Is Miracle Grow Fertilizer alright?

tomatoes4ever(7 Fairfax VA (DC))April 15, 2007

I think I want to try organic gardening for my tomatoes, but something tells me that Miracle Grow is not right for that. Or is it ok?

What shold I use that I can easily buy/find?

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timmy1(6a ri)

The water soluble blue product in a white plastic bag they have had all along is a minearal (inorganic) based fertilizer. Not sure if the company has expanded into organic fertilizers now or not.

If you want to follow the definition of "organic" you have to use a fertilizer that is once of the living or carbon based.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 4:52PM
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allotmentgardeners

If does not have USDA organic seal on it is not organic.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 6:10PM
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HoosierCheroKee(IN6)

Miracle Grow now offers what they call Miracle Grow Organic Choice . I saw it on the shelves yesterday at Lowes.

The subject already has had extensive coverage at another GW forum. See Miracle Grow Gone Organic?

Personally, I didn't take time to read all of that thread because within the first several messages was lots of negative BS ... and who hasn't heard all the blather about "organic" vs "chemical" before?

I've used Miracle Grow and similar products for years ... sparingly and only when needed. I usually give my seedlings a little boost of the "all purpose" formula if I'm having to hold them too long (like this daggone never ending winter) and some chlorosis pops up ... and I augment that with Epsom salts to encourage better nitrogen uptake. Both the Miracle Grow and the Epsom salts are added at half the recommended rate to a gallon of warm water. Then each plant is dosed with about a tablespoon of the solution and sprayed with a mist of the same.

When my plants are out in the garden and it looks like they will begin to bloom in the next two weeks, I give them a dose of the "bloom booster" formula ... and after they've set a good load of fruit, I give them a booster shot of "tomato" or "rose" formula ... whichever I have on hand.

Usually, I mix at half the recommended rate and apply conservatively; and I've never had a problem and don't seem to have that famous "all foliage no fruit" problem so many people blather on about.

Now that Miracle Grow is marketing "Organic Choice," I'll try that out this year. What the heck? Oh ... by the way, I don't use any herbicides, insecticides or fungicides on tomatoes and really don't see the harm in a little chemical nitrogen/phosphorus/potasium and trace minerals unless they're used in such quantities as to pollute ground water or storm water run-off into streams. Besides, plants don't absorb organic matter like fish flesh, rotten leaves or manure until the nutrients have been reduced to their soluable chemical state anyway ... so we're really only talking about "organic" vs. "chemical" sources for the components of the fertilizer.

The real advantage for me with products like Miracle Grow is they fit well with my methods of growing in raised beds, containers and homemade grow bags where I like to apply a solution directly to the growing media rather than broadcasting and tilling in or appling a granulated side dressing, etc. And any salt build-up can easily be flushed out of the growing methods I use.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 6:13PM
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tomatoes4ever(7 Fairfax VA (DC))

Thanks hoosiercherokee! That was a great post. I think I'm going to try your method. Alot of what you said makes sense.

Thanks to everyone else that chimed in.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 6:18PM
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timmy1(6a ri)

that's right hoosiercherokee, any "organic" nitrogen has to be broken down into it's "inorganic" state in order to be absorbed into the plant. So, there should be no harm in using it in it's inorganic state to start with.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 7:03PM
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HoosierCheroKee(IN6)

Hey ... I just noticed that Miracle Grow Organic Choice is one of the new ads of the day in the header of this forum ... hahahahaha ...

Anyway ... here are some fertilizer facts to chew on:
Wikipedia Fertilizer Stuff

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 7:39PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

If you wish to grow organic as you said, then yes there are many organic fertilizers products you can "easily buy/find?" Miracle Grow is not one of them.

Gardens Alive carries several organic products. So does Gardener's Supply. There is also fish oil emulsion (several threads running on it on the forums), compost, composted manures, compost teas, cottonseed meal, blood meal, alfalfa pellets, bone meal, etc. The Garden Bazaar here at GW offers many links for online shopping and most all garden centers now carry a line of organic approved fertilizers. Even Home Depot, Lowe's, and Walmart carry organic products around here.

It all depends on the "degree" of organic you wish to be. Happy gardening.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 8:07PM
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tomatoes4ever(7 Fairfax VA (DC))

Digdirt

Probably not to organic since I'm not sure if I could handle it yet(maybe next year). I'm looking for the kind of stuff I could pickup at home depot or walmart.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 8:24PM
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cecilsgarden(z6 swPA)

"I'm looking for the kind of stuff I could pickup at home depot or walmart."

