Organic or Synthetic Fertilizers? Which is Best for Your Garden?

Organic or Synthetic Fertilizers? Which is Best for Your Garden?

An article by Travis Key from Lazy Dog Farm

While walking down the garden aisle of a big box store or perusing online, it doesn’t take long to get overwhelmed by the number of options for fertilizing your garden. There is a plethora of organic and synthetic fertilizer options on the market, but how do you decide which is best for your garden? Many gardeners tout the benefits of only using organic fertilizers in their garden, while others blindly use organic fertilizers because that’s what someone told them to do. Below we’ll discuss the primary differences between organic and synthetic fertilizers for your backyard garden.

Fertilizer Composition

Synthetic fertilizers, also known as chemical or inorganic fertilizers, are manufactured through industrial processes. They contain specific amounts of essential plant nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, in forms that are readily available to plants.

Organic fertilizers are derived from plant or animal matter. They can contain a wide range of natural products like fish, bones, feathers, and manure. AgroThrive organic fertilizer is made from fish and corn steep liquor, which is a byproduct of the corn wet milling process.

The Speed of Nutrient Release

Synthetic fertilizers can provide a quick and immediate source of nutrients to plants. This may make synthetic fertilizers sound like a “no-brainer” for the backyard gardener, but there’s always a catch. Because these nutrients in “immediately available” forms, they can also quickly leach from the soil during periods of heavy rainfall. As a result, your plants might not actually receive all the nutrients that you applied.

Since organic fertilizers are derived from natural substances, they are made of big molecules with large carbon chains. The chemical definition of “organic” is a molecule that contains carbon, so that’s where the terminology originates. These big carbon-based molecules are too large to pass through plant cell walls and be absorbed by the plants.

As a result, these big organic molecules must be “digested” by the soil biology and broken into smaller molecules. This is why organic fertilizers usually are slower to act than synthetic fertilizers. However, the big benefit of AgroThrive fertilizers is that they are “pre-digested” so that plants can absorb them much faster than traditional organic fertilizers.

Soil Health Contributions

Over time the use of synthetic fertilizers can lead to imbalances in soil pH and reduced microbial populations. Relying heavily on synthetic fertilizers in a backyard garden can lead to soil degradation and poor soil health over the long term. Your plants may look great after applying these fast-acting fertilizers, but your soil will suffer after a while.

Organic fertilizers improve soil structure, water retention, and microbial activity in the soil. They add organic matter to the soil, which improves the ability of the soil to retain nutrients. The development of a beneficial microbial community in the soil aids with nutrient cycling and a healthy soil ecosystem.

Environmental Impact

Organic fertilizers are more environmentally friendly due to their reliance on natural and renewable resources. These natural fertilizers are less likely to contribute to water pollution from fertilizer runoff. Additionally, the production of organic fertilizers usually requires a smaller carbon footprint compared to synthetic fertilizers.

Synthetic fertilizers can contribute to nutrient runoff in water bodies. As mentioned earlier, this is an issue with synthetic fertilizers because they molecules are in a smaller form. When synthetic fertilizer runoff occurs, it can cause harmful algal blooms to explode in lakes and oceans. This process, known as eutrophication, can be extremely detrimental to aquatic life in the lakes and oceans where it occurs.

Cost and Value

From a strict nutrient percentage perspective, synthetic fertilizers are generally cheaper than organic options. Compared to organic fertilizers, synthetic fertilizers typically have a higher percentage of nitrogen, phosphorous, or potassium per pound of fertilizer. But cheaper isn’t always better.

The molecular composition of synthetic fertilizers makes them more volatile in the soil. This means that your plants may not be able to take advantage of all the nutrients that were applied. Synthetic nutrients can easily be lost to runoff or other environmental factors.

As discussed above, organic fertilizers will not only feed your plants — they feed your soil too! They promote a healthy soil ecosystem which is a sustainable, long-term solution for your backyard garden. When using organic fertilizers, you’re also not likely to develop pH issues or salt accumulation over time.

When you consider all this and the value that organic fertilizers provide to the soil and plants, the decision is easy. Organic options like AgroThrive will have your soil teeming with life and plants thriving as a result. And the fact that it is pre-digested means it is biologically active and ready to work faster than other organic options on the market!


Thousands of gardeners have been tuning in to The Lazy Dog Farm YouTube channel where Travis covers a variety topics ranging from how to successfully start seedlings to how to make a flavorful hotsauce that packs a punch. Accompanied by his wife Brooklyn and their two boys, the gardens on their 2 acre homestead in southwest Georgia are always filled with a wide variety of vegetables that are enjoyed fresh or preserved for later.

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