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why is miracle-gro bad

Posted by dgs9r z7 Baltimore, MD (My Page) on
Wed, Jun 13, 07 at 12:51

If my veggies are getting other nutrients from worm castings and fish emulsion, but still need more nitrogen, then can someone please explain why small quantities of miracle-gro is bad for them?

I am committed to organics, but am questioning some assumptions taken for granted.

Thanks,
deepti


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Not so much "bad" as unnecesary in a well tended garden that has a good, healthy soil. The nutrients are very soluble and what is not used by the plants immediately will simply flow out and into the ground water polluting that water for users downstream.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Also, salts can build up from extended use of ferts like MG.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

If you're already providing enough of everything else you don't need to provide more in order to make up for missing nitrogen. If you use MG you'll be adding more than your plants need. The fish emulsion I use is 5-1-1. I'd use more to make up for the nitrogen.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Here's one thought:

Chemical fertilisers easily leach into the waterways, and when they get to the ocean (or other body of water) they cause an algal bloom.

Algae make oxygen during the day, but require oxygen at night. So, a bloom of algae will deplete the oxygen in a bloom area, and the fish in that area will then die off.

You giving your plants a little miracle grow probably won't kill any fish. But, the use of chemical fertilisers is tied to algal blooms which does kill fish (and other aquatic life.)

Organic fertilisers can have the same effect, but generally don't (unless there is a massive sewage spill or similar) because they are typically "slow release" in comparison to chemical fertilisers.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

If you're at all interested in the big picture you'll want to consider the source of the nitrogen in Miracle-Gro. Industrial nitrogen fixation requires a lot of energy (which means fossil fuel in the current state of the world). It was originally a military technology (ammonium nitrate is a key ingredient in many explosives--remember Oklahoma City?) that was later applied to agriculture without regard for the long-term consequences --water pollution, soil depletion, even the proliferation of improvised bombs in the Middle East!

Just some food for thought. Not tryin' to lay a heavy trip on anyone! Just go easy on the MG. It gives plants a rush, but the soil organisms don't like it.

Regards,
Jim


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Organic ferts also pollute water ways. The use of manure on farm fields has put well water users in the hospital with bacterial infections.

Fish emulsion is no different than Miracle Grow in this regard. Both contain nutrients in water soluble form or in a form that soil organisms rapidly make water soluble (water soluble nutrients are the only ones plants can use as they take the nutrients up with the water).

Simply put, using organics feeds the soil which then feeds the plants. Synthetics feed the plants and the soil starves which leads to an increased dependence upon fertilizer and results in soil that is more or less biologically dead.

The smart use of any fert, organic or synthetic, along with a soil management program such as the incorporation of organic matter, mulching etc. ensure the soil stays healthy and can support vigorous, healthy plants.

I prefer fish emulsion to MG simply because fish emulsion is a complete fertilizer and MG only has NPK and a few of the minors. That's the only difference of concern to me between them.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

They same thing can be said of any liquid fertilizer or compost tea. Any water soluble fertilizer will leech into the soil.

I don't use Miracle Gro because it is too much of a fast growth burst for plants and too much leave production at the expense of fruit. That, and it does not contain many of the nutrients essential for healthy plants.

I will just pass over the cockamamie political rationale for not using MG, and try to keep a straight face.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Tomorrow I am going out to use some miracle grow on some of my vegetable plants. I haven't done that in several years, however this spring I was unable to get any compost mixed in, and nitrogen is lacking. Secondly, after planting stuff in late May, we've had some severe weather; frost, very strong winds, very low humidity, and very cool night temperatures. As a result, many of my transplants are frost-injured or bent / broken from the wind, or both. Plants I directly seeded have germinated, but are just sitting there, looking at me now for over a week, while their tap root looks around for goodies. If they don't get started here in the next few days, then no squash, melons, or anything else this year. So I am going to mix up a few gallons of MG and give each one of these plants a shot. From experiences in the past, thats all it takes and they're off and running. Call it a cup of solution on the roots of each plant.

I would use compost tea, and I may, if I have time, do that. But I am going to have to do this tomorrow or the next day, and as I'm "chauffeur to the horde", as well as chief cook and bottle washer, we are rather busy. I can MG them in about an hour.

I think it has its uses. I will probably use 10 tablespoons of crystals for a high intensity garden, that measures 40 x 70 ft, all on trellis, with 70 tomato plants, 50 pepper plants, 30 eggplant, beans, beets, carrots, 3 kinds of Asian melons, and a couple dozen winter squash plants. Probably 10 gallons of solution will do it, likely less.

On the other hand, I tilled in copious amounts of compost last Aug before I planted my garlic, and I will have a bumper crop. Onions are doing very well, they too went into a heavily composted bed that I prepared last fall.

If I can manage, I try to add my compost and stuff in the fall, let it winter, and then everything is good to go whenever I can get to it in the spring. This year, it didn't happen, so MG will help pick up the slack.

If its just nitrogen you lack, a slug of household ammonia in bucket of water, like what someone would use to wash floors, works pretty well. Or another famous source of nitrogen comes to mind, diluted in a bucket.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Lucky for me, I have so much compost I rarely have to fertilize... I fertilize my corn with fish emulsion... and my potted plants, that's it.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

If you have a good, healthy soil getting some compost in before planting will not make any difference since the soil will have enough reserves to last at least a year. If you have a good, healthy soil you can simply add your compost anytime you have time, before planting, after planting, while the plants are in full growth, in the fall after growth is done without affecting this years growth at all. If you have a good, healthy soil adding some kind of water soluble nutrients will have no affect at all on plant growth since the plants will not need what is in that water soluble plant food, no matter if that plant food is organic or not.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

dgs9r,"The law of limiting factors (Liebig's law of the minimum) is a basic tenet of ecological science. A limiting factor is the one least available among those factors that affect growth, survival, and reproduction of an organism." (internet).
The following analogy is from a textbook authored by either 'Tisdale and Nelson' or 'Buckman and Brady'. (I forget which).
Visualize a barrel which has staves of different lengths. You can fill the barrel only to the height of the shortest stave. Therefore the only way to put more more water into the barrel is to increase the length of the shortest stave. If we put a label on each stave, N, P, K, Water, Light etc., then we can proceed to fill the barrel to the top by systematically identifying and lengthening the shortest stave. With plants, whether we are growing them for food, beauty, shade etc., we try to identify what is limiting and what is the best method of delivering it. It is not easy but it can be done and it does take work. You do not say what the veggies are, but radishes, a root crop, need a different approach from carrots, another root crop. Radishes are a short term crop and my approach would be to ensure that all the necessary nutrients are available from the outset. There simply is not enough time to identify a deficiency, apply a remedy and obtain a response in the time. Carrots are a longer term crop and again I would try to ensure that all the nutrients are there at the start. If I identify a deficiency and want to correct it I would not want to apply a truly organic fertilizer because this encourages root branching and the average American consumer might reject it . So the best I can say is learn what and how much your plants need and supply only that, in the optimal quantity, in order to get the result which you seek. Where crop nutrition is concerned, this offers the the least adverse impact on the ecosystem.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

10 tablespoons of miracle gro for a 40 by 70 foot garden, you must be kidding. I use one tablespoon per a one and half gallon watering can and each refill does about 7 plants. I sprinkle it right on them for foliar feeding. I do this sometimes once a week to start out and then extend it to maybe once a month. I also use urea, ammonium nitrate/magnesium nitrate/dolomite mix, ammonium phosphate, and potasium nitrate. I also have about a cubic foot of compost spred around each plant and about 15 cubic feet around each fruit tree. I also put an average of half a foot of composted steer manure or mulch in each planting hole. Miracle gro is expensive, if your garden only needs nitrogen I would use urea, about $16 for a 50 pound bag, 46 percent nitrogen. Adding nutients your soil doesn't need can make other nutrients unavailable. When I use up th miracle gro I have now I won't buy any more and will use the other fertilizers I mentioned because they are much cheaper and I can add just what the plant needs, which in California is mostly nitrogen and zinc. BTW, a 50 pound bag of zinc sulphate is about $33.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Californian, the plants I will use this on are small seedlings, no where near full grown plants. I just need a slosh to get the tiny plants going.

For what its worth, gardening habits differ around the country, and one challenge I have here is probably not that widespread. I live half way down a slope where people use a considerable amount of irrigation water both above and below me. The basic geology of the area, a thin (4") layer of clay - sandy top soil, then sandstone over shale, leads to an interesting phenomenon that occurs every summer. The water table rises, and somewhere about mid-August, seepage that began as irrigation water somewhere way up the hill starts popping up all over the place. I have a couple of places that I have to dig drainage ditches, in some places, trees will drown and die. In my vegetable garden, there is enough seepage that once the plants have their roots down about 5 or 6 inches, I no longer need to water them. One result of all this is that a lot of nutrients are leached out, with little anyone can do about it.