You can pick up Alaska Fish Fertilizer at Wal-Mart.
Lowe's should have Espoma products like Greensand, Phosphates and an Garden Manure mix labeled under their Organic Solutions label.

I gave up Miracle Grow years ago and my garden is so much healthier. I don't even have as many pests. I suppose with all the crap in bought can goods and produce, being organic for my tomatoes is a mute point, but it works for me. My plants have more fruit, which seems to have a better flavor and I have piece of mind. but you know, it sure isn't cheaper.

CECIL

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 8:59PM
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HoosierCheroKee(IN6)

T4E,

Walmart has blood meal (organic nitrogen source), bone meal (organic phosphorus source), and Epsom salts (trace mineral source acceptable for organic gardening), and other products that can be used by gardeners desirous to develop "organic" gardens. You can add wood ash for potasium.

Again ... I found the Miracle Grow Organic Choice at Lowes, a big box home and garden store like Home Depot, and Home Depot probably has the same line of goods ... I just don't care to go in that outlet as much. Heck ... WalMart may have all that stuff by now too, but the one I go to is in the middle of remodling and I didn't really want to search thru everyting ... it was all over the place.

Don't let anything I said in my first message dissuade you from strictly organic gardening if that's what your want to do ... I was just expressing myself in terms of chemical fertilizer use which I find acceptable while still not using chemical (or so-called "organic") fungicides and pesticides.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 9:00PM
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tomatoes4ever(7 Fairfax VA (DC))

Ha ha ha!!!!! Want to hear something funny? I was just cleaning up the house and it turns out I have a huge bag of Miracle Grow Organic plant food sitting in my foyer. I forgot I bought it like a month ago. I guess I don't have to go to the store now. Yay!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 9:35PM
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tomatoes4ever(7 Fairfax VA (DC))

I may still try some of the "recipes" you guys have mentioned. But this will tide me over for the first feeding.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 10:22PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Hmmm, chicken litter and feather meal. Can't tell if it has the seal or not from the pic but might be all right if there aren't a bunch of synthetic fillers and stabilizers added. Worth checking out but I wonder what the price is on this 6 lb. bag and how it compares to Espoma prices or a $2 box of bone meal and 1 of blood meal? Specifies in-ground plants only, not for use on containers.

Note that it is only rated at 7-1-2 so it's a bit nitrogen heavy and phosphorous poor. Not the ideal balance for tomatoes so you might want to consider some additional phos/K in some form to insure better roots and better fruit production. Let us know how it works, ok?

Here is a link that might be useful: Miracle Grow Organic Plant Food

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 11:12PM
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tomatoes4ever(7 Fairfax VA (DC))

"you might want to consider some additional phos/K in some form "

Just tell me what to buy and I'll buy it. What am I looking for? I assume there isn't a box that says "Phosphorus".

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 11:27PM
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seedboy

Here's my 2 cents worth. There's nothing wrong with using chemical fertilizers so long as you don't over-fertilize or neglect improving the soil with organic matter. Having said that, it's really easy to over use chemical fertilizers. That's why I use time-released fertilizers such as Dynamite or Osmicote along with composted manure and compost. Time-released fertilizers are safe insurance and they DON'T harm soil micro organisms or burn plants.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 2:19AM
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maupin(z6 So. IL)

Growing organic is as much a philosophy as it is science. It is the belief that you should feed the soil and let the soil feed the plant. When you use target chemical fertilizers you fail to address the micronutrient needs of plants. When you add specific micronutrient chemical soil amendments you then create an imbalance as well as build up salts in your soil. Balance is achieved by reaching the right Ph (in my case adding lime), incorporating compost, and feeding with aerated compost tea.

I don't critcize those who garden with a different philosophy, but you strted out saying you wanted to grow organic. DigDirt is right--Miracle Gro does not permit you to do so. You can do this , my friend. It is easier than you may think.

