Someone suggested this information be posted in this forum since many new gardeners don't really know organic from conventional and are unsure about MG.
From Organic Gardening magazine, July/August 2000
Miracle-Gro is a synthetic fertilizer that contains ammonium phosphate and several other chemicals that can be toxic to your soil and plants.
It is prohibited from use in certified-organic farming.
Here’s what soil expert Robert Parnes, Ph.D., says in his book Fertile Soil: [Ammonium fertilizer] acidifies the soil, and thus it is probably more harmful to soil organisms than any other nitrogen fertilizer. The application has to be timed carefully and placed properly to avoid burning the leaves and roots.
In addition, ammonium tends to inhibit the release of potassium. Ammonium fertilizers are deliberately manufactured to be spread at high application rates in order to obtain maximum yields with no regard to adverse effects on the soil.
Probably nowhere is the conflict between the mass production of food to feed the world and the preservation of the soil more obvious than in the confrontation over the use of either ammonium fertilizers or liquid ammonia.
And there’s more: long-term studies at the University of Wisconsin have shown that acidic chemical fertilizers are causing serious, permanent damage to our soils. Usually these fertilizers are also highly soluble, so they leach away and pollute our water systems, too.
Soil fertility authority Garn Wallace, Ph.D., of Wallace Laboratories in El Segundo, California, points out that Miracle-Gro contains muriate of potash, which contains excess chlorine that will burn plants and inhibit the uptake of nitrogen.
Dr. Wallace also warns that products such as Miracle-Gro often contain unsafe levels of zinc and copper that will be toxic to soil life.
And if all that’s not enough to convince you to avoid this stuff, consider this: you have to mix Miracle-Gro with water and apply it ever "7 to 14 days."
If you opt to fertilize organically, on the other hand, all you have to do is mix a ½-inch layer of grass clippings into your beds before each crop. As the grass decomposes, it will improve your soil’s texture and stimulate microbial life and help prevent disease, all while releasing plenty of nutrients to feed your plants.
(For full details on organic fertilizers, see How to Fertilize Your Garden, Organic Gardening, July/August 2000.)
--KATHY BAUMGARTNER, Fremont, Michigan
I started out like a lot of folks using Miracle Gro as it was easy and resulted in plants with lots of blooms. However, since going more organic, I have big, healthy plants with lots of blooms. And I are really starting to see a big improvement in the soil in my beds - - looser, darker and full of earthworms. Plus for my plants in containers, I do not have the problem with salt buildup that I used to struggle with.
I used to think of organic gardening as a trendy thing that would require a lot more effort. Instead, I am finding that my efforts are more long lasting and that my plants appear to be much healthier.
It looks like Late Blight is hitting us pretty hard in NC. Appalachian Seeds in Flat Rock was going to have some tomato tastings next week, but he's just about lost his crop to it, even with judicious sprays of copper and Serenade (a competitive Bacillus). I've slowed it down a bit in my garden by spraying with milk, but a local grower says that he was having better success with compost tea.
I found a cool link showing Late Blight on the fruit. If you have Quick Time on your machine, you can click and drag the cursor over the picture to get a 3-D view of the symptoms.
I have to agree with roxroe...up until this year I could buy plain seed starting mix at the "big box" stores. This year I had to drive across town to a local specialty garden center and pay a 33% premium ($9 a bag last year vs. $12.99 now) to buy seed starting mix that didn't contain water-soluble fertilizer.
Sigh. I guess I'm going to have to start making my own, assuming I can find vermiculite. (Perlite and peat are still pretty easy to come by from any garden center.)
Is the alfalfa meal tea, fish emulsion and liquid kelp what you use to fertilize with? How do you make the tea and how and when do you use the items? Do you mix them together? I'm beginning to mend my ways but don't know enough to decide what to do. I'll appreciate any info or web site.
barbur, yes, that's my fertilizer. If you look under the tab above for Garden Terms and do a search, you should find what I posted for those items. I'm in the throes of moving for the next 2-3 weeks and very short of time, or I'd post them here myself.