This is improving as more of the watering switches from flood irrigation to sprinklers.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Thank you for supporting Monsanto.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Miracle Gro and Monsanto have nothing to do with each other.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

I'm sorry, you're right, it's Round Up that's Monsantos....


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

from the Wikipedia article about urea, the main ingredient in miracle gro:
"Urea is produced commercially from two raw materials, ammonia and carbon dioxide. Large quantities of carbon dioxide are produced during the manufacture of ammonia from coal or from hydrocarbons such as natural gas and petroleum derived raw materials. This allows direct synthesis of urea from these raw materials."

Why would you use it for that extra little boost when there are excellent quick-acting liquid organic fertilizers made from waste products like poultry manure, as in Raingrow 4-2-3 (my personal favourite)?


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Because I would have to use 575 pounds of Raingrow 4-2-3 to equal the nitrogen in a 50 pound bag of urea. How much would 575 pounds of that stuff cost?


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

paulns that wiki description actually sounds like A Good Thing to me. Synthesis of urea processes the carbon dioxide and ammonia waste products of coal and petroleum refinement into fertilizer, and puts them to good agricultural use.

Not everyone has the budget for hyper-expensive boutique fertilizers like Raingrow 4-2-3 either. The stuff sells for $10 for a 16 ounce bottle (borders on insanity), that is roughly $10 a pound. It makes 12 gallons of solution

Miracle Gro liquid plant food concentrate sells for $4 a 48 ounce bottle and makes 48 gallions of solution.

Hmm Miracle Grow is 4 times the yield at 4/10 the price.

I am buying 40 pound bags of Cockadoodle DOO 5-3-4 pure organic fertilizer for $18 a bag. Make your own liquid fertilizer. Throw a handful in a 5 gallon bucket of water let it sit for a day an ladle it on to the plants.


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Uh, make that $13 a bag

by the way there's a $5 rebate on the stuff I am using which makes it $13 for a 40 pound bag.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

So if the previous posters figures for the price of raingrow are correct I would have to spend over Five Thousand dollars on Raingrow to get the same amount of Nitrogen I would get in a sixteen dollar bag of urea.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

But how much of that urea nitrogen will actually get into your plants, and how much will end up in the waterways? How will it affect the worms and microbes in the soil?

As has been said, it's not so much about feeding the plants as feeding the soil. How can you tell your plants are lacking nitrogen? Balanced soil with plenty of humus fixes nitrogen from the air. Nitrogen is not always the limiting nutrient. Get a soil test before you go dumping chemicals willy-nilly.

I realize people are doing organic at different levels and for different reasons, but is petroleum-based fertilizer so much better and so much cheaper that you'll compromise one of the fundamental organic principles? It makes me wonder why you are here. I sense a lot more dedication to organic philosophy on the other forums. Or are the trolls just louder here? (sorry had to say it...)

Don't see the connection between petroleum and fertilizer? Look up the Haber Process and Urea.

I know we're all pretty entangled in the oil economy, but isn't part of the reason to garden organically, indeed to garden at all, to bypass it a little and do something that helps the earth? And should that stop at your backyard? I'm not saying never to use synthetic fertilizers. That would be hypocritical of me as I search for my camp-stove propane! Please just be informed and mindful when you do.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

  • Posted by paulns NS zone 6a (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 15, 07 at 14:13

You're right, Raingrow is boutique fertilizer, and we use it in boutique fashion, for house plants, seedlings under lights and maybe a little boost when setting out transplants. One 2-litre jug lasts us one growing season. That's for our 3/4 acre of gardens and now a 200 sq. ft greenhouse. The jug costs $22.

We also bring home tons (literally) of shellfish waste from the local fish plant, truckloads of eelgrass, seaweed and horse manure when it's available, and make compost in 13 pallet bins. I just don't see the need for miracle gro. I don't see the rush. We're a small family, not starving millions. And even India is switching slowly to organic.

Gemini jim makes excellent points. Growing organically means looking at the big picture.


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follow-up RE: why is miracle-gro bad

And as a follow-up, how many of you who routinely use synthetics call yourselves organic gardeners?


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urea tying up CO2 -- an illusion

The ammonia was produced by combining hydrogen and nitrogen under heat and pressure, which requires energy. The hydrogen was produced by breaking down methane under heat and pressure. One of the byproducts is, guess what, carbon dioxide! So combining the ammonia back with the carbon dioxide, which can't be even close to 100% efficient, does not create a net CO2 reduction, but a net increase. Plus there is C02 released to get the energy for the heat and pressure required for the reactions.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

As for your follup up question gemini_jim: Organic gardening is a set of techniques, not a belief system or a clan. I use organic methods because they work, and to the extent that they continue to work in my garden, and not because I am a Luddite. No membership test is necessary.

I choose not to use Miracle Gro because a) it is not cost effective -- though far more cost effective than Raingrow -- and b) because I happen to get better results short and long term using a slow release granular organic fertilizer.

So -- I wonder what is the ecological impact of 547 plastic bottles of Raingrow packaging versus one paper sack of urea? Not to mention the petroleum fuel burned for shipping 10 times the weight. Hmm...

As for urea synthesis issue -- no industrial process is 100% efficent. However the heat and pressure involved comes from electric power. Nuclear generated energy in 25% of the US and 60% of Europe -- which generates no CO2 emissions. So it is not an illusion. CO2 goes in, urea comes out.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

You don't have to be a Luddite to be mindful of your impact on the earth system. Yes, organic is a set of techniques, but there is a core theme of sustainability.

I don't use Raingrow or Miracle-gro. Can't afford fancy packaged chicken poo. I'm philosophically against using industrial urea along with Miracle-gro, Osmocote, and the like. That's just me, and as you know I won't be shy about telling you why. But I also don't hold it against you if you disagree. I do have plenty of local horse manure and compost. I'm working on getting worm composting going too. Crop rotation, green manures, all the basic hands-on stuff. I do use a little blood meal along with bonemeal, greensand and lime, but that's about the extent of my inputs.

This isn't a forum on the efficiency of industrial processes, but most of them are way below 100%, so there is still a lot of CO2 lost to the air. Electric power may be 25% nuclear (which is a whole other issue), but it is still mostly fossil fuel in the USA.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

By the way Jim one other suggestion, and I offer this constructively because you are a new Gardenweb member who has been here less than a month.

There is a wide diversity of thought expressed here, maybe not quite what you are used to in other some other forums where you are among kindred spirits. Maybe not quite the uniformity of thought you are used to, and it will take some getting used to. Be that as it may, though not all members see eye to eye, it is not useful for you to start calling other people trolls, since a number of us have been active forum members many years longer than you have. It is always possible to get your point across in a more polite way.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Lets see. I use about one pound of Miracle grow a season. Thats for a 3 acre garden (2 acres of lawn, orchard, vegetables, 400 trees, lots of flowers), and 500 sq ft green house. Using grass clippings, newspaper, wood chips, and the normal organic waste generated on the place, I make, "officially", a bit over 25 cubic yards of finished compost in 12 months, and use the rest of the organic matter I generate as mulches, and I even started my very own 'carbon dump', which is a euphemism for a 50 ft by 30 ft by 10 ft high pile of branches that are too big to use for mulch or something, and too small to bother to burn for heat. That pile is slowly sinking into the bottom of a damp cattail swamp. I burn wood for heat, usually 7 cords a year, but I produce about twice that in living trees. I don't bother to estimate how much stuff goes into my soggy brush pile.

For pesticides on the food (and only when I need to), I use a pyrithrin based insecticidal soap. I used some this spring on my orchard to combat aphids which were overwhelming a few plum trees. I may need to use some on flea beetles here in a bit, they're getting bad.

This part of the country is undergoing a very rapid ecological change with 100's of thousands of acres of pinion pine trees dead in the recent drought and bark beetle infestation. This was the Ipsis Piion bark beetle, they killed every piion tree I had, most well over 150 years old, lost about 20 trees. Now, its a pine bark beetle infestation, which is hitting much of Continental North America, Canada is having huge problems as well with millions of hectares of dead trees. So, I have a border of 200 odd Scots Pine trees, 11 years old now and roughly 25 feet high. They shield the wind, shield the sun, my property is a full 10 F cooler in the summer. They also shield the rest of the property from two busy county roads. This spring, two of the trees just blew over, and I was dismayed to find that they had been killed by the blue fungus that is carried by some symbiotic insect that hangs out with pine bark beetles. I looked at all of them, and saw they were all getting attacked.

I sprayed all of my trees with the strongest, systemic pesticide I could legally get.

