Good quality organic soil and fertilizers are the foundation of any type of organic gardening. Well-fertilized organic soil contains all the nutrients needed to grow delicious fruit and vegetables. An organic garden with excellent soil structure that is rich in organic materials also helps grow sturdy plants that are resistant to disease.
However, not all organic gardeners have gardens with good quality soil that is well-nourished. The soil could be too acidic or alkaline, lack important nutrients, or be full of weeds.
In this article, you can find out why organic soil is so important. You will also learn about the best organic fertilizers to feed and condition your soil to grow the best vegetables.
What is Organic Soil?
Organic soil refers to soil that is enriched with plant-based or animal-based materials to improve its nutritional content. Organic soil shouldn’t have chemicals or any type of artificial fertilizer added.
Because of this, organic soil is much better for growing crops as it creates a sustainable environment and improves soil quality. Over time, adding organic material to soil naturally improves the soil structure and results in healthy crops. You also avoid the problem of garden pests building up resistance to synthetic chemicals.
Although organic fertilizers greatly improve the quality of soil, one of their drawbacks is the smell. Organic fertilizers such as manure and fish emulsion can give off a strong pungent odor. However, the many advantages of using only organic soil in gardening outweigh any pongs that you have to deal with.
Why is Organic Soil Important?
There is no real difference between regular soil and organic soil. All types of natural soil are made up of organic material that contains living microorganisms and dead plant material.
The term “organic soil” usually applies to the type of soil that has organic matter specially mixed in to improve the soil quality. Gardeners who use organic gardening techniques also refer to organic soil as soil that is free from chemical or synthetic fertilizers.
What is Organic Fertilizer?
Organic soil may have organic matter naturally in the soil due to fallen leaves, old plant roots, or dead bugs that decay in the ground. But this is not enough to provide the nutrients required to create enough phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium to grow healthy vegetables.
Even “organic soil” can be nutrient deficient and require natural fertilizers. Some examples of organic fertilizers include manure, blood meal, chicken litter, compost, seaweed extracts, and humic acid. So, it is easy to see why some types of organic fertilizers have a strong smell.
Organic fertilizers can also be dry fertilizers or liquid fertilizers. For example, sea kelp or rock phosphate are types of dry organic fertilizers that feed the soil with nutrients. Liquid fertilizers can be in the form of compost tea or seaweed extracts. These can be used to feed plants both through their roots and their leaves.
These products breakdown in the soil and release essential nutrients back that nourish growing plants. Using only 100% organic fertilizer in your vegetable garden gives you the assurance that no types of toxins or chemicals get into the food chain.
Did you know that there are more benefits of organic soil and fertilizers than just growing vegetables free from toxic chemicals?
Advantages of Organic Fertilizers
Many studies point to the fact that keeping soil healthy through organic gardening methods has many benefits.
Organic fertilizers improve soil health
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that organic agriculture improves soil health, boosts the availability of nutrients, increases biodiversity, and is more sustainable. There are even reports that organic soil helps to capture more carbon and could help mitigate some effects of climate change.
Organic fertilizers boost plant yield
According to PennState University, soil rich in organic matter is able to hold more water and air. This results in higher plant yields as it increases the number of microorganisms and facilitates a steady release of nutrients. Being slow-release fertilizers, organic matter also prevents over-fertilizing in a vegetable patch.
Organic fertilizers are environmentally friendly
One of the biggest advantages of using organic fertilizers is the fact they are great for the environment. A 2019 study found that switching to natural fertilizers prevents soil degradation, water pollution, and a buildup of harmful chemicals the soil.
Organic fertilizers grow tastier fruit and vegetables
There is actually scientific evidence showing that plants grown using only organic fertilizers taste better. For example, the respected journal PLoS One reported that tea grown using organic fertilizers is of better quality than the tea grown using pesticides.
Another peer-reviewed article in PLoS One found that organic farming methods result in strawberries that are of higher quality and more resistant to disease. So, there is some scientific backing to the theory that organic fruit and vegetables taste better.
Disadvantages of Organic Fertilizer
Are there disadvantages of only using organic fertilizers as part of sustainable, eco-friendly gardening?
There are some disadvantages of using organic and natural fertilizers. However, the benefits usually outweigh them.
For example, organic fertilizers may not break down as quickly and it can be difficult to know the level of nutrients. However, this has the advantage of not over fertilizing plants. Also, over time the nutrient levels slowly build up and the effects or organic fertilizer are more noticeable.