So stop worrying about 7-1-2 or 15-0-0 or some such. Get a soil test, achieve your optimum range Ph, and feed your soil.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 10:19AM
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elkwc(6b)

I will add my 2 cents. There has been lots of good information here. MG is ok along with several other products mentioned here. I'm taking it you mean after you have planted in the garden. I agree if you have built up the soil and have worked in mulch and a manure of some sort you shouldn't need much if anything else. I've done comparison plantings since I have built mine up and notice no or little difference in production either way. I'm going to try a Gardens Alive product this year. Just my nature to try at least one new product every year on a few. I will use a little chemical fertilizer once in a while. Here we are low in iron so use one high in it. Now on the plants before I plant them I use fish emulsion, seaweed spray and a form of blue water at times. I let the plants tell me. Ferti-lome has some products that work well also. MG is good but not superior like so many claim at least for me. There is also one called Jack's that I use. Although I'm 95% organic I don't let that stop me from adding something chemical if a plant tells me it needs it. I believe in an open mind. JMO. Jay

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 11:07AM
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lilacs_of_may

Has anyone here tried Terracycle? It's made of worm castings and packaged in recycled pop bottles. I bought some but haven't had a chance to use it yet. I also have some Miracle-Gro, which I guess I'll use till I run out.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 12:29PM
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shellva(Camden 7b/8a)

No one has mentioned alfalfa tea? Roses love it. I don't see why tomatoes wouldn't as well. 50 lb bag of alfalfa meal or pellets for about $15. Smelly stuff, the tea, not the pellets, but worth the stink IMHO.

Feed stores should have it on hand.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 12:36PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Just tell me what to buy and I'll buy it. What am I looking for? I assume there isn't a box that says "Phosphorus".

Actually they do. :-)

As we have said, all the supplements are available at the stores you say you want to shop - WalMart and Home Depot. If you can't find them just ask them. ;)

hoosiercherokee gave you a great list of equivalents above - bone meal for phosphorus, blood meal for nitrogen or alfalfa tea/pellets as shellva suggests (though tomatoes don't want near as much N as roses do), epsom salts for trace, wood ash for potash, greensand for potassium, composted manure, etc.

There is a great thread here called Earl's Hole Method for planting tomatoes which covers all this is great detail. A search will bring it back to the top as its likely on page 3 or 4 by now. Like I said, it all depends on how "organic" - and some of us would add with a grin - how successful you want to be. Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 1:14PM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

I'll trust Miracle Grow "organic" products when pigs fly and Microsoft develops user-friendly software...

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 3:54PM
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cecilsgarden(z6 swPA)

"Has anyone here tried Terracycle? It's made of worm castings and packaged in recycled pop bottles. I bought some but haven't had a chance to use it yet. I also have some Miracle-Gro, which I guess I'll use till I run out."

Just used it on my seedlings the other day. they were getting that horrible look again, so I treated them. Look good now.

CECIL

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 6:57PM
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larryw(z6Ohio)

I have used all the following products with great success:
Jacks, Miracle Grow, Peters. Also 5/5/5, 10/10/10, or 8/32/16 tilled in prior to planting. Used according to directions and in combination with some basic organic gardening principles such as incorporation of lots of organic compost or well rotted manures into the soil a great yield of nutritious and good tasting veggies can be hoped for.

So, as you can see, I am comfortable with using principles from both organic and chemical based systems. It has always
surprised me how dedicated and faithful are the adherants to totally organic methods. I kinda go on what works for me and also deal with the practicalities of how much good organic material I can get each spring--there is strong competition for it around here, and even hauling it and tilling it in faces time and effort constraints. There are so many things needing done in the spring-not just the garden!

A friend has been fall tilling and planting his garden in
annual ryegrass; this then tilled under in the spring. I
am impressed with the soil tilth he has achieved and believe I might give this a go this coming fall.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 11:36AM
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esobofh

Fact is, Miracle grow can be a "miracle" if you need a quick fix for a problem garden. I started a garden where the soil was made up of mushroom manure, composted bark mulch, sand, and other misc soils - it looked like black gold and I was sure that the vegetables would take off. A lab analysis of the soil revealed it to be deficient in all the major componetns, NPK. Now, I've established the beds and the plants are growing already so it's a bit difficult to start amending the soil. With alot of effort I managed to work in blood meal and bone meal and all the organic goodness I could, but it just didn't help the garden. I think this material needs a lot more time to become "available" and work it's magic. In the meantime I sprayed a little miracle gro.. and presto... the garden is back in full swing.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 12:21PM
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esobofh