So, if I had to self-characterize, I'm organic as I can be, but I'm not a fool about it. If anybody wants to argue if I use a systemic pesticide to save 200 live trees, or I use a cup or two of Miracle Grow on a few tomato plants to insure I get a crop in the next 70 days before the frost, I'm willing to discuss the bigger picture.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Well, David ya gotta do what ya gotta do. It's no good being organic if your plants are dead. It's MY humble opinion that one reason I try to be organic as possible, besides the fact that I like the 'all natural' thing, is because so many large farmers aren't and are damaging the environment. If they WEREN'T, then I don't see why there'd be much pressure to not use extreme pesticides once in awhile. If everyone was organic, the impact of non-organic pesticides and fertilizers used occasionally would probably be minimal. But this is just my humble opinion.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

ronalawn82 z9FL (toulsa@juno.com) on Thu, Jun 14, 07 at 8:24 dgs9r,"The law of limiting factors (Liebig's law of the minimum) is a basic tenet of ecological science. A limiting factor is the one least available among those factors that affect growth, survival, and reproduction of an organism." (internet).
The following analogy is from a textbook authored by either 'Tisdale and Nelson' or 'Buckman and Brady'. (I forget which).

I worked with integrating traditional ag farming with fish farming. I used this theory all the time to explain what was happening in any given situation, how a tiny bit of a this or a that ingredient could make a significant difference in yield.

And, as the career went on, I realized an almost lethally extravagant dedication to the concept. If an infection to the organism was causing a draw back, then add antibiotics to the feed. If it needed sun shelter, add a shade. If it needed this, add it. And then try to bump up the number of growing organisms. A never ending cycle.

After a lot of trial and error, we realized that there was a balance point in there, where easing off the production / intensity / additive inputs vs yield / per / unit of volume / surface area, was a whole lot better way to go. That varies. That varies should be underlined. In all considerations; profit, environmental damage, and quality of the product. I lost two jobs by explaining to capitalist financiers that future increases in profits could not necessarily depend on increased production from the same place.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

I keep seeing people say "I choose not to use ..." when in reality people choose to use. There is nothing out there that requires anyone to purchase synthetic plant foods, just as there is nothing out there that requires people to make their soil good and healthy so strong and healthy plants will grow rather than plants on drugs.
Since as a general rule of thumb organic gardening is much less expensive (there is no need to buy some nutrient inputs) I have much more of my not very extensive cash to use to buy plants, something i would rather do that spend it, unnecessarily, on drugs to keep my plants growing.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Yup yours is bigger than mine, David. :) You don't have me convinced though that miracle gro is necessary (I'm surprised to find people promoting miracle gro on this of all pages) just as kimmsr and pablo are surely not convinced of my 'need' for purchased liquid fertilizer. We make our choices.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

david52, I empathize with your dilemma. It is tough to have to decide between a paycheck and what amounts to the 'prostitution' of one's convictions or core beliefs. But it works out better in the long run. My own conclusion is that if I work for someone, I can be "damned if I do and damned if I don't". That being the case, I'd rather do (or say) and deal with the consequences.
But more to the point, recognition of the law of limiting factors has impelled me diagnose and treat plant problems.
Has it been similar for you?


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

I choose to use organic methods because they work for me, however they may not work for you, or the next guy. The operative word here is choose.

Everyone draws their own line on these matters and at the end of the day it all comes down to personal choice. If Dave wants to spray a little Miracle Gro on his garden that's his business and I hope whatever he does, he has plenty of good food from his garden.

In the past I have read to some rigid ideologues who claim they would rather lose their whole vegetable crop for the year than spray one drop of chemical on their garden. You could call that cutting off our nose to spite your face. Let's hope their faith never gets tested.

Also have read some other kooks who are so obsessed with defending the purity of their so-called organic belief system that they crap out their own turds on the garden bed and call it sustainable gardening.

However just like Dave if they want to do that it's their business.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Im not sure why anyone choosing to use miracle gro would be spending time posting in an organic forum. Do the apple growers lurk in the orange growers forum??


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Has anyone seen studies performed on organic vs. inorganic no-till farming? Commercial farmers are now trying now to save fuel($) and return more to the soil seemingly through practices like no-till. Additionally, soil analyses are performed so as not to apply any more fert than what is needed for the next crop, and additionally, grasses are planted in natural waterways that run through and leave their farms, slowing erosion and nutrient runoff. Again, much of the phosphates and such come from urban runoff. You know, the people that shop at the big box stores. So you do not want to help either place, you won't applaude when Scott's goes organic and you won't come up with a viable solution for large scale farming. I don't see why ya'll do not put your heads together and come up with a solution. Maybe a non-profit organization. Please, everyone is waiting. No wait, you are too busy doing it the right way.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Posted by ronalawn82 z9FL (toulsa@juno.com) on
Sat, Jun 16, 07 at 8:18 ....I empathize with your dilemma. It is tough to have to decide between a paycheck and what amounts to the 'prostitution' of one's convictions or core beliefs. But it works out better in the long run. My own conclusion is that if I work for someone, I can be "damned if I do and damned if I don't". That being the case, I'd rather do (or say) and deal with the consequences.
But more to the point, recognition of the law of limiting factors has impelled me diagnose and treat plant problems.
Has it been similar for you?

ref first part of of your post, I found out that telling somebody that their 'business plan' was a crock rather rapidly led to a far better financial offer, or other employment, and my frank admission of saying that I disagreed with the finance side of things a solid bonus. Few 'Venture Capitalists' know squat, to put it mildly. I sure prayed that my interpretation of events going on were reasonably valid enough to take such a stance. I'm still alive.

And that sorta leads me into a reply re those who out-right condemn the imaginable use of MG, and who could possibly imagine posting on such a forum.

I've very happily electronically met, elsewhere on this wonderful internet we now have and in different forums as well as here, so many folks who have had different experiences on our amazing existence on this sphere. It certainly would be a really good idea, I think, to keep in touch, and keep in contact, and keep on good relations with all the other folks who try to grow food in this world.

Short word, always talk to other farmers who are out there in the sun, dust, mud, and soil. We are all looking at the same stuff, trying to do the same thing, and the idea that someone is "organic" is somehow better than the guy who uses weed spray on his thistle, now and again, is somehow not able to post on a forum is absurd. Let alone someone who grows 80,000 bushes of corn. That woman on the tractor with her spray tank carefully calibrated with micro-ingredients might have ideas on fungus growth and distribution in legume soils than you ever imagined, since she graduated with a Doctorate n the subject.

Other people know stuff you don't. The free exchange of info is gold, no matter where the source.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

If you choose to spray MG or other chemicals on
your property thats your business, you've made
that choice and I wish you well with it. And although
it doesn't apply to every non organic grower in this
forum I don't understand why some folks who apparently
have quite a bit of disdain for the concept would
troll in an organic group. That just seems like a fair
question to me.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

It goes without saying that everyone will do what they want. But this is "a forum for the discussion of..." and that's what we're doing, discussing. Everything's a fair question except, increasingly it seems, in Bush's America.

Fish emulsion is strong stuff. If plants still need nitrogen despite applying it, then it seems to me something else is wrong. Am I missing something here?


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Im not sure why anyone choosing to use miracle gro would be spending time posting in an organic forum. Do the apple growers lurk in the orange growers forum??

Organic is one of those terms that means different things to different people.

For some it means not using anything that isn't 'natural' and interfering with natural processes as little as possible. For others it is much more like 'conventional' gardening, but with an eye on the toxicity of products being used and a certain amount of environmental awareness/concern.

One area of organics that doesn't make sense to some is the idea that fertilizers are 'bad' or that there is something harmful about using a synthetic fertilizer given that they are chemically identical to the nutrients in fish emulsion, compost or what have you.

So, you will see discussion of this. I don't consider it trolling, I consider it a legitimate question and it provides a place for everyone to discuss and share their present opinions.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Fair enough justaguy but I think my question still stands.

If some think that chemicals and organics are just the same and the whole issue is essentially nothing more than switching one input for another then why trouble oneself with an organic forum as the chemicals are always going to present a simpler answer? Im not trying to chase anyone away but I do find it a little odd that some would lobby for the use of chemicals on an organic forum.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

paulns, my (limited) understanding is that the nitrogen has to be in a proper nitrate 'form' for utilization by the plant, an example from the back of my head is urea needs to be transformed into nitrates by soil bacteria before it can be utilized, and that only occurs above a certain temperature.

I'm sure there are other factors involved as well. Googling around a bit, there are lots of interesting interactions with different plant reactions to different levels of NO3 and NO4, a lot of stuff I don't know much about.

I've linked an article that gives something of an idea of the complexity.