Roxroe and Terry, look for coir rather than peat moss. I've been using it in a starter mix for a couple of years now and have had good results. Peat moss has been overharvested in many areas which may account for cost increases and some questions re quality. Coir is processed from the rough exterior of coconuts. The mix I'm using is from a company in Indiana and I ordered from Gurney's. Mixed half with potting soil it has done wonders for houseplants. This brand is a tad pricey, so I'm shopping to see if I can make my own - thus far I've located several online sources and am putting out inquiries locally.
Zone 8b - Heat zone 9
Careful with "green" grass clippings. They can burn crops. It is better to mix them in a compost of soil and then apply them after a few weeks. I like adding leaves too as it really genrates the micro organisms and attracts worms. I lime my new compost at winter time as the worms go deep so I don't worry if too much lime is used, I won't hurt the worms during that time. Just watch the PH levels as it is nice to keep them between 5.0 and 6.5 for most organic veg. gardens.
thank you, real good info in here. I too remember when it was easy to get a good potting mix without chemicals in and how one year it suddenly became a very rare item!
Agree with Terry 's post, take care of the soil and the soil takes care of the plants. "Healthy" looking plants on chemical ground are kinda like "healthy" looking athletes on steroids, IMO. Nourishment is key, not big fat stuff going on, lol!
I found some stuff that seems to make the plants really happy. I don't know if it counts as officially organic or not, but since I'm not trying to get certified, I don't worry about it so much. I just want to take care of the soil in my beds.
My Home Depot sells some stuff called MooNure. It's cow manure mixed with humus. I tried some as a cover for my peas and beans when I planted them on top of hay bales and they are thriving. It has a nice rich texture, doesn't have a strong smell, and seems to make the plants happy. I'm kind of curious where they get he manure from, but until I make friends with a farmer that will let me borrow a truck and go harvest his field, this is what I can get for in the city.
If it's organic it should be fine...but don't just go off of what someone told you, look at the package and see if it has the OMRI seal on it. If it does then it's organic and you can feel fine about using it, but if that logo isn't there then it isn't organic.
I have chosen to avoid the Miracle Gro brand potting soil that is labeled organic because I feel buying it supports both confusion about what organic really is, and supports a company, Miracle Gro, that I feel is marketing damaging things to an unaware public.
Have you tried ordering online? I know it seems ridiculous to order potting soil, but it is one way to go.
Also, if there is any kind of nursery supplier or landscape supplier around where you live, they usually sell bulk soils and other substances, you might check that out.
If you make compost, you can mix compost and vermiculite or perlite, and some other things if you want too, coir or peatmoss -- and create your own! This is what I prefer to do but currently do not have a good compost going so cannot.
Yes, and no in the case of the word 'organic'. An organic compound as described in Wikipedia: "Organic compound, a compound that contains carbon (although some carbon-containing compounds are excluded)."
So we have the word 'organic' in a chemical sense, and it is technically 'correct'... however: "Organic agriculture is agriculture using only naturally produced fertilizers and non-chemical pest control."
So their bagged soil is technically correct on the label and they could not be sued for false advertising, but what they are really 'selling' is the implied safety of the product by using an ambiguous word. FWIW, most people don't really understand the use of the word anyway.
All of my compost, plus the contents of my chicken coop, is now neatly lying on my garden rows awaiting seeds, so I have nothing left that I can use for potting soil. I hate the idea of buying something as inexpensive and bulky as potting soil on the web, though.
To me unless it has an OMRI seal on it (or it's something you made yourself and you know what went in it) you can't be sure it's organic. But I'll admit that I cheat a bit on the organic thing with my containers...unless you're willing to buy all the individual components and make your own potting mix it is hard to find organic container mix.
I buy from this guy, and lots has the OMRI seal... He also operates an organic CSA, and his 'store' is just a big building on his farm way out in the country. Nice man, trustworthy and knowledgeable, and does a decent mail-order business. I make a trip over there about twice a year because I get enough (by weight) that my gas is cheaper than shipping, and because I pick up stuff for 2-3 friends, too. http://www.7springsfarm.com/catalog.html
The shipping costs are the problem. I'm not sure where I'd find potting soil with an OMRI seal around here; I'm sure the big box stores don't carry it. I got the MiracleGro bag at Home Depot before I looked at it carefully, but that was all they had, and even the local gardening places don't seem to have anything I could use.