Fact is, Miracle grow can be a "miracle" if you need a quick fix for a problem garden. I started a garden where the soil was made up of mushroom manure, composted bark mulch, sand, and other misc soils - it looked like black gold and I was sure that the vegetables would take off. A lab analysis of the soil revealed it to be deficient in all the major componetns, NPK. Now, I've established the beds and the plants are growing already so it's a bit difficult to start amending the soil. With alot of effort I managed to work in blood meal and bone meal and all the organic goodness I could, but it just didn't help the garden. I think this material needs a lot more time to become "available" and work it's magic. In the meantime I sprayed a little miracle gro.. and presto... the garden is back in full swing.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 1:50PM
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kubotabx2200(Zone 5b NH)

Espoma GardenTone is a very good all around fertilizer it is premixed and mostly organic. It has a lot more minerals and nutrients in it than your typical NPK fertilizer. It doesn't shock your plants.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 4:26PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

What do you mean by "mostly organic?" And isn't it GardenTone that has something like 5x the arsenic that Miracle-Gro has, or is that PlantTone by Espoma?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 5:40PM
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alpiner(Albertaz3)

We've had great tomatoes for years. We use compost and well rotted manure to amend the soil. We don't use any chemical agents like Miracle Grow or any similar artificial factory concoctions. We will also use a compost tea feeding once or twice in the growing season.

Our tomatoes taste great, our garden waste is used as compost and put back into the garden, and no bucks for the chemical industry. We don't care about labels except the one we have as you come into our garden:

"We care about our grandchildren. Chemical free zone".

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 7:58PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

Sorry about that, my numbers were wrong, Espoma Garden Tone has 23 times as much Arsenic as Miracle-Gro. Maybe I was thinking of lead, it has 3x as much lead as Miracle-Gro (and 10 times as much Mercury as M-G.)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 8:41PM
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naturalstuff(Z6 / CT)

I'm using Miracle Grow Organic this year on a few plants. Seems like the plants which have MG Potting Mix with Mositure Control is doing better then the MG Organic Potting Mix. They're bigger and fuller.. Hmmm.

maybe Organic is good in the long run??

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 9:04PM
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elkwc(6b)

My personal experience is there is no miracles. There is good practices and good products that work but no miracles formula's that I've found and I've tried most of them. Miracle Gro works but for me not as good as other products. I'm just finishing some comparison growing on my plants. If used as recommended it don't hurt anything in my opinion. But there is as good and better products out there. JMO. Jay

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 9:17PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

What products did you find as good or better in your comparison testing Jay?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 9:38PM
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kubotabx2200(Zone 5b NH)

Garden-tone is mostly organic but also contains some inorganic ingredients. It is by far the most effective fertilizer I have used , and I have used a lot of them.

Derived from: Dehydrated Manure, Feather Meal, Crab Meal, Cocoa Meal, Corn Gluten, Bone Meal, Cottonseed Meal, Dried Blood, Sunflower Meal, Kelp Meal, Alfalfa Meal, Green Sand, Rock Phosphate, Sulfate of Potash, Sulfate of Potash Magnesia, Humates, Ammonium Sulfate, and Triple Super Phosphate.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 11:15PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

Kubotabx, this is one case where it sounds really good on the ingredients label but when you dig deeper, the safety issues arise. I'm not saying it's not safe, but organic gardeners see all those things listed and think it's better than inorganics like water soluble fertilizers, but don't realize it has 23x more arsenic, 3x as much lead, and 10x as much mercury as water soluble Miracle-Gro.

The same people who put up a stink about, say, using treated lumber, are just as guilty using organics with high heavy metals like arsenic, lead & mercury, even though they may not realize it. Likewise for those using manures, often the source of heavy metals.

Pick your poison. Personally, using drip fertigation, I use different water solubles, plus lots of municipal compost. This is one time where I think that water solubles contribute less danger than organics. As for the original poster, I guess you'd have to decide yourself which is more important to you--organic gardening or safety.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 7:35AM
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kubotabx2200(Zone 5b NH)