Here is a link that might be useful: sunflowers and nitrogen uptake


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

I must be the evil troll that poster is complaining about because I use the best of organic and chemical methods on my garden. Let me set him straight on a few subjects that have been mentioned. BTW, I do not use pesticides, either chemical or organic.
1. First I live in suburban southern California, where houses are jammed in one next to the other. Southern California is also a semi-desert. There are no huge quantities of leaves and manure available, anything like that has to be bought or you have to drive large distances to get large quantities. Even grass clippings cost money. Using grass clippings would mean I would have to water my lawn which I made the decision to let die during this worst drought in recorded history here in California we are having this year. Other people will be doing the same thing when mandatory water rationing hits later this year. We don't have the usual seasons here so you don't have the big fall leave drops like other parts of the country, and most people don't have big trees anyway, except maybe for euclyptus trees which drop their leaves randomly.
2. I also mentioned I do use compost that I buy, in fact I just bought 12 cubic yards of a mix of sawdust, horse manure, and straw. I also buy broken bags of organic materials such as potting soil, planter mix, steer manure, mulch, shredded wood and bark, etc. that I get on pallets from the big box stores at a substantial discount. But these materials are mostly to impove the aeration of my almost pure clay soil. I am not about to go out and pay ridiculouly high prices for the nitrogen my soil needs just because the package says organic on it, so I use urea or potassium nitrate or ammonium phosphate or Cal nitro.
3. As for runoff, there is none coming from my property. It is so dry here that any water I put on my garden and fruit trees stays right where I put it. As proof I recently transplanted some peppers I had planted too close together to give them more room. Even though I had just put an inch of water on the plants three days before the clay was bone dry eight inches down, so nothing is leaching into the water table, which in my area would probably be 400 feet down anyway.
4. Cost is another factor. I see people paying $100 to $400 for a compost bin to makes maybe an amount of compost they could have bought for a fraction of that already made. Then wasting gas driving around to collect materials to fill it with. Then theres that guy who spent $22 for a bottle of organic fertilizer that contained the amount of nitrogen that he could have bought for 13 cents in the form of urea. And obviously that urea is not killing the bacteria because bacteria are needed to break the urea down into nitrates, just like your organic fertilizer has to be broken down by bacteria into nitrates. In fact adding chemical nitrogen to compost piles with too much browns will actually help the bacteria work.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Fair enough decklap

This message board is for the discussion of organic gardening. There is a wide spectrum of opinion, including yours. There is no purity test. You are not the high priest of the forum. Discussing the pros and the cons of organic gardening, is discussing organic gardening. All viewpoints are welcome, including yours, as long as people can keep it civil. This is not an us versus them situation.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

If this post shows up twice then apologies.....

Im not suggesting a purity test but I am
suggesting that there is not equivalency.
These aren't "good" or "evil" concepts
but they are different and I don't think
it rains unduly on anyone's parade to say so.
MG is not an organic product. It is not the
same idea as promoting healthy soil. This strikes
me as self evident. If one wants to use MG or
some product like it on their property then huzzah
for them but I don't think its honest to pretend
thats it all just the same stuff or even the
same approach. It isn't.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Hi all,

Glad to see all the discussion going on in this thread! I was away for the weekend so didn't get a chance to stay in it.

kubotabx2200 said:

"There is a wide diversity of thought expressed here, maybe not quite what you are used to in other some other forums where you are among kindred spirits. Maybe not quite the uniformity of thought you are used to, and it will take some getting used to. Be that as it may, though not all members see eye to eye, it is not useful for you to start calling other people trolls, since a number of us have been active forum members many years longer than you have. It is always possible to get your point across in a more polite way."

Point taken, to a degree. I used the term "troll" with great hesitation. It was certainly not meant as a personal attack on anyone, unless they were intentionally baiting the forum, and I'm sorry if anyone was offended.

I may be new to GardenWeb, but I've been involved with discussions via Usenet, e-lists, etc., for over a decade. Believe me I have encountered diverse opinions for much longer than that.

I quess what I was reacting to was a tendency on a few members' parts to poo-poo opinions, to the point of ridicule, that have a hint of philosophy, idealism, or anything that may seem to be alternative to hard-boiled concrete practicality. Or that try to connect things in a way that may be uncomfortable for the mainstream. You may not realize it, but this kind of ridicule has a tendency to stifle the kind of discussion of opinions you claim to espouse.

Not that you shouldn't say what you think, but don't be surprised by the reactions you may get.

If it's really open discussion you want, then I suggest you at least try to appear respectful of the diverse opinions, if only to try to understand them. The field of organics certainly has a wide range of alternative practices and philosophies. Maybe some seem kooky and wacky to you. But maybe some of those kooks are really onto something, and if you approach it with an open mind you will appreciate what they have to offer. I think composting toilets are a great idea, though they're not going to happen at my house anytime soon.

The other thing that may be going on (or maybe not) is a fear that the kooks and wackos are trying to force their beliefs on you. It's true there are zealots on the extremes who want everyone to think and act like them, but don't assume that I, or anyone else here, is one of them.

To get back to Deepti's original question: "why is miracle-gro bad?" I interpret that as, "Why would people object to using MG based on organic principles." The last line, "I am committed to organics, but am questioning some assumptions taken for granted," is a wise approach for all of us to take. What follows in the thread is a range of opinions as to why some might or might not object to MG, leaving it to Deepti to come to a personal, and hopefully better-informed conclusion. No one tried to force any opinions on anyone, just offered information that may or may not be useful.

Anyway, thanks for indulging me. I'll try not to ramble on so much in the future. I just needed to get some things off my chest...

Regards, and Happy Father's Day!
Jim


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

I use Miracle-Gro. Am I a troll? Should I not be allowed in this forum? From this discussion, I'm getting the impression that you're either 100% organic or you're not organic at all. Is there room for people who are trying to go organic, or who use organic practices most of the time, or who are trying to phase out nonorganic means of gardening?

I use Miracle-Gro. The main reason I use it is simply because I have it. It's going to hit the environment no matter what I decide to do with it, so I may as well use it for its intended purpose and then look around for a more sustainable alternative once the Miracle-Gro is used up. I have a compost bin, that I started this year, but it's nowhere near compost yet.

For those who use nothing but organic practices on their garden, have solar panels on their roofs, only eat local, organically raised food, and never use chemical cleaning products, I say good for you. But I venture to guess that most of us "organic" folk are, like me, still in the process of of "weeding out" nonsustainable practices.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

You are more than welcome here lilacs_of_may. Don't let anybody try to shout you down. I don't put up with nonsense like that and neither should you.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Agree, all are welcome here (except obvious trolls which are infrequent) which the powers that be eventually deal with (usually).

There are many sound reasons to pursue organic/IPM practices which are solidly backed by reason and science and then there is the completely nonsense woo-woo superstition and the snake oil peddlers taking advantage of the gullibility of those persons lacking critical thinking skills.

Don't let the woo-woo types or snake oil peddlers scare off the rational people or organics:sustainability:common sense will just be completely new age, pie in the sky, divorced from reality nonsense and that would be a loss for everyone.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

It is not that MiracleGro is inherently "bad" - it's just that other, more organic materials or products are better. Better in that they improve the soil, encourage its life forms and deliver the nutrients plants require in a more natural way in a way that chemicals or synthetics cannot.

I have a hard time acknowledging those few that dogmatically adhere to the all or nothing approach to an organic lifestyle. Unless you are growing organic crops for commercial consumption and require that "certified organic" label, it is a matter of personal choice. Just as it takes a few years of no chemical input for a farm to become certified organic, it often takes a bit of time for us home gardeners to use up what we have on hand (with some reservations) and become fully natural. And I also have a difficult time believing that these organic "nazis" never indulge in a can of soda pop, a bottle of beer, a Big Mac or any of the zillions of other non-organic products that are part of our daily lives.

A little MiracleGro does not an organic criminal make :-) If you have it, use it - probably way better for the environment than throwing it away - but then with additional participation in this and other forums, you may come to the conclusion that there are better methods out there to improve and enrich your soils so that the chemical fertilizer equivalent of junk food is no longer necessary.

Hardline extremists are difficult to take under just about any situation :-)


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

lilacs_of_may, you're not a troll. It was an unfortunate term I used. And far be it from me to say who should be on the forum. As kubotabx2200 is fond of saying, there is no membership or purity test.

If I asked the question, "why are you here?" it was out of honest curiosity rather than animosity.

Even if you were a troll, i.e. intentionally trying to raise the ire of folks, I wouldn't advocate banning you from the forum unless it came to very disruptive or threatening behavior.

The term "organic" is something of a semantic minefield, and folks here definitely have different opinions. But despite that, I think this thread has been pretty civil by internet standards.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

And as a follow-up, how many of you who routinely use synthetics call yourselves organic gardeners?

Justaguy2 raises his hand.

I have many different growing areas. I have several ornamental gardens that I do nothing for. These are perennial plants adapted for the area/soil I live with.

I have other gardens I just use compost/mulch on and they do fine.

I have veggie gardens I used to grow in the soil, but now grow exclusively in raised beds and containers as the soil I have is too difficult to deal with.

For raised beds with veggies my primary fertilizer is compost, but I also use fish emulsion for added nitrogen which the compost hasn't been able to provide and in containers I use fish emulsion, but also a synthetic source of slow release NPK (Osmocote) and a synthetic source of micronutrients (Micromax kindly donated by Tapla) to ensure there is no great deficiency of anything. I also own some Miracle Grow which I sometimes use when I want to see a rapid change in a sluggish plant.

