amounts

Inorganic Fertilizer

Inorganic fertilizer
Inorganic Fertilizer, Credit: Kalkammonsalpeter, Wikipedia

If you’re looking for fast and impressive results, inorganic fertilizer offers both outcomes. From amazing blossoms to larger crops and greener grass, the quick-release method of a synthetic fertilizer starts working immediately. Also, compared to organic varieties, inorganic fertilizer costs less.

Inorganic fertilizer is manufactured from petroleum and natural gas. It consists of a variety of chemicals, including ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, potassium chloride, triple superphosphate, and magnesium sulfate. The chemical makeup is listed and labeled exactly for precise application. If used in high concentration, burning may occur, causing damage and possible death to your plants. Also, the quick-release nature of these chemicals has the downside of leaching into the soil too deep for your plants’ roots to reach.

For all its benefits, there are several environmental concerns to seriously consider. Leached chemical fertilizer leads to contamination of nearby water sources. While you may gain short-term success, long-term damage to the health of your soil may suffer, including a harmful buildup of salts. It’s important to note that this increased toxicity has the potential to produce unwanted chemicals such as arsenic, cadmium, and uranium, which ultimately have the possibility of ending up in your fruits and vegetables. Finally, the methods used to produce inorganic fertilizer depend on the consumption of fossil fuels, which create greenhouse gases.

  • Promises exceptional results
  • Quick release
  • Exact, detailed information
  • Less expensive
  • Many environmental concerns
  • Soil leaching
  • Shortened benefits
  • Overapplication causing plant damage
  • Increased risk of imbalances and toxicity in soil


When comparing organic and inorganic fertilizer, it’s best to consider the key differences between the two products. For short-term, quick, and impressive results, inorganic fertilizer can produce amazing crops, blossoms, and lawns at a much lower cost. However, beyond expense, concern for the environment and preserving it for future generations may be the determining factor for choosing organic fertilizer. If you’re willing to pay more and wait for results, biodegradable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly organic fertilizer will help you make a long-term investment with healthier soil for your plants.

After going over the main differences in composition and production, we hoped you’ve discovered whether organic or inorganic fertilizer is right for your garden.

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