You can't compare really a narrowly focused synthetic like MG which consists of 18-24-16 NPK and only 0.1% iron to a complete and more balanced plant food like Garden-Tone which is 4-6-6 but is also 3% calcium, 5% sulphur, and 0.5% magnesium (MG does not have any of these) and 1% iron. Heavy metals are bound with iron in trace amounts no matter what the source of the iron (including the naturally occurring iron deposits in your garden soil). So sure, if you are willing to starve your plants of iron by feeding them MG then they are getting less arsenic and lead that is bound with iron. On the other hand if you add back the iron supplements that MG lacks from some other source, you are right back to adding arsenic and lead to your garden. By the way we are talking about parts per million in the single digits here. And if you don't add iron because your soil already has enough natural iron, well it also has naturally occuring arsenic and lead too. So it is a bit of a red herring to say MG has less arsenic -- because MG also has ten times less iron than Garden-Tone, not enough iron, and none of the other nutrients I mentioned. Compared to the NPK content of MG, the iron is almost a trace element: MG contains 240 times as much phosphorous as it does iron, so you can't consider MG a signficant source of iron. If you dosed your garden with enough MG to provide the iron it needs, the NPK content would burn the plants long before giving them enough iron.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 9:06AM
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barrie2m_

Corn gluten in GardenTone? I would hope it isn't the Melamine contaminated stuff from China that's been killing all our pets here in the U.S. Does anyone know if plants will take up Melamine from soil and deposit it in plant tissue?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 9:52AM
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kubotabx2200(Zone 5b NH)

By the way the Espoma iron supplement Garden Iron product advertises that it contains no arsenic and lead. I presume that Garden-tone contains this same iron supplement, i.e. no arsenic or lead in the product as currently formulated.

Here is a link that might be useful: Espoma Garden Iron

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 9:57AM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

The Miracle-Gro I was comparing Garden Tone to was the 15-30-15, which does contain:

Boron (B) 0.02
Copper (Cu) 0.07
Iron (Fe) 0.15
Manganese (Mn) 0.05
Molybdenum (Mo) 0.0005
Zinc (Zn) 0.06

...which are a pretty complete micronutrient package, especially for tomatoes.

If they advertise Espoma Garden Iron as NO ARSENIC & LEAD, then they are outright liars, short of reformulating it and not making it public for testing! The last test I saw Espoma Garden Iron had over 5x the arsenic, 10x the cadmium, 2.4x the cobalt, 50x the mercury, 10x the nickel and 5x the lead as M-G 15-30-15.

I think I'd take the less iron than all the arsenic, lead and mercury... but now we are talking apples & oranges bringing Espoma Garden Iron into the equation. But Garden Tone does have 6x the iron of M-G, as well as chlorine & sodium which M-G doesn't have, nor are desired. Plus 23x the arsenic, 3x the lead, and 10x the mercury than M-G has.

I think this would be a no-brainer for me--less iron with Miracle-Gro 15-30-15, or, more arsenic, lead, mercury, chlorine & sodium with Espoma Garden Tone.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 10:59AM
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bella_trix(z6b SE PA)

In organic gardening, one of my main reasons to avoid chemical fertilizers is that they suppress the growth of fungus that is symbiotic (beneficial) with your plants. Symbiotic fungus breaks down natural fertilizers into a form that the plants can use easily and in return gains something from the plant (can't remember what, but if anyone needs to know, I can look it up). In addition, the symbiotic fungus benefits the plant in other ways, including resistance to disease and environmental hazards like drought. When you use a chemical fertilizer like Miracle Grow, you stop the growth of this fungus. This not only stops the slow, over time supply of nutrients to your plants, it also prevents the disease/environmental hardship protection.

Most people don't know about the good fungus, only the bad fungus that causes disease. The good fungus is really important to soil health. There's a lot of good research coming out about crops and symbiotic fungus. You can even buy some to add to your garden.

I mostly use compost tea to fertilize, but I've bought Garden Tone products too. Korny19 and kubotabx2200, I would really like to read more about the arsenic/lead issues. Where is you source information from?

Thanks,
Bellatrix

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 12:16PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

Bellatrix, my #'s come from Washington State Department of Agriculture. They have a list of tested fertilizers and other stuff that list the components & %. Someone else pointed me to the site in the past, I believe they said WA is one of the strictest states regarding fertilizers and if not on the list it's not approved in WA, or something similar to that. I don't know if that's true but do use the site on ocassion to compare ingredients.

Here is a link that might be useful: Washington State Department of Agriculture

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 12:29PM
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kubotabx2200(Zone 5b NH)

You should also know that it is just a tempest in a teapot because the arsenic level in Espoma Garden-tone is similar or equal to the naturally occuring soil arsenic levels in Washington State. And also for lead.

"The Washington State Department of Ecology and the United States Geological Survey have determined that the natural background level of arsenic in Puget Sound soil is 7 ppm (parts per million). The state average is also 7 ppm, and levels are 9 ppm and 5 ppm in the Spokane Basin and Clark County respectively."

