Miracle Grow safe?

rosakwJune 26, 2008

I'm wondering if Miracle Grow or the generic equivalent can be harmful to the little creatures in my flower garden....lots of toads, spiders, earthworms, ladybugs, butterflies, etc. I've used the MG for roses on the single ones I have planted separately from the rest of the flowers and would like to use MG on all my flower gardens. My beds are pretty large, so would have to use the hose method, consequently everything there would get drenched with it. Anyone have an opinion or alternate suggestions?

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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

I used to use Miracle Grow....but switched to alfalfa pellets. blood meal and compost and a little bone meal for bulbs.
My plants grow a lot better, its' cheaper....and I feel better about what I am putting on my plants.
I use Miracle Grow in my post, but use the organic stuff on the ground.
Linda c

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 1:15AM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Feed your soil, not the plants, so no Miracle Grow in my opinion. Create healthy soil with mulch, compost, and forget shooting up the plants.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 6:06AM
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robynpa(5/6 Pgh)

I use MG in my potted plants and will give the day-lillies a bit if the leaves are getting really yellow.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 11:02AM
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YES, it's safe. I've used it for years. There is not a thing wrong with it. I've been using the bloom booster version and it's giving me great repeat blooming in many of my flowering plants.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 11:17AM
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If you live where I do it's a bad idea to use blood and bone meal unless you like finding your plants dug up every morning. Skunks. I learned that one the hard way. I lost several plants because I had a busy week and didn't check my gardens, the plants were all dug up, roots dried out.

I use Master Nursery water soluble fertilizers when needed, but mostly I am pretty lazy and let the nutrients present in the soil do the job. I do amend the soil in the spring with compost.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 11:27AM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

Im certainly no expert on nutrients etc., but ive always thought of MiracleGro as like steroids. It will make the plants bigger, and make them produce more flowers quicker. But I dont think that it actually helps give needed nutreints to the plants. It is safe though. I sometimes throw in a scoop when im making a big batch of fish fertilizer water or compost tea. I think MiracleGro has its place. Its good for annuals, as they die after the growing season and dont need food for long term. Its also good for giveing vegetables a boost in growing, which we definatly need here becasue our cool spring set them back. But im no expert on this! Just my thoughs.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 11:55AM
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Karchita(WA Z8)

I would not hose down my entire garden with MG.

I mainly use compost and worm castings to build my soil and stay away from synthetic fertilizers. Healthy soil contains not only earthworms, but a whole community of bacteria, fungus, and other wee critters, affectionately known as the micro-herd. If you have a large and healthy micro-herd, they help your plants take nutrients from the soil effeciently. They are the interface between the roots and the soil.

MG and other synthetic fertilizers contain salts which kill the micro-herd. Plants will grow well in the short term from it, but in the long term, they will be less resistant to disease and pests because they can not get the range of nutrients they need from the soil. This leads to a downward spiral of needing to use more and more fertilizer to get the same effect and using more and more pesticides because the plants are less healthy.

However, years ago I used MG and I still have a huge box of it and I hate to throw anything out. So I, like others, still use it on potted plants. I also sometimes apply it by lightly misting the leaves of annuals or other plants very early in the spring to get things going a little sooner. I only use it at half-strength or even less and I never drench the soil with it. That box is more than a lifetime supply at the rate I use it.

I have found that with my healthy soil, if I put it on perennials, they grow too much and are prone to aphids or other insect infestation.

I don't believe in taking anything to the extreme in gardening. I am mostly organic, but I will use chemicals very selectively when nothing else works. I think synthetic fertilizers can be used in very small quantities and have benefits that outweigh the harm. However, I think that using a lot of them and thinking that they are all fine and good is an extreme position and is only taken by people who do not know the facts of what is healthy soil and how plants take nutrients from it.

I am glad that you asked this question because it shows you are open to learning. Try some organic fertilizer that you scratch into the soil. I stay away from pure bone and blood meal because it can encourage various animals to dig, but I buy a balanced mix like Dr. Earth or Whitney Farms and use it when I transplant. Start mulching with compost. It takes some time to build up healthy soil, but in a year or two I think you will clearly see the difference.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 2:06PM
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Miracle Grow doesn't kill earthworms either. I use it all the time and there are earthworms all over the place! Miracle Grow doesn't harm your soil either.