I did order on line earlier this spring, Turface ( finally found some), Vermiculite, Perlite ( used up all I had) , Coir blocks, wormcastings, 5 - 1 cu.ft. bags of what I think is really good potting soil for transplanting, Bloodmeal, Calphos sof Rock Phosphate. In this back of beyond area I cannot find any close suppliers of the above items. So I ordered the above from various places. Of course the shipping costs makes it expensive, but I guess if there were any local suppliers the shipping would be added in. The local Co-0p used to carry some of the above but now just food items. Everything I have transplanted so far this spring, tomatoes, etc. look very happy. I do have my own pretty good compost.
Now if the weather would just be cooperative!!! This morning 23 degrees, and very windy for past three days.
Donna, I used to make my own potting soil, and seed-starter too, but haven't been starting seeds or planted much in pots since I moved. I bought some new galvanized trash cans, and keet one filled with vermiculite, one with perlite, one with worm castings... these are all fairly light-weight items to ship.
I keep powdery or granular things like CalPhos, Greensand, Azomite in empty kitty-litter pails that have tight lids. Like you, I have nothing nearby for shopping, so I have to plan ahead and stock components in my shed.
The potting soil at 7 Springs doesn't say OMRI either, but it does say "Nat'l list" ... "Nat’l List: Ingredients in these products are on the National List of Allowed Substances under the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP)"
Hey, McDonald's advertises their chicken nuggets as containing "all natural ingredients" but never mentions the word "chicken"... I guess that's Truth in Advertising.
As an example, arsenic is a naturally occurring mineral. I don't want to eat it, nor have it in garden water that runs off into my creek... Many commercial fertilizers contain arsenic.
Quoting:Ironite is a fertilizer produced from the mine tailings of a proposed Superfund site in Humboldt, Arizona and sold to consumers as a lawn and garden fertilizer. Testing by government agencies has found levels of arsenic high enough to classify the fertilizer as a hazardous waste.
Although federal law requires that hazardous waste be disposed of in regulated landfills, a legal loophole called the Bevill Exemption excludes the mining industry.
"It's an outrage that the mining industry, through legal loopholes, can dispose of its toxic mine waste by selling it to unwitting gardeners," said Bonnie Gestring of the Mineral Policy Center. "If it's toxic enough for Superfund consideration, it doesn't belong in anyone's vegetable garden."
I just won't use anything anymore on a food I'm growing that doesn't at least meet OMRI standards. Day by day, emerging truths about foods and health are showing us the folly we have been taught to believe. Like a pendulum, I'm swinging far to one side and won't use anything without better proof than we have been given.
I agree, the only way you can really be sure things are OK is if it has the OMRI seal on it. If that seal is on there, then you know that it's been approved by OMRI so it meets their standards. There are probably things out there that don't have the seal on them that would be OK to use in the spirit of organic gardening, but you just have no way of knowing and most of those sort of claims aren't really regulated in any way, so companies can say almost anything. So if you want to be sure you're organic, stick to things with the OMRI seal on them.
Problem is that it's almost impossible to find potting soil and general fertilizers with that seal on them. Since I'm growing things for myself and not for a market I feel that I have to take that risk. And even my friend's horse manure probably has chemicals in it because they doubtless worm them or use other treatments on them. I don't use it anymore anyway because of the weeds, but it's hard to be sure what's okay and what's not. I don't even feed my chickens organically, so their manure and the pine shavings it's mixed with probably wouldn't pass OMRI either, but I know it's a lot healthier than some other options.
I am fortunate that 100 miles away is a supplier who carries organic fertilizer, organic compost (man, talk about black gold!), organic potting soil and even organic seed starter. I try to keep a good list and just make a trip once in spring and again in fall.