I do not use pesticides of synthetic or natural origin except for neem oil and Sevin used in a cup with bait for cuke beetles (none is applied to plants or soil).

I am the type of guy who watches out for toads when mowing the lawn and when I see spiders in the house I have been known (to my wife's horror) to pick them up and kiss them as a thanks for their keeping more bothersome insects away.

I am deeply concerned about the planet we all share and do not consider it my right to pollute my 'private' property as I don't own it, I just presently occupy it.

Still, I do have uses for synthetic fertilizers, particularly in my cool climate when some plants grow, but most soil organisms are still asleep.

Sue me ;-)


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

OK, I've kept out of this, but I do want to say this: I don't think organic production is always sustainable. For example, on large-scale fruit production farms, organic weed control isn't, IMO, sustainable. The repeated applications of vinegar, and even worse, propane flaming, that are necessary to control weeds has to use much more fossil fuels than conventional herbicides.

Given that a popluar definition of sustainable agriculture is "A method of agriculture that attempts to ensure the profitability of farms while preserving the environment," I'm not sure that propane flaming really fits in here, or hand weeding hundreds of acres because of profitability.

Is organic in home gardens sustainable? Most likely.

Is organic on large scale farms sustainable? Not always.

That's why I believe so firmly in sustainable ag. I think it combines the best of organic and the best of conventional production.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Try telling the guy with 30, 300, or 3000 acres that organic is always better...why is inorganic the predominant practice, because it works, not always friendly, but has evolved, so still, how is organic going to evolve to the predominant practice if you won't let the evil housewives and commercial farmers in. How about hydroponics, is that evil as well? Ya'll need a solution, think, think, think


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

It's true. Organic isn't necessarily sustainable and sustainable isn't necesarily organic. Sometimes you can get both, even commercially, but not usually on a large scale.

Along these lines, I'd recommend the book Omnivore's_Dilemna by Michael Pollin. He traces 4 different meals back to their origins: conventional, large-scale organic, local/sustainable, and hunted/gathered/homegrown. Eye-opening and entertaining!


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

  • Posted by paulns NS zone 6a (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 20, 07 at 17:25

Is organic in home gardens sustainable? Most likely.

Is organic on large scale farms sustainable? Not always.

That's why urban farming is at the cutting edge of organic growing.

"Havana, home to nearly 20 percent of Cuba's population, is now also home to more than 8,000 officially recognized gardens, which are in turn cultivated by more than 30,000 people and cover nearly 30 percent of the available land."

Organic gardens, that is.

A chef who comes each summer from the city of Toronto (pop. ~2 million) to work at a resort near us tells me he sees vegetables growing on trellises on the balconies of high-rise buildings downtown, more and more. From what I've read these are mostly immigrants, growing their own food.

About Miracle gro, one point I'd like to make is that you're not just using it, you're supporting the synthetic fertilizer industry, while by buying fish emulsion or raingrow, say, you're generating more demand for something organic that would normally be a waste product. (which leads me to wonder if anybody's ever tried to market a fert. derived from pig manure, which is such a waste problem, or is that smell impossible to sanitize?)

Another thing is that I think this is all about faith, or the lack thereof. Why do I not have faith that compost tea will give my plants that quick boost Raingrow gives them, and why do miracle gro users not have faith that something like Raingrow or fish emulsion will do the trick?


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

and why do miracle gro users not have faith that something like Raingrow or fish emulsion will do the trick?

Experience.

Fish emulsion is great and it is my primary fertilizer, but it requires a small amount of bacterial processing to become available to plants. Miracle grow requires no bacterial processing.

In Wisconsin where I live I start gardening as soon as the soil unfreezes and well before the bacteria wake up (around 46F soil temp). Only water soluble synthetics are effective at this time and even in mid summer in super hot containers there is nothing faster acting than a water soluble (plant ready) synthetic fert.

It really is that simple.

I will say though that blood meal and fish emulsion are very fast acting for organics.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Resources in southern california:

My city in Ventura county has city mulch available for free. Often times the mulch is fine enough to go in the compost or in a lasagna bed. Otherwise, it can serve as a more traditional shredded wood mulch. Starbuck's, similar resource for free orqanics. The used coffee grounds analysis by Sunset magazine is here: http://www.sunset.com/sunset/garden/edible/article/0,20633,1208232,00.html

LA county might have lots of free organic resources - though I am not familiar with the various cities' practices. I was thinking on another thread that I should find a "fish plant" to get free fish waste for my compost and lasagna beds. I would bet that LA has a ton more fish plants than Ventura county. Some grocery stores give their used produce. Jamba juice will give boxes of citrus peels. Noah's Bagels gives away day-old bagels by the garbage bag full.

On freecycle you can find bunny poo and more.

In other words, I think by virtue of the "california" thing we have going on here (a little hippy, a little progressive) there are good free resources of organic matter that can build soil for free and reduce use of fertilizers (organic or chemical). I'm sold on lasagna gardening, and it is easy, and I don't need much by way of fertiliser (a shot of fish emulsion now and then, maybe twice a year.). True, we don't have much by way of leaves or grass clippings, but we have lots of other organic stuff.

Peach Tree farms, in Ventrua County, gives away mushroom compost for free to various groups - like to community gardens. They are progressively-minded. Maybe other compost suppliers have similar programs to boost awareness.

Many churches will give away free straw bales after their annual pumpkin patches.

All that said. I have to confess I use non-organic practices on our blueberry area. (Darn pH is way too high and I am determined to get these bushes growing.) I also have some Miracle Gro under the sink - although it is about ten years old because I stopped using it about eight years ago.

Here is a link that might be useful: Coffee grounds analysis (slow release nitrogen fertiliser, and free)


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Paulns makes a great point in this discussion.
People tend to think of *their* use of MG or
Scotts W/Weedblock or whatever as if it existed
in a vacumn. Of course it doesn't even if a
given user is only using " a little ".

End3. When asking why inorganic is the dominant
practice you have to take into the number of
salespeople in the employ of chemical companies
over the last 60 years or so as to
compared to the number of organic salespeople
roaming the countryside in that same time.

Justaguy. Have you tried organic foliar sprays
for quick uptake?? I can't imagine that you're
growing anything in sub 50 soil that actually
needs more N than you're going to be able to
sray on the leaves.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Justaguy. Have you tried organic foliar sprays
for quick uptake??

I have not. I should give that a try. Is there anything in particular you recomend?


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

"even the proliferation of improvised bombs in the Middle East! "

Ummm- they don't bother with ANFO in the Middle East. They use unexploded ordinance (UXO), and formerly took apart land mines. Those are RDX or TNT (old) based explosives. In areas not at war, a terrorist might also use ANFO, or urea nitrate, or they might make TATP or something in a kitchen. If you took away ANFO, it would not slow down IED production at all.

Saying that production of ammonium nitrate boosts the production of bombs is much like blaming obesity on proliferation of spoons.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

pablo_nh, thanks for the info re IED's. I didn't know that.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

We're all works in progress. So are our gardens. I hate to see an "all-or-nothing" attitude prevail. If 20 people go 5% organic, that's the equivalent of 1 person being 100% organic, which is better than if those 20 people just shrugged and figured they couldn't do enough to make a difference, so why try?

The best way to fight disease and stay healthy is to follow good health and nutrition practices. Equivalent to building up the soil. But whether we eat junk food or organic carrots, sometimes supplements are still a good idea. Miracle-Gro is kind of like Vitamin C. Vitamin C is only one vitamin. It's one we need, but if we got our Vitamin C through fruits and vegetables, we'd also get other vitamins, fiber, lycopene, lutien, bioflavonoids and probably a lot of other things that we're not even aware of yet.

And sometimes, for whatever reason, we get ill and our immune system can't fight off the bug. That's when we take out the big guns and use antibiotics. If we take care of the "soil," so to speak, we might only rarely need antibiotics. I'm all for antibiotics. When you have COPD and contract pneumonia, they're called for. It's the indiscriminate use of needless antibiotics that are getting us into trouble with such things as XDR TB.

All this to say that there's a place for nonorganic practices, but my opinion is that that's not where we should turn first.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Justaguy,

We're in the same zone so Im assuming we're
both putting roughly the same stuff out early?
Peas, greens, carrots...etc It sounds like
you're getting stuff in the ground sooner
than I do so it must work for you but I usually
wait awhile longer than I otherwise might to
warm the soil up with my coldframes.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

So, um, what do people think of Plant-Prod products?

I mainly used a product called Wegener's (liquid) for the last couple of years. I've been getting spectacular results with it on, well, everything. I recently switched over to a locally made product called Wurzel Dip (liquid seaweed) that seems to be even better.

Both are organic products. I've also amended my very, very heavy clay soil with peat moss, compost, sand, bone meal, bark mulch, perlite, vermiculite, zeolite and leaves for the past five years. I've been able to make incredible inroads with the soil. I transplanted a small rose bush this week and I was astonished at the incredible transformation of the useless clay soil into wonderful, black soil.