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 1:19PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

So what do you get when the average is 7 and you add a quarter cup per plant, as directed, every month (as directed) of Garden Tone, which has 9 arsenic?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 1:31PM
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bella_trix(z6b SE PA)

Thanks, korney19. That's an interesting site and yes, every fertilizer on there is approved by Washington state which has strict laws.

I took a look at the Espoma products and, while they do have more heavy metals than MG, these levels are measured at Parts Per Million which are very, very low amounts. The arsenic levels I saw were 1-2 (or less) parts per million, which is the background levels of most soils (Washington soil levels are 5 to 7ppm). The concerns I've seen about arsenic in fertilizer were at levels higher than 500 ppm when that fertilizer was used in large amounts. Particularly worrisome is Ironite which has levels of 4,000 ppm.

Any way, I don't think you can say Epsoma at 1 ppm arsenic is worst than MG at .39 ppm arsenic. Those levels are both incredibly low and already present in your garden at those levels. I've even read that arsenic in small amounts is a plant nutrient, but I can't find the data to back it up.

I hope that makes you feel better about the numbers in the database. I think anything in there is safe to use. Thanks for sending me the link.

Bellatrix

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 1:35PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

I think my general point was to make some organic growers aware that what they have & use isn't always better as they think. Some people get on an organic gardening "soapbox" and make claims that this is better than that, or the world will come to an end if we don't stop using Miracle-Gro, or whatever. People use manures of all kinds, yet don't understand the Nitrogen runoff problems, etc. It's all been debated here many times before. Then there's the OG (& others) people who won't use treated lumber yet their organic fertilizers may contain arsenic, copper & chromium, but they can justify that.

The way I look at it, organics build the soil, solubles are much quicker acting and often more convenient & can still be safe if applied properly. Not everyone gardens in-ground and organics can sometimes take too long to be beneficial in things like container gardening as an example, where a plant can be lost in a day. I believe, through personal experience, that I can grow more & bigger tomatoes just as great & tasty with soluble fertilizers than with organic fertilizers, that's just my own experience based on my methods and results. As for the claims that plants are weaker, less beneficial insects are present, and more diseases are present when using water solubles, I just don't see those claims happening, at least not in my yarden.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 2:11PM
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kubotabx2200(Zone 5b NH)

By the way korney19 when you look at the guaranteed analysis of Espoma Garden-tone you will see it has ALL 15 nutrients that are defined by the Washington state legislature, which as you point out is one of the strictest states. Garden-tone has all the nutrients in the amounts that are defined by law in Washington. Including chlorine which is a plant nutrient.

Look at this Washington state law that names all the nutrients and the minimum required amounts, and then look at the guaranteed analysyis of Garden-tone and you will see it has all 15 essential plant nutrients as defined by the strict Washington state law. Miracle Gro is lacking 6 of them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Plant nutrients in addition to nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 2:11PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

Kubota, the 6 you say are missing are already present in my soil or water, no need to add them in a bag of fertilizer. My soil is extremely rich in calcium & magnesium and sufficient in sulfur. That leaves sodium, chlorine, and cobalt I assume. M-G does have cobalt. Chlorine & sodium are present in the local water. Also, for those lacking in calcium, magnesium & sulfur, you can add gypsum (calcium sulfate) to the soil without affecting pH and you can add or foliar spray epsom salt (magnesium sulfate.)

I suggest everyone get an inexpensive "professional" soil test done, I had one done last year and it costed around $9 I think. Some have add-on options, like % organic matter, Cation Exchange, etc.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 2:32PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

Bella, I didn't check all the Espoma products but the Garden Tone arsenic was 9, the Miracle-Gro was 0.38. Yes, ppm is a small amount, but I'm not saying Espoma is 1ppm (you did), So it's about 24x as much arsenic (Espoma = 9ppm, M-G =0.38. 9 divided by 0.38 = 23.684 times as much.)

While ppm is small, they can accumulate and don't always get washed away. So if somebody's been using manures or Garden Tone or whatever for x amount of years, I'd think they have a higher amount present.

For the poster who has the sign that reads, ""We care about our grandchildren. Chemical free zone", is it really? It may not truly be.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 2:49PM
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bella_trix(z6b SE PA)

Sorry folks, I thought I had a poster with a legitimate concern about an organic product but who had a limited scientific/mathematical understanding. I didn't realize I had an anti-organic poster out trolling.