They seem to be implying that the ingredients are 'natural'; you might want to call them or email them and see what they say about it. I have used them in the past but am not sure if I want to do it again, so if you find anything out, please let us know! There's a difference between something that's not OMRI certified and something that's Monsanto-esque. I might be willing to use the product if the sources do seem natural, but right now the jury is out.
If they list their ingredients (or are willing to tell you what they are when you call) then you can probably make a pretty decent judgement on whether you feel OK about using it even if it's not technically organic. But if they won't tell you what's in it then I'd be suspicious.
Quoting:Is Spray-N-Grow organic?
Yes! Spray-N-Grow is completely organic and nontoxic. It is safe for people, plants and pets. Spray-N-Grow has been tested for toxicity by Still-Meadow, Inc. of Houston, Texas using EPA protocol test procedures.
• Spray-N-Grow is nontoxic and does not require a hazard, warning or danger label.
• You can eat fruit or vegetables picked the same day you apply Spray-N-Grow.
Quoting:Question: I am an organic grower. Can I use Spray-N-Grow on totally organic crops?
Answer: Yes, Spray-N-Grow is an organic product and does not contain any synthetics. Many organic and sustainable growers use Spray-N-Grow on their crops with great success. However, it has not been certified organic in some states because of some of the disclosure requirements concerning manufacturing processes.
Spray-N-Grow is also completely non-toxic and does not require a hazard or warning label. You can eat fruit and vegetables picked the same day they are treated with Spray-N-Grow. Spray-N-Grow is non-toxic to bees, birds, pets, people, fish and your land.
I think I got results using it last year. My peach trees had never borne edible fruit before, nor had I ever had pears, although admittedly the trees are young. Most crops seemed to be a bit more abundant, but it may just have been due to extra care in general.
I take a moderate stance on the use of Miracle Gro. I use it on my ornamentals exactly once a year, in Spring. I find the dose of Nitrogen is great for getting things off to a good start, and that the organics I use at planting time, and the rest of the year seem to give me longer term results. Just FYI, I use blood meal, bone meal, well-rotted steer manure, compost, and fish emulsion. On my fruit trees (or any other food crop) I do not use Miracle Gro, as it seems they hardly need it with everything else I use. The citrus seem to really like the blood and bone meal, but you really have to scratch it in around the drip line. Eventually, I hope to have CLOSE to a permaculture forest with the various layers and leaf fall creating the cycle of fertilization and growth. I'll have to intervene with my own compost in the mean time. . .
My 2 cents - a few years ago I bought Miracle Gro potting soil because nothing else was available at my local nurseries (we had no big box stores in my area back then). I transplanted seedlings into this stuff - bad mistake. They all shriveled and died within days. The chemical fertilizer in this stuff is just too strong for young roots.
I would prefer to patronize my local nurseries, but not one of them carries any brand of soil other than Miracle Gro. How did this company get a monopoly like this?
Winterrobin, mine do just fine in their "organic" potting soil.
It seems as though I've seen other brands around here recently; I don't remember whether it was in Home Depot or at Garden Road Greenhouse or Tractor Supply. If I see it again I'll let you know. I ran around this weekend looking for more marigolds, Victoria Blue salvia, and trailing lobelia, and finally went back to Garden Road for the latter two and found marigolds at Home Depot. Camp's Farm Market has a bunch of bedding plants, by the way, including some Pistou basil and other herbs.
Any good local nurseries to recommend out your way?
Hi, Leslie! Where is Camp's Farm Market? Sounds interesting!
I haven't been out and about to the nurseries yet this spring. I keep hoping for improvements over the usual impatiens. And the big boxes keep carrying plants that don't even do well in the area, like leopard's bane (I forgot the Latin name). This HATES
humidity. Gosh I'm getting grouchy in my old age.
Camp's is in Port Elizabeth just past the PO going north, on the other side of Delsea Drive. They have a lot of flowers and vegetables as well as the herbs. They never used to do this but they've been expanding their offerings in recent years. I was tickled to find that they had Benary Giant Zinnias last year, so I bought several flats from them. I adore zinnias. Camp's also has great corn in the summer, and a nice mix of other veggies. We get sweet potatoes from them, too.