Organic gardeners who obsess about this kind of thing are so funny! You should at least find out if something is true before you spread these myths. I could prove you wrong very easily by photographing the earthworms in my soil that has been soaked with Miracle Grow for YEARS!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 2:22PM
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Those who say Miracle Grow doesn't add nutrients to the soil are WRONG:

The percentage breakdown is as follows: Total Nitrogen: 15% (9.2% urea nitrogen and 5.8% ammonium nitrogen); Available phosphate: 30%; Boron: .02%; Soluble Potash: 15%; Copper: .07%; Iron: .15%; Manganese: .05%; Molybdenum: .00005%; and Zinc: .06%

I think they don't like it because the product isn't 100% organic; however, I have not seen 1 harmful effect of this product. It is tried and tested by millions of people. I could put "organic" on a piece of dog poo and people would buy it!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 2:36PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

Maniac, you are confused about adding chemicals and building a soil.
I was a Miracle gro-niac for a lot of years....but I have learned and seen the difference in my garden.
Linda C

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 3:20PM
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Does anyone on this forum take multi-vitamins? If so, think of Miracle Grow as a multi-vitamin for your plants. Grant it, laceyvail said it best that you should feed your soil and not the plants. Just like people should eat a balanced diet, and forget the mutli-vitamin. The truth is, the average home owner (not the garden-crazed people on this forum, including me)have no idea about what nutrients their plants lack and which nutrients they have in excess. Since most people don't keep track of what they eat either, they take a multi-vitamin to cover their bases, and throw some Miracle Grow on their plants to give them a boost. In any case, as my perennial beds mature and the soil is less clay and more loamm, I find myself slowly decreasing the amount of Miracle Grow required to get the same size flowers every year. I know hit them with Miracle Grow just before a rainstorm (sometime durring, which causses my neighbors to question my sanity). This way, I can make a stronger solution to use up this stuff and let the rain dilute it for me. Less water from our pipes and less hoses and watering cans to deal with.

Also, the term organic is also a little mysterious. Organic, to a scientist like me, refers to any chemical with different amounts of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. So, rotenone, neem oil, vinegar, and carbon monoxide are all "organic" molecules per se, but some are deadly. Table salt, is not organic, since it contains chloride and sodium. However, nowadays, "organic" has come to include anything good for you, like fresh air, fruit, and sex (ooh, wait, that is a different word).

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 3:21PM
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lindac, I'm not confused. I do both. There is no sense in saying things which are simply not true. This product works and works well. It's safe too. This post thread was "Is Miracle Grow Safe?" Yes, it is. Just because you don't agree doesn't mean I'm "CONFUSED" either. That's just a rude statement!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 3:24PM
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Karchita didn't say it kills earth worms. She said the salts in synthetic fertilizers can kill the other beneficial organisms (micro-herd) in the soil. If your soil is healthy, you shouldn't have to add Miracle Gro to it regularly.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 5:07PM
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Karchita(WA Z8)

And calling organic gardeners "funny" and saying "I could put "organic" on a piece of dog poo and people would buy it!" is what, polite?

Tossing around derision and insults is no way to get people to listen to your ideas.

And did you even read my post? I think you are very confused.

I didn't say anything about MG harming earthworms because I don't know what effect it has on them. Only one person said anything about MG not adding nutrients, and she said she wasn't sure. It isn't the point, anyhow. The point is that all synthetic fertilizers harm the soil. That is a scientific fact. Plants do best with healthy soil. That is another scientific fact. Plants rely on microscopic creatures in the soil to draw nutrients out of it. That is yet another fact. Current soil science research does not support the extensive use of synthetic fertilizers because it harms the soil and is not sustainable. That is a fact which I was told directly by my state university extension soil scientists in a class on soil science that I took a few years ago.

I don't think anyone is pushing you to be organic, but if you can manage to be a bit open-minded you could learn. Your ideas about what is safe and what is factual are really out of date.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 5:13PM
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I understand your point, but it is a fact that my plants are absorbing the Miracle Grows nutrients and flourishing. That's all that matters. If your plants are growing, good for you. But it's not fair trying to imply that others are less informed than you because they don't agree with your theories. This post is about the safety of Miracle Grow. The stuff is safe. I've never had one plant or anything harmed by it!

If I send you some of my soil, you can look at it and tell me how my microherd is doing! LOL. All I know is I have some coneflowers that are almost as tall as me. I've been using Miracle Grow for over a decade on them. My earthworms and microherd must be doing pretty darn good!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 5:23PM
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There's also an Organic Miracle Grow now so you don't have to use the kind most people use. You can't just mix this in water though which makes it a little less convenient.