But I find the fast-acting products very useful for providing nutrients quickly to growing and transplanted plants. I do not use these products regularly - two applications per growing season is all.

Is using Miracle-Gro bad? Nope. Is using Miracle-Gro by itself bad? Yup. You also need to improve the base product - your soil.

Also, for my annual pots and baskets, I regularly use liquid fertilizer (Plant-Prod) on them. My growing season is short, and if that's what it takes to make my petunias three feet high, so be it. I am however very careful not spill or overflow the fertilizer.

Of course, if you live in the desert that is southern California, well, good luck :)


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

lilacs of may, likening 'Miracle-Gro' to vitamin C is not a wholly fair comparison. 'Miracle-Gro' provides the macro and some micro elements needed by plants, in a soluble and easily available form. A vitamin, as I understand it, is not a nutrient but it enables physiological processes which promote good health. Vitamin C has been used on plants in laboratory studies for specific purposes.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Here's the answer I used to give to this question...

Here's a list of things an organic program can do that no chemical can do. The beneficial microbes in the soil do the following.
1. Decompose plant residues and manure to humus.
2. Retain nutrients in humus.
3. Combine nitrogen and carbon to prevent nutrient loss.
4. Suppress disease.
5. Produce plant growth regulators.
6. Develop soil structure, tilth, and water penetration/retention.
7. Clean up chemical residues.
8. Shift soil pH to neutral and keep it there.
9. Search out and retrieve nutrients in distant parts of the soil.
10. Decompose thatch and keep it from returning.
11. Control nitrogen supply to the plants according to need.
12. Pull minerals out of inorganic soil components for plants.
13. Provide the exact chemical nutrients to the plant that the plant has evolved with rather than man's cheapest chemical approximation.
14. Provide exactly the required quantity of nutrients that the plant needs.
15. Provide the nutrients at exactly the right time that the plant needs them.

No chemical fertilizer can do any of that. To be fair, no single microbe can do all of that either. In fact, it could be that it takes 10 different species, one working right after the other, to do any one item in the above list - sort of like a microbiological assembly line. But at least it's real easy to get all the right microbes. The biology of the soil is very complicated.
At the same time, many chemicals inhibit the microbe's natural abilities to do these things. Herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides are all designed to kill various biological life. As a byproduct, they often kill off the beneficial microbes that are doing 1 through 15 above. Any break in the assembly line can interrupt the process, damage the mini ecosystem, and lessen the benefit of the organic methods.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

I am an organic gardener because I am chemically sensitive. My sensitivity often manifests as migratory arthritis (some doctors call it lupus). I find that I am generally pain-free and limber, when I do not eat fruits and vegetables which were grown with the use of chemical fertilizers and/or pesticides. Unfortunately, I do also have to avoid eating the deadly nightshade family of food plants (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, etc.).

To me, organic is about soil building. Soil should be a living ecosystem. Chemicals do not foster living soil. A rule of thumb in the organic world is that soil must be chemical free for ten years to qualify as "organic".

Organic is also about recycling; building new living soil from kitchen waste, as well as dead, and dying plants. It is rather like creating a bit of magic. How wonderful to be able to create life from "nothing"!


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Above somewhere someone stated that MG does not require soil bacteria or microbes to make the nutrients available to plants but that isn't really true. If it were true then MG would work just fine as a hydroponic nutrient. It does not as the nitrogen is primarily urea which requires soil microbes to change it to nitrate form for plant uptake.

Granted that is all beside the point of if MG is bad or how it affects organic gardening and all.

I've only just started learning about organic gardening though I've been into hydroponics for a while and know about that side of the MG issue. So far there is no true organic hydroponics but I'm keeping my eyes open. I have also been composting for a while and have a good hot bin going (above somewhere I think someone mentioned adding nitrogen to compost bins, easy free answer, have some one pee in it. Works like a charm to get a good hot compost going.) I'm newer to vermiculture and that seems to be going well too.

Anyway, I have some MG and have decided to run trials and test how certain garden beds do using different methods. Like some plants fed with MG, others are planted in compost, others are fed our own personal liquid gold, and the controls just planted and watered. This will give me experience with the different methods in my particular location (central FL.)

I suppose the most important thing for the environment (at least the run off side) is that any fertilizer be used carefully in moderation. Of course the more humus in the soil the better able the soil is to hang onto the moisture and nutrients but over irrigating will still leach nutrients.

I seem to be rambling so I should go now.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Dchall,

How does a completely organic soil, never had chemical ferts achieve 13-15?

It seems to me that the microbes and other organisms are going to do what they wish with the organic matter without respect to what a nearby plant needs.

One example would be soybean meal. It is very easy to deliver excessive nitrogen with it.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Dchall, I am going to disagree with the following:

1. Decompose plant residues and manure to humus.
-Adding any source of nitrogen will help to break organic materials down, ultimately into humus

2. Retain nutrients in humus.
-Humus has an anion and cation exchange capacity and will retain nutrients from any source

3. Combine nitrogen and carbon to prevent nutrient loss.
-Nitrogen from any source will be fixed in a high carbon environment

6. Develop soil structure, tilth, and water penetration/retention.
Gypsum, which is not an organic material, can have a strong effect on structure, tilth, and water penetration retention under certain conditions

7. Clean up chemical residues.
Nitrogen from any source will help degrade carbon based chemicals like gasoline

8. Shift soil pH to neutral and keep it there.
-organic materials will not do this

10. Decompose thatch and keep it from returning.
-again, nitrogen from any source will increase the breakdown of organic materials

11. Control nitrogen supply to the plants according to need.
-organic sources of nitrogen breakdown depending on temperature and moisture conditions which may or may not correlate with plant needs. Radishes and tomatoes for example need nitrogen in different parts of the season
.
13. Provide the exact chemical nutrients to the plant that the plant has evolved with rather than man's cheapest chemical approximation.
-there is nothing exact about decomposing organic materials in either time or content

14. Provide exactly the required quantity of nutrients that the plant needs.
- see 13 above

15. Provide the nutrients at exactly the right time that the plant needs them.
-see 11 above

I am not disagreeing just be disagreeable or because I am opposed to organic growing, but you are pretty far off base on a lot of your statements. There are advantages and disadvantages to everything including organic growing. Many of what I consider disadvantages you listed as advantages.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Fertilizersalesman-

Provide links to back up what you've said. Otherwise, I'm sticking to what DcHall says. You're really nitpicking some stuff. I'm sure Dchall could have explained things in MUCH MORE DETAILS but he generally keeps thing simple for majority of us so that we'd understand rather than get turned off by something we can't comprehend. Perhaps, you are really missing the whole picture in this....


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Do you really need a link to prove nitrogen from any source speeds the break down of organic matter?

Do you really need a link to prove organic matter breaks down and releases nutrients independent of plant needs?

Take a pile of organic matter and pee on it and watch it break down faster. Next take a comparable pile of organic matter and dump some high N Miracle grow on it and watch the same thing happen ;-)

If organic matter releases nutrients according to plant needs, then why does a compost pile in a plant free area still break down? ;-)

I have to agree with FSM on this one, there are a lot of statements being made in regard to organics that are simply not true. This isn't to say organics isn't a great approach, it is simply to separate fact from fiction.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

I read Dchall's statements, especially the early ones, to be more closely in line with the idea that organic methods promote higher microbial diversity in soil.

Adding nitrogen will break down organic matter, but only if nitrogen is limiting in the first place, and only if microbes are present (they are the ones doing the breaking down of organic matter.) Greater microbial diversity generally equals greater metabolic potential, which means that generally speaking, a greater variety of organic substrates can be metabolized (broken down.)

I'll link to one article that discusses microbial diversity and soil function. It does not paint a black and white picture, but there are some indicators in the study that microbially diverse soil can handle stresses better than microbially depleted soils. there are plenty of articles to browse on this topic, in Google Scholar.

Here is a link that might be useful: Link


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Lou,

I presently do not have time to chase down sources. We were both speaking in general terms and if you have a specific question on anything I said I would be happy to address it. Again, I am all for organic methods, but at times I think people need a reality check. There are downsides to organic production.

Patty, there is never a shortage of microbes. They are everywhere and you can't get away from them. When the enviroment makes a favorable change for a given bug the population explodes. If the environment changes for the worse they will sit there ideling along waiting for conditions to improve. To break down carbon, nitrogen moisture and temperature have to be favorable. Generally speaking nitrogen is the limiting factor and the bugs do not care about the source. If you dump some nitrogen fertilizer on your leaf pile it will break down much much faster. Try it.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Salesman,

Microbial diversity estimates range from fewer than ten species per gram of soil in an extreme environment, such as acid mine drainage, to over 1 million species per gram in a pristine environment such as forest soils.

I'm a microbiologist, currently assaying diversity in oceanic methane seeps. I'm happy enough with my understanding of environmental microbial diversity and don't generally care for your tone, which is condescending. I said nothing against fertilisers, and you provided sweeping generalizations in response to my peer - reviewed science link.