For anyone reading this thread, you will not have an accumulation of arsenic by using a product with 9ppm in a soil that already has 7ppm. Parts per million (ppm) is a percentage. If you add a set volume of something 25% ingredient X to an equal volume of something else 25% ingredient X, you do not end up with a total of 50% ingredient X. It's still 25% ingredient X. Likewise, if you add a small amount of something 9ppm to a large volume of soil that is 7ppm, you do not end up with 16ppm. You would have to add a huge amount to raise that soil above 7ppm and could never get it near 9ppm without replacing almost all your soil with 9ppm fertilizer.

The original poster asked about why not to use miracle grow when growing organically. My reason is for the beneficial fungus. That said, you may find more benefit using a quick chemical solution than waiting for a longer term organic one. It's up to you. But suggesting that an organic product is worse because it contains more ppm of arsenic (or heavy metal of choice) than miracle grow is totally irrelevant if your soil already contains that amount (percentage) naturally.

Best of luck and may your tomatoes be tasty and make you happy, whatever system you use
Bellatrix

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 5:12PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

Bella, good luck and may your tomatoes be great too. Please don't think of me as trolling and anti-organic as you said. I like to think I'm not organic, not chemical, but frugal. I try my best to find the most success with the least cost. I've maybe used more compost in the last 5 years than many have made or used in 20 years. And I think I've contibuted here on the Tomato forum whenever I possibly could, from the FAQ's page to unique methods, variety pics, results, drip irrigation, caging, seedstarting, etc. I'm not taking one side or the other but try to plant a question in others' minds that will make them ask questions or do more research about something instead of just believe "A" is better than "B" because person "C" said so.

As for the math, I simply said many posts ago that one variety of fertilizer (that many think is organic) has 23-24x the levels of a "feared" substance than a "water soluble" variety. I provided the link to where to find the #'s that anybody can look themselves and see what I said was true. If ppm doesn't matter because it's such a small amount, then what use is it to show one thing has more than another?

Thanks for pointing out percentages--many don't understand the way fertilizers add up, mathematically speaking. For example, if you add equal amounts of 10-10-10 to 20-20-20, you do NOT get 30-30-30. Because they (the NPK #'s) are percentages, you would get 15-15-15 by volume. However, if you are supposed to use 1 tablespoon per gallon of 10-10-10, and you use 5 tablespoons in a gallon, you are no longer adding 10-10-10!

IF I simply said "Organic gardening is more dangerous than inorganics because certain preferred fertilizers have much more arsenic than another often-used soluble fertilizer" I think people would doubt it or say I'm crazy. If I proved with data or links that manures may have more dangerous amounts of a substance, or can cause fish kill-off more often than brand "B", they'd keep on using manures. And those that may use manures may or may not use treated wood, and some OG'ers may condemn treated wood yet use fertilizers or manures that may have as much or more heavy metals than the wood itself, and applied monthly or annually too, not just once like the wood.

If someone wants to grow organic, I don't really know if they can only go part way and say they grow organic but use water soluble fertilizers every now & then, or "only when an emergency" or something similar. And I don't know how up-to-date your members page is but you stated in one line, "I grow mostly organically (except miracle grow), am blessed with a billion spider friends, and grow vegetables, herbs and flowers." I take it your position has changed since then and if that works for you then that's fine. I use compost and epsom salts if needed, Neptune's Harvest & Maxicrop seaweed powder, etc. I also use different brands of water solubles too, and even pull out some "big guns" to control some tough pests, but every year, smack dab in the middle of a highly populated city with no real "wildlife" or wildlife habitat nearby, I still have my share of lady bugs, lacewings, dragonflies, and even lightning bugs! And Yes, I do use Daconil too. I and maybe many others may choose a different position and respect that anyone would respect our decisions, whichever it may be.

So I'm not out there to change anybody, rather to just make them do some thinking. Hope you were not offended. GW used to be a nice place until everybody started argueing and taking positions, almost as if religion, and it kinda went to hell the last year or two, especially since Spike left, and pop-ups didn't help either. Posts and threads were even deleted, it wasn't a pretty sight.

So since this is a Tomato growing forum, I'll try to continue to contribute if & when I can without getting into taking sides and will leave the organic stuff to its own forum elsewhere on GW.