Here is a link that might be useful: Organic Miracle Grow

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 5:49PM
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proudgrma(Zone 5)

I'm surprised this is such a volotile question! I started serious gardening about 12 years ago and had help from a master gardener who owned a perennial gardening farm. She taught me that good compost is the most important thing you can add to your soil for long-lived, healthy plants. I buy her high quality compost by the yard(s)and add 2" to top dress my gardens every spring. In the beginning I would add a little bit of 5-10-5, but I don't do that anymore. My garden soil is so beautiful and rich, and my plants are thriving and big. I don't know why someone would want to deal with ongoing fertilizing, mixing, etc when it can all be done at the beginning of the season for most plants, and that's it. Although MG isn't going to harm anything, I don't think it's as good for the long term health of the plant as compost. But, to each his own!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 9:06PM
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I have never used Miracle Gro or any other synthetic fertilizer in my flower gardens and my plants grow beautifully. I am, however, attempting to raise veggies, organically, in a garden plot at my In Law's place. The problem is, they have used Miracle Gro religiously on this space for the last 40 yrs. or so. We ammended the soil with composted manure, but this garden has a long way to go. Despite a high water table, the soil dries out very quickly and my veggies are doing so so. I don't want my plants (flowers or veggies) to depend on me to fertilize them. Nature does a fine job in my flower beds and with all the great information to be found on Garden Web (check out the Soil and Compost forum!) it's going to get even better. There is hope for my veggie garden, but it's not in a bottle of Miracle Gro. Kathy

Here is a link that might be useful: Soil, compost and Mulch forum

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 9:37PM
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njmomma(z6 NJ)

I also worked for a gardener for a summer and he only used MG on the annuals. He used compost on the perennials in the beginning of the season and then mulched.

I only use MG on my annuals as I've read that "feeding" perennials while in bloom can actually reduce the success of the blooms.

However, I have never used compost but probably should. We can get it for free at our recycling center in town. I don't know if it's "good" compost, but hey, for free I'm willing to try it sometime.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 10:44PM
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icyveins(5b Indiana)

We're organic at my house and my plants are doing great. They have lots of good compost because of the compost whacko boyfriend (I'm not complaining) and don't seem to need anything else. The containers and baskets get fed fish emulsion about every 2-3 weeks. They're more lush than anything my neighbors have and they all use MG. I also have coneflowers as tall as I am and hydrangea blooms as big as my head ... they haven't been fed ANYTHING this year, so chalking up success to Miracle Grow is probably unfounded.

My thoughts are, even if Miracle Grow is safe (according to some, not everyone), why bother since it's unnecessary? Who needs the extra work and mess?

Also, can't MG burn your plants?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 11:39PM
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icyveins, Miracle Grow doesn't require any extra work. You just take a scoop and dump it in your water and water. It's really not messy either. It just gives the water a slight blue color. I've never seen it burn a plant either. I mainly use it on plants in pots. I water young plants with it at half strength. I would not do without it.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 12:56AM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

It was asked: "Also, can't MG burn your plants?"

Only if you exceed the suggested dose.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 12:59AM
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icyveins(5b Indiana)

Hmm... So it can burn plants, possibly cause an imbalance in the soil's micro-organisms, and you can get the same results from compost? What exactly is the point then? I can't help but think that many people who swear by Miracle Grow just fell prey to the marketing scheme. I wonder if you were to forego it for a season, if your plants would fare just as well?

I'm willing to bet they would.

I'll admit that I used MG when I was first starting out in the gardening world and hadn't really educated myself about soil. I was highly skeptical when my boyfriend started talking about going organic but I've never once regretted giving into him. My gardens perform better now than they ever did back when I still used synthetics.

If you use it in your garden, fine. I'm not one to tell you what you should do with your home... However, I do have a problem with people who essentially say that you can't get good results without it (especially if they've never tried to see what would actually happen WITHOUT it!)

There are too many fabulous gardens out there without an ounce of Miracle Grow in them for me to actually buy into the myth.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 1:47AM
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Karchita(WA Z8)

"I've been using Miracle Grow for over a decade on them. My earthworms and microherd must be doing pretty darn good!"

Unless for some reason the laws of science don't apply to your garden, you don't have much of a microherd in your soil because you have killed it with MG. Yes, plants grow large and produce a lot of nice flowers in the short term when you use MG, but it is an artificial stimulant of growth and in the long-term, it harms your soil.

Eventually the improved growth and flowering is not sustained. Plants grown with MG or similar have less resistance to pests and diseases and gardeners then feel the need to use more harmful chemicals to treat them. It is much smarter to prevent the problems than to cause even more pollution trying to control them.

"But it's not fair trying to imply that others are less informed than you because they don't agree with your theories."

Yes, you are right about that. However, I am not talking about theories; I am talking about facts. If you refuse to accept or even consider factual information, I really have nothing more to say.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 3:03AM
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I disagree that echinaceamaniac will get the same results without MG, if she tries it, next year. That is where the trap is.