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I realize-

I realize that you aren't meaning to sound condescending. I apologise for any offense my previous post may have caused.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Patty,

I promise I am not trying to sound like a snot face. When I am supposed to be working sometimes my posts are done in haste and may very well appear condescending. There seems to be a fad in organic circles about the need to manage the 'micro herd' in soils. The point I have tried to make to people is that microbes are not fragile, rare, or endangered. Provide a suitable environment and you really do not need to lose any sleep over the state of 'the herd.' I advise people who are concerned about such things to keep their pH in the proper range, add organic materials, and minimize tillage. Your thoughts?


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

I haven't noticed people trying to 'manage' their herds per se, so much as trying to understand at a microbiological level what is happening in soils. Some people are happy to pile up a compost bin and forget about it, other people are curious as to the mechanism of decomposition, which gets into chemistry and microbiology. Neither approach is right or wrong, and it all "works."

The question in this thread was "why is miracle gro bad." The answer is complex, because obviously there is an argument to be made that miracle gro is also "good." It simply depends on goals and practices, and generally speaking the more we understand the bigger picture of the effects of our actions, the better positioned we are to make responsible choices. Obviously, anything done to an extreme may have potentially negative consequences. Leach large quantities of chemical fertilisers into the ocean and you will have an algal bloom. Have a sewage spill ("organic") into the ocean and you will have an algal bloom.

For the purposes of the vast majority of gardening issues, guidelines such as you listed are definitely sound and sufficient. For those among us who are a little more nerdy, clips like this (from the link above) are fascinating, and also have their place on these forums:

~~~~~
Some broad-scale functional parameters increased as biodiversity decreased, e.g. thymidine incorporation, growth on added nutrients, and the decomposition rate of plant residues. Other more specific parameters decreased as biodiversity decreased, e.g. nitrification, denitrification and methane oxidation. Thus specific functional parameters may be a more sensitive indicator of environmental change than general parameters.

-snip-

Resilience was reduced in the soils with decreasing biodiversity. Soils were not resilient to the persistent stress, there was no recovery in decomposition rate over time, but the soils with the highest biodiversity were more resistant to stress than soils with impaired biodiversity. The study of functional stability under applied perturbation is a powerful means of examining the effects of biodiversity.
~~~~~


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Patty,

I wasn't really commenting on the original question, I was commenting on dchall's post. Regardless, it is all relative. Is increased decomposition of plant materials a good thing? It is if you need nutrients released durring mineralization. It isn't if you are trying to increase or maintain organic matter. As I said above there are advantages and disadvantages to everything. Keep in mind that the object of the exercise is to grow plants. It gets more complicated when one starts to worry about other factors such as the environment. Many people get so wrapped up in some small detail that they miss the big picture. In the grand scheme of things if conditions favorable to plant growth are maintained in an organic garden there is no need to worry about microbes because they too will be in a favorable environment.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

re shazam posting jul7,o7 about wurzel dip. where did you obtain it? i also live in Canada in zone 3


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

The question is is organic gardening/farming sustainable? And the answer is yes, much more so than the current synthetic fertilizer system is. Far more energy is used to manufacture, and apply, the synthetic fertilizers than we get back from them while good organic practices use much less energy to produce the same amount of product. In the transition years that may be reversed, temporarily, but over time much less energy is required to garden, or farm, organically which means that organic farming is better for the 3rd world countries than the synthetic fertilizers, aside from the cost that few 3rd world farmers can afford.
There are those here arguing against what this forum is about because they have a vested interest in keeping synthetics on the market, so what they have to say must always be looked at with that in mind.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

  • Posted by byron 4a/5b NH (My Page) on
    Fri, Mar 28, 08 at 19:38

H'm Ammonium Nitrate is from petrolium

Ferts like Mirical Gro do not provide tilth

I don't like high NPK, If I use a bottle/box/bagged fert, I would prefer some thing Like 3-2-2 or 6-6-6


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

@ayceezone3 - wurzel dip is sold at Professional Gardener in Calgary. Cheers.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

wow,couldn't believe one question could get so many responses! I like kimmsers answer, don't want my plants on drugs! LOL. Not organic, synthetics. I understand the need to help out bad soil and failing plants, but take the time to build up the soil, try natural fertilizers. Miracle Grow is bad in organic gardening because it isn't organic! The more we support natural products, organic products, the more available they will be, maybe more people will go organic for the good of the earth and people. A quick fix isn't the answer, as I know the feeling of panic when things don't work out. However.....let's keep it green, not plants hopped up on drugs!


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

I started searching for an organic forum to ask this very question. paulns hit the nail on the head. It's much about faith. My wife and I have been using Miracle Grow and Vigoro for the past few years with very good success. We've never used synthetic pesticides, so we thought our methods were quite good.

After reading this forum for the past few months, we have decided to continue our journey towards an organic garden. This past weekend, we bought a bottle of fish emulsion. It's just sitting there, so it seems we haven't had enough faith to start using it yet. Do I stop using Miracle Grow and Vigoro cold turkey and start using the fish emulsion as directed on the bottle? Should I alternate between MG and the fish emulsion? We started harvesting two weeks ago, and we don't want this change to hurt the rest of this season.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

If your purpose for organic is to stop using unsustainable petrochemical fert for ecological resilience, then you can start now on the fish emulsion for your leafy veggies. For the other veggies, your soil structure, composition and tilth likely should be sufficient if you have taken steps to make good soil.

If your purpose for organic is only personal health, MG is not poisonous and you can continue using, unless you build your soil structure to be dependent upon soil biota - MG in heavy doses can (can, not will) make them grumpy.

Dan


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

This is my first year with a totally organic system. I had little time to prepare, but when I decided to try another garden, my wife and I decided that we would like it to be organic.
I had a garden a few years back, but was injured at work and needed to take a little sabatical. 3 years, my 20X25 space lay fallow. My garden had always been an Osmocote type of concern.
So, when my wife suggested that we grow organically, I agreed. I bought 4 yards of really good compost and had it delivered. I spread a 4-6 inch layer on my garden, which left me about enough to put in a couple of raised planters. I built 2; first one is 30 inches X 16 feet and the other is 4 feet X 8 feet. I tilled up the ground set the planter and filled it with a mixture of compost, soil, and peatmoss. I built these because I wasn't sure if my other space would be good, since I did not have time for a soil test. Turns out, all plants are doing well.
I make compost tea and use it once a month. I keep a bottle of liquid bone meal 0-12-0 and a bottle of natural nitrogen made from beet molasses 8-0-0. I use these only if I recognize a nutrient deficiency.
I compost about 2 yards/year,but I am in the process of expanding. I also receive about 4 pickup loads of leaves, which I use in the compost and use for leaf mold. I've built 2 more 4X8 beds, put in 9 fruit trees and 3 grape vines. I plan to do even more in the future, including an edible landscape thing in the front yard.
Am I solving pollution problems on a grand scale? Nope.
Am I developing a sustainable ecosystem that will feed millions? Nope. Do I sleep better at night knowing that I am helping the environment? Not really.
I do it so I know what is going into the bodies of my family and of course, myself.
I have noticed that I am having less problems with pests in this situation. The only problem I am having is flea beetles on my eggplant. I use Dr. Bronner's soap and a mix of soap, garlic and cayenne. My gardens border the woods, so there is planty of buglife. My soil must be pretty good.
IMO, there is not a half-step. You either grow organically, or you don't. The moment you resort to chemicals, you may as well continue on that path since so much depends on the organisms you will be killing.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

We're not growing leafy vegetables and the soil probably isn't good enough this year to support our veggie plants without fertilizer. I guess converting to organic is not as easy as switching MG to fish emulsion. I'll save the fish emulsion for next year.

Our home garden consists of 3 beds totaling 140 sq ft. Next year, we plan on converting at least 1 bed to 100% organic. Not sure what we will do with the other two beds.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

It's definitely more up-front work, but its a satisfying work. But - as a small example - the folk in the neighborhood who come look at the garden are amazed that I don't spray, water that much, etc. And they like the extra veggies too. Go get 'em.

Dan


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Whew! You folks have exhausted me. :)) Let me take a deep breath and collect my thoughts.

A few of the posters to this thread are in Florida and, hopefully, they and others can help me with my particular garden situation. I'm in my second summer of growing Old Garden Roses organically. The soil I started with is sandy marl with lots of limestone in it and a pH in the low 7s. All of my beds (most of my yard) were prepared by removing the top 8" of sand and replacing and mixing it with horse manure compost, pine fines, bagged topsoil and cow manure compost, and I mulch with oak leaves and pine straw. I amend with Milorganite, Rose-Tone/Holly-Tone, alfalfa, epsom salts mostly, occasionally soil sulfur. A few times a year I use alfalfa tea and fish emulsion. I do not use fungicides or pesticides. I believe the pH in my garden is in the high 6s, and the soil is beautiful and black but it's still sand. The first summer my roses were leafless from August through October and never really leafed out well until spring. Being a newbie, I was hoping this situation was due to their young age and insufficient mulch which contributed to heat stress. This summer the leaf loss started earlier even with more mature plants, thicker mulch and more rain (lots of rain). A rose friend suggested Miracle Gro after she followed Rose Society guidelines for granular and liquid ferts. (She also uses manure compost and organic feeds.) She found no help for her plants from the granular but did with the MG and remarked that someone on the Rose Forum had called MG "crack for roses in Florida", and she would be using it every 2 to 3 weeks.

