Will fertilizer kill microbes?

bigoledude(SE Louisiana)May 8, 2014

I've been gardening for many years. Organic gardening just seemed to be too much effort and, I was never very impressed with the gardens of the very few folks around me who tried it.

My income is now fixed and low! Spending less is now more attractive. I always made my own compost. Was/am I killing the beneficial microbes with the 20-20-20 or, the "tea" I made by soaking a knee-high full of 13-13-13 in a bucket of water?

I have a nearly endless source of fish guts/bones/heads. Horse-stable gleanings are free to me. My plan is to make a good bit of bio-char for the soil.

I've read tons of material on the web concerning organic methods. It seems that I can benefit from many of the methods. Especially liked the methods espoused by Gil Caradang over at "The Unconventional Farmer". He addresses pest/pathogen issues better than anyone else I've read YET. That is a MAJOR factor here in this primordial cauldron here in SE Louisiana.

Anyway, would an occasional small dose of fertilizer kill the beneficial microbes in my soil? Has anyone else here tried the methods of Gil Caradang?

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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

The dose makes the poison. Small amounts of fertilizer are food for microbes. Large amounts are harmful.

If you have been using a balanced fertilizer for a while, you ought to have your soil tested. You may very well have too much phosphorus.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 1:08AM
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Synthetic fertilizers could do harm to the soil microbes, depending on how much organic matter is in that soil. The soil microbes live on organic matter and if there is little they will either go dormant, until the amount of OM in the soil is enough to support them, or the acids that synthetic fertilizers make might kill them.
I have not, until now, heard of Gil Caradang and what
I have seen indicates to me that he is following more of a bio dynamic type of gardening.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 6:52AM
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Anyway, would an occasional small dose of fertilizer kill the beneficial microbes in my soil?

In short, no.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 11:12AM
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I suspect the perception of chemically fertilized soil as being 'dead' has more to do with a tendency for fertilizer users to neglect organic matter, rather than the fertilizer itself doing any damage to microbes. That would actually require so much that it would kill the plants first.

I try to use organic methods whenever possible, but fertilizer and pesticides are in my toolbox and I use them when I need to. So I'm not strictly organic or [whatever you call the other way]. Works for me. :-]

This post was edited by toxcrusadr on Fri, May 9, 14 at 16:04

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 11:46AM
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One drawback with chemical fertilizers seems to be with earth worms. They don't like it.

I get this info from professional worm harvesters, who ask if you use chemical fertilizers - if so, they move onto someone who doesn't.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 4:38PM
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I'm with toxcrusadr - everything in moderation. OM is good for the soil and the plants that grow in it but strict organic gardening isn't for everyone. It isn't necessarily eco-friendly, and the use of chemical fertilizers isn't necessarily vile.

There's a huge difference between pesticides - most of which don't occur in nature - and fertilizer compounds - which occur in nature but at much smaller concentrations.

Let's not even address the complicated issues of how the fish, pigs, cows etc. used for producing the fish meal, blood meal and bone meal, are fed and raised. If they were fed grain raised with chemical fertilizers, you're better off just using those fertilizers to begin with, on a national/global environmental perspective.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2014 at 1:08AM
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bigoledude(SE Louisiana)

Thanks for the responses folks. I didn't intend to go for the "officially" sanctioned organic method. I just plan on spending as little as possible on chemical solutions to my garden needs. Especially since I have access to so much good free stuff.

My concern was mainly if I was wasting time and effort trying to get a really good micro-herd going if I use a little chems occasionally?

It became necessary for me to move my garden to the other side of my property. So, I'm having to start all over again with trying to amend this very sandy soil.

Gil Caradang at "The Unconventional Farmer" uses methods I had never even heard of before. Then, I began reading some of the posts by our "resident expert" here CaptainCompostAl and realized that he has been promoting many similar methods.

It is good to know that I am gonna be OK using a little chemical help while I'm trying to re-establish a healthy microbe-infested soil.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2014 at 2:47AM
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