By killing all the soil's micro-organisms and building up the soluble salt levels through the use of MG, her flowers will not bloom as well without it. It will take at least a couple of years to really SEE the benefit of just top-dressing with compost, once a year in spring, and mulching with organic matter (bark chips or shredded bark, as opposed to rocks or rubber) on top of the compost. Which is also cheaper, sometimes free! But it does require patience to get the same results, so I can see how someone can easily fall into this trap.

I sometimes use MG in my containers, but I'm also using a soil-less potting mix then.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 10:46AM
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Miracle Grow doesn't kill anything in your soil. That is BS. I some times forget to use it and the plants still do fine. This stuff is so diluted. It's no stronger than any other fertilizer. I understand someone has convinced some of you that it does harm your "Microherd," but I have yet to see anyone provide proof of any study involving Miracle Grow harming anyone's "microherd."

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 11:27AM
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molie(z6 CT)

For practical and financial reasons I use Miracle Grow only for my potted deck plantings of annuals. Since annuals in CT are one-shot wonders, I figure that the MG will produce great blossoms until the fall and that small amounts can't be bad. I don't think overfertilizing is a good thing.... it's better to buy plants that have well established root systems.

My perennials are in very large, long gardens and so I prefer to enrich the soil in which they live rather than fertilizing the plants individually. I find that good dirt plus sensible watering and spacing between plants helps them more than fertilizer. Fertilizing would be too expensive.

Of course, I also recognize that different perennials have different bloom times & plant accordingly. For example, my tall lily plants and Russian Sage are not blossoming, but my first flush clematis are done. The Japanese Iris will only look good for a few more weeks and the Monarda is just starting to "show." I think it pays to be philosophical with flowers. I need to work with their bloom cycles but I can't really prolong them. So I interplant around my perennials with various annuals... portulaca, cosmos, zinnaes, marigolds.. that don't need much coddling.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 3:21PM
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Maryl zone 7a

The short answer is that MG can harm your plants depending on your recent soil analysis. If, as in my case, your soil is high in PK (Phospherous and Potasium)adding more to the soil could actually reduce blooming. I seldom use it as a drench in the soil except for my raised beds which are heavily watered and leach nutrients readily. I also use it in my containers for the same reason. For my in ground beds if I feel the need to add a little zip to the nutrient level (especially in early spring before the ground truly warms up) I might add some to my fungicide spray mixture (there go the enviros). The point is, have your soil analyized and unless you are seriously deficient in PK (N is almost a given)you may want to think twice before using MG.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 5:17PM
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I have always used MG and my garden did great. This year I tried to go organic and have had mixed results. I have several beds and part of my crops seem to be coming along while my cucumbers and squash have developed blight and some of my peppers seem stunted. In one bed plants just looked totally stunted so I resorted to applying the MG again. Now they seem to be doing better. I am tempted to use the MG in all my beds now. I like that when you use the MG you know the nutrients are balanced and the plants are getting a little bit of each nutrient they need. I just have mixed feelings about the organic method. It seems like a better idea but when your plants seem stunted and susceptible to disease, what to do? My gardens seemed to be thriving better before I tried the organic method but maybe it is because I just don't know what I'm doing. With the MG, I felt more confident and the results have always been great.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 11:50PM
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    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 2:26PM
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I used Miracle Grow on all of my petunias this year and they were amazing! I also drenched the leaves of a Japanese Maple with it and it's looking much better.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 4:16PM
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I started reading the "urbanhayseed" link provided above and came on the following sentence: "Now, that said, MG is made from by-products of the petroleum/energy industry."

At that point it was obvious the writer was interested in scaremongering rather than educating gardeners. However you produce a fertilizer, the baseline chemicals (yes, chemicals) are the same. If there's an issue with soil life being damaged by this product, I'd like to see actual evidence of it. It's likely adding compost and feeding mulches will enhance beneficial soil life. But I haven't seen any research demonstrating that MG or similar fertilizers used in reocmmended amounts damages or kills beneficial microorganisms or earthworms.

I use MG regularly in an ornamental bed that's heavily weighted towards annuals and temperennials, and also on roses (which are plant food hogs). Other perennials get mulch or alfalfa pellets when I think of it (not every year).

My take is that MG is no gardening panacea since it's not a substitute for other good cultural practices. Used properly it's helpful.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 11:21AM
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mytime(3/4 Alaska)

I've wondered how many of the "it's a petroleum by-product" so not safe proponents realize how much of what they use every single day is made with petroleum by-products. Chances are, everyone reading this is presently sitting on, wearing, or consuming a petroleum by-product. Remove all those products from your house, and you might as well be living in a tent. Oh, wait, you couldn't have a tent, either.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 12:54PM
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