Gardening – Back to Basics
Let’s get back to basics! When we were at school, we learned about photosynthesis. Do you remember what is photosynthesis? In simple terms, photosynthesis is a process whereby plants use sunlight, water, and the gases in the air to make glucose, which is a form of sugar that plants need to survive. Three (3) basic things plants need to perform photosynthesis, and are, carbon dioxide, water, & sunlight.
Generally, plants can grow on their own; but like humans and animals, plants need water and nutrients (food) to survive. Most plants use water to carry moisture and nutrients back and forth between the roots and leaves, hence, it’s important to water the plants when the soil becomes dry because water and nutrients are normally taken up through the roots from the soil.
As for nutrients, plants need nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) to grow. Nitrogen makes green leaves, phosphorus makes big flowers and strong roots, and potassium helps plants to fight off disease. Plants can get these nutrients with the support of fertilizer, which is usually given to plants when watering.
Another important element in plant growth is soil. What’s the ideal soil? Soils with more organic matter remain loose and light, retain more water and nutrients and promote the growth of soil microorganisms, thereby improving plant health and root development.
Now, have you heard about compost? What’s the difference between soil and compost? Basically, the soil is dirt; whereas, compost is a mix of decaying nutrient-rich soil with a medium density that is naturally made using oxygen, bacteria, water, and organic materials. Compost combines green matter, such as food products and lawn clippings, with the brown matter, such as twigs and dry leaves. The materials break down into rich soil, but it’s low in nutrients.
There are many benefits of compost, amongst others, compost keeps the natural health of the soil at a high level, helps for the proper growth of beneficial microbes, and provides the soil with sufficient nutritional elements. Compost also helps the soil retain moisture.
Let’s talk about some of these familiar terms:
Vermicompost is a type of Organic Fertilizer. It’s derived by composting organic waste by using various species of earthworms. It is a mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and most importantly worm castings.
Synthetic / Chemical Fertilizer
Synthetic / Chemical fertilizers use the petroleum industry’s by-products for
production, so it’s non-biodegradable, and this will adversely affect our Mother Earth, as the artificial surge of nitrogen and phosphorus at the waterway will cause algae bloom and growth of moss at water reservoir, which will decrease biodiversity and increase water toxicity.
As for the plant, it’ll only absorb 30% of the synthetic/chemical fertilizer and 40% of it will sip through the soil. The soil will lack the capability to retain water and organic matters will die off.
Many gardeners have opted for natural (or more commonly known as organic) fertilizer. Typical organic fertilizers include mineral sources, all animal waste including meat processing, manure, slurry, and guano, plant-based fertilizers, such as compost,
Natural (Organic) fertilizers are rich in trace elements and slowly release its nutrient to the plants.
It’s important to note that compost is not able to replace fertilizers, because:
Fertilizer adds to the soil’s nutrient levels.
The ingredients (NPK, Ca+, Mg, S) in fertilizers are intended to meet the needs of growing plants.
Fertilizer application rates are based on the needs of plants.
Organic fertilizers have been shown to be better for balancing the soil food web.
Another important thing to note is, synthetic fertilizers feed the plants, whereas natural / organic fertilizers are not only supply nutrients to the plants, they also help to supply food to beneficial microbes in the soil. The beneficial microbes break down organic matters and excrete enzymes that are protective to the root system of the plants.
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