The big box stores have rather puny-looking flowers. I looked there for roses and they were in awful shape! We like to go to Bob's Garden Center near the Hamilton Mall if there are a lot of things we need; they have an excellent selection and their plants are usually pretty healthy. Last spring I got some great azaleas from The Flower Farm in Millville, but usually I find them frustrating to deal with; there's no one around to help and they don't sell many six-packs, just single plants at elevated prices. Garden Road Greenhouse is good, though. They're in northern Vineland.
For lack of alternatives (and being lazy) I bought Miracle-Gro organic potting soil and it's TERRIBLE. There are so many big wood chips it looks like mini mulch, the tops of the pots are hard as a rock and it pulled away from the pot so there's a gap that the water will just run through if I don't fluff it every day. Never again.
I'm not impressed with it either, but there are no other alternatives around here. I don't think my experience has been as bad as yours but it does have large wood chips and a chunky texture. I often set my pots in a pan that I can add water to, so they get their water from the bottom up and that seems to work fairly well.
I think next year I'll try to order organic potting soil online if I can find a decent price for it.
I saw their "garden soil," too, but I have plenty of my own in my beds. You're finding that it dries out more quickly than other products? Our soil is basically sand, so we have had to add lots of compost and mulch to build it up so that it holds water, but it's not too bad by now.
My soil is sticky clay and holds too much water! I should have mixed it with the MG stuff, but I used some already amended soil instead (lazy way out)... so maybe a bit too much of the bark chips, etc?
Oh well, they'll break down sooner or later and add nice organic matter to your soil.
We're in the Pine Barrens, so our soil is not only sandy but acid. It's a bit of a challenge! We had it built up nicely and then had to do a repair on our septic system about ten years ago, so all that nice amended soil ended up underneath and we had to start almost all over again! I don't know which is worse - too much sand or too much clay!
new to the forum and thread but just wanted to add
- health issues forced me to realize:
I am no longer afforded the luxury (ha ha ha) of lifting and tugging the usual soil amendments. . . and fighting this Carolina clay!
(darius - the ONLy thing I found helpful with this clay is a product called 'SoilConditioner'. smaller than mulching chips, larger than soil - DOES help. 1/3 each of SC, purchased garden soil and native yard clay. - but the clay eventually wins.)
so i now use brick coir. found some relatively reasonable at instagarden.com (they are a DG member).
placed in a bucket (covered), hydrated and fluffed.
once covered stays fresh.
but JUST ordered some from another - MORE reasonable site.
($5.95 for an 8" X 8", -3.5lb brick that, alone, makes 5 gallons.
then add 20% perlite. )
will give an update on this cheaper source once it arrives.
will need to return to discover what all I need to do to correctly fertilize this coir!
thanks all for having this forum!
maybe i SHOULD sign up for that Master Gardeners course offered at our Local extension.
Glee, Thanks. I added SC to my soil in Asheville; it was okay for a time, but I found Greensand mixed with other amendments did a better job. I really don't understand how Greensand is able to loosen clay soil and also 'tighten' sandy soils so they hold moisture and amendments better... but it does.
Darius, WOW. I have avoided MG for years now, since I was told by a trusted soul that MG is too full of salts and other cumulative stuff.
I really like the Espoma products. I am fortunate to be in an area with many nurseries, and also the Big Box companies. I rarely go into the Big Boxers though.
Why, at my favorite nursery, they know me by name! LOL! They have a great selection of organic items, and NO EVIDENCE of MG products except in small quantities.
I was at my local Southern States this weekend, and could not get over the bags and bags of MG-infused soil! YUCK! I ran in the other direction. Quickly.
I found the alfalfa tea recipe, looks like wonderful stuff. Now, I don't have pellets (gave them away after the goat died) but I do have half of a really large bale of alfalfa, and a 100 gallon stock tank, and epsom salts. For fish emulsion, pond goo or pond water is best? Have both... I'd like to make a batch of tea using what I have on hand. At least until I've used that alfalfa for something.