I am not a microbiologist, but I use mycorrhizae every time I plant a rose and am intent on building my microbial population. Reading about nitrites and nitrates hurts my brain and evaporates instantly no matter how hard I try to retain the stuff. Apparently, Florida has a perfect storm of soil problems: sand, high heat (both air and soil) and lots of summer rain. Everything leaches fairly quickly through my soil, including, I suppose, the salts that are the bane of MG. I used the MG once three weekends ago with immediate results - larger new leaves, lots of new growth plus blooming. I repeated the application this past Sunday. My perspective is that healthy rose bushes must have leaves. My goal is to have leafy rose bushes (OGRs don't have the fungal problems of modern roses so that is not the problem), but my organically fed and composted garden is not accomplishing this in the summer. So my questions for this Organic Gardening Forum are these: will Miracle Gro damage my sandy soil structure, microbial activity, earthworms or anything else? Is my summer gardening situation the exception to the organic gardening rule? Will my sandy soil ever be organically sufficient? Here's a clue as to what I'm up against. I planted a rose this evening right at my property line in a bed that's more than three years old. Digging the hole revealed 3 to 4 inches of dark soil beneath which was yellow sand and cement-like gray sandy clay. So even in my well amended beds (not this edge part) my rose roots are growing down through at most 24" of amended garden soil into this sandy marl where I'm sure they get very little nutrition. So how far can an organic regimen be useful in my situation? My thinking is that Miracle Gro is a necessity at least in the summer if I want to continue growing my 94 rose bushes. I spend a fortune now on feeding and amending. Buying more fish emulsion can't be the answer considering the meager results.

Thanks in advance.

Sherry


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Everyones situation is different, and I don't believe that there is any, hard fast rule that can't change over time and circumstance. I don't think an occasional spray with miracle grow is going to destroy your soil or your roses, roses are very heavy feeders anyway. But that shouldn't stop you from adding as much organic matter as you can get your hands on, and piling it up in the beds around the plants.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

So my questions for this Organic Gardening Forum are these: will Miracle Gro damage my sandy soil structure, microbial activity, earthworms or anything else?

I am not sure it's possible to damage the soil structure of sand ;) No, MG isn't going to kill off your bacteria and fungi, but it also isn't going to do much to help them either.

Will my sandy soil ever be organically sufficient?

Probably not, stuff just leeches waaaay too fast. I have read accounts from others who dug down a couple feet and then put a lot of leaves many inches thick and then covered it back with native soil. The idea is to provide a barrier, if you will, that slows the leeching of water and nutrients through the sand. Whether this works or is even practical in your situation I couldn't say.

My thinking is that Miracle Gro is a necessity at least in the summer if I want to continue growing my 94 rose bushes.

Wow, you don't start off on a small scale do you?-)

It's a personal choice you have to make for yourself. Given the rapid leeching germane to your sandy soil and warm, humid climate organic matter simply isn't going to last all that long compared to other parts of the country.

I am not one to use MG in my ground gardens as I prefer a 'feed the soil' approach, but then again I deal with water/nutrient retentive clay soil, not sand a mile deep.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Thanks, David52 & justaguy2. I just left that Round Up thread and appreciated your reasoned and humorous posts. I've never read one that went to 150. So I'm glad you have replied to my questions. Rose addiction starts innocently from viewing the many gorgeous rose photos online. There is a rapid decline of common sense thereafter. Too bad my DH didn't catch the symptoms in time.

I do appreciate your confirmation of my thinking (not meant to be insulting.) I will use the MG perhaps in between fish emulsion applications in the summer. I have put several pick-up loads of horse manure compost on my garden this year and expect to next year along with lots of alfalfa. My error, I think, has been in underestimating the extent of their heavy feeding. The realization that I've been starving them is hard to take. My learning curve has been VERY steep. But reading of the efficacy of organic gardening convinced me that it should work. "Build the soil" and "healthy soil will cure everything" type of remarks might be true somewhere but not in my yard apparently. I stood back and watched thrips ruin my spring flush without spraying any chemicals so I'm drinking the Kool-Aid for the sake of the bees and the earthworms. I wish there were something besides MG. Would the Rose-Tone work here if it were applied diligently every month? But it won't change anything even if you say yes, since I can't make that physical effort all summer (May through October).

Thanks, guys!

Sherry


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Would the Rose-Tone work here if it were applied diligently every month? But it won't change anything even if you say yes, since I can't make that physical effort all summer

What you appear to be dealing with is that anything you do is short lived due to the climate and sand. This means that whatever you do must be done more frequently.

Whether that be Miracle Grow or Rose Tone, or Alfalfa or whatever, you are likely going to need to do it more often than I would given that your climate and soil eat stuff like nobody's business.

I have a sister in the same state as I, but she lives along the shore of lake Michigan and has a pure sand yard. Grass won't grow as she can't/won't water twice per day. The only way she can grow roses (she only does own root roses, not that it matters) is by replacing a couple feet of sand with trucked in soil.

There are rather extreme challenges involved in growing in a highly sandy soil and I don't claim to have much in the way of answers as I haven't had to deal with it.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

I appreciate your insights, justaguy2.

*** What you appear to be dealing with is that anything you do is short lived due to the climate and sand. This means that whatever you do must be done more frequently.

I must keep reminding myself of this. And basically, I think it's accurate to say that it's impossible for me to over-fertilize, especially organically. I'll have to do some experimenting in this regard.

Sherry


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

Ive just purchased and decided to see if this product Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Garden Soil was really organic, after reading through the post and a little more research i came up with this links

http://www.sludgenews.org/about/sludgenews.aspx?id=5

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Miracle-Gro_Organic_Choice_Garden_Soil

I must say i'am not pleased with what i've discovered.

You say biosolids, I say sewage sludge
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=You_say_biosolids,_I_say_sewage_sludge
Examine for yourself...


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

There is nothing wrong with Lake Michigan beach sand that a lot of organic matter won't help fix. this is what I have been gardening in for some 40 years now and as long aas I maintain about 5 to 8 percent organic matter in the sandy soil I have stuff grows very well with no need for any synthetic supplements.
Over the years, as I have added compost and other forms of organic matter, the soil test results have shown better conditions with the soils pH going from 5.7 to 7.2 and nutrients going from below optimum to above optimum, but in balance.
Synthetic fertilizers are made from non renewable resources and the use of themn is not only unsustainable but is often harmful to our environment, we are poisoning ourselves.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

  • Posted by jolj 7b/8a-S.C.,USA (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 12, 11 at 14:15

dgs9r, "small quantities" maybe okay,BUT it is non-organic & no one on this forum will tell you to use it.
Too many other/ organic ways to get what you need.
Comfrey tea or clover hay are good.
I know non organic framer/gardeners that use as little synthetic fertilizers as they can get by with. Some even use compost, manures & coffee waste. They have not cut back on the synthetic to save the earth or to stop salt build-up(their soil test are good), but because it cost less to be careful with the synthetic.
But they do think I am doing it the hard way.


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RE: why is miracle-gro bad

wesc2g

Nice research regarding sludge. Scary to think that so many people put their faith in minimal EPA and USDA regulations when there is an overt and blatant disregard for public health at large. It is this kind of irresponsibility that dominates the agricultural and chemical market, all for the agenda of the profit motive.

There's a man in my city who swears human feces is the best fertilizer on the planet. He's overweight, diabetic and on a slew of medications. I guess as long as he eats his own crops, and doesn't feed them to others unaware of his methods, there isn't really a problem- it's all cyclical. When corporate hands get ahold of the mass mephitic melting pot of sludge, however, and market it for homeowner and landscaper use, a dilemma of ethical responsibility emerges.

Human feces--pardon the french and the pun-- can be some pretty volatile sh!t, especially considering the poor quality of food in this country and the over-medicated public. I personally don't want fertilizer or food tainted with even trace amounts of synthesized chemicals, antibiotics, virulent bacteria, parasites, viruses, or any of the other goodies that have partied in poo since the industrial revolution. It's too risky, and in my opinion it's a problem. I think we should look at the waste facilities providing sludge for corporations like Scotts, who in turn sell to the public, and we should also be much more critical of federal regulation committees in order to hold them at higher standards.

Thanks again, and I will definitely do much more research on this topic. This is another good link that was attached to one of the others:

http://www.iatp.org/iatp/publications.cfm?accountID=421&refID=104203


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