Respectfully,

Mater Mark

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 9:43PM
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bella_trix(z6b SE PA)

Sorry, Mark, I guess it was a little strong to call you trolling, but you seemed to be using scare tactics to support a chemical fertilizer over an organic one and I believed your conclusions were incorrect. I wasn't saying that ppm are unimportant, only that they need to be taken into context with what the levels are in normal soil. From looking at your very informative other posts I can see that you are most definitely not a troll, so I apologize for that reference.

And yes, my position has changed (my profile is woefully out of date and still says I'm in San Francisco - a sad fog belt area to raise tomatoes. I'm in a much better place now for them) mostly based on further study of organic gardening and the research I've read on mychorrizal fungi. I'm definitely not saying that everyone needs to go the way I have or that it is the right thing to do. I'm also not saying to stop using MG. Just that not using it is an option if you want to try out the fungus angle. I'm happier that people are actually gardening, whatever system they use. Most people in my neighborhood aren't in the least bit interested which is very different from San Francisco.

I'm very glad you reposted. In the context of your last post, I have a better understanding of what you were actually saying versus what I thought you were saying. So, again, happy gardening, happy tomatoes with whatever systems works best for you.

Bellatrix

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 11:32PM
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anthony_toronto

For anyone reading this thread, you will not have an accumulation of arsenic by using a product with 9ppm in a soil that already has 7ppm. Parts per million (ppm) is a percentage. If you add a set volume of something 25% ingredient X to an equal volume of something else 25% ingredient X, you do not end up with a total of 50% ingredient X. It's still 25% ingredient X. Likewise, if you add a small amount of something 9ppm to a large volume of soil that is 7ppm, you do not end up with 16ppm. You would have to add a huge amount to raise that soil above 7ppm and could never get it near 9ppm without replacing almost all your soil with 9ppm fertilizer.

I'm sorry, but that is complete nonsense. I suggest you re-think that argument and ask someone who knows what they are talking about.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 12:14AM
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coolbythecoast(10b)

anthony, I am very interested in why the percentage argument is complete nonsense. Perhaps you are right, could you give us your alternate argument?

Thanks,
Gary

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 2:00AM
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farkee(Florida)

Korney, you are totally distorting and misusing the analysis of fertilizers that you have found at the Wash. site.

First of all, do just a little research and you will find that cadmium is the heavy metal that is considered to give the most cause for concern of all the metals when it comes to agricultural inputs.

Your 15-30-15 Miracle Gro product has a rating of 1 (ppm) in cadmium. Plant Tone by Espoma (totally organic) has
.2 (ppm). I could say that MG has 5 TIMES (!!!) the cadmium as Espoma Plant Tone but that is a totally worthless comparison.

As a matter of fact using your logic you may not want to continue using the Miracle-gro 15-30-15. See how easily it is to twist and distort 'facts'.

Does 1 (ppm) cadmium make Miracle Gro dangerously toxic? Of course not. It is way, way below standards set for that metal.

Check out the link below and see how the example of the Lawn fertilizer with a cadmium level of 5 (ppm) is still way below the standards set by Wash.

But also bear in mind that all these figures must take into account the amount of product that is recommended and how many times it is applied per season.

Suffice it to say that you can't say product A has 10 times lead or arsenic or whatever compared to product B unless you know the applications recommendations.

Also , as the cadmium levels of 15-30-15 MG illustrate, the heavy metal levels in both Espoma products and Miracle products are WAY,WAY below the max. allowed. The same is true of arsenic and lead levels.

Your post is designed to incite fear by implying high levels of toxic metals exist in espoma products--nothing could be further from the truth.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to use Wash. Standards

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 2:01AM
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coolbythecoast(10b)

Bellatrix, I use Ironite so I am interested in your 4000 ppm number. The Washington site referenced in these posts has much lower numbers. Where could I find the 4000 ppm number on the web to confirm it?

Thanks,
Gary

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 2:18AM
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farkee(Florida)

Korney, I also don't like arguing for the sake of arguing.

I did not mean to come across as too negative or harsh towards you but I really thought your interpretation of the data was very unfair towards Espoma.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 3:03AM
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farkee(Florida)

Cool by the coast

Here is a bit of information on Ironite.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ironite

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 3:10AM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

I've been trying my best to refrain from anymore posts in this thread... Farkee, did my posts stimulate a response from you, make you think or research something? If so, then it worked.

As for the cadmium point, you may be correct however Espoma Plant Tone was never discussed, it was Espoma Garden Tone in question, which has the same cadmium level as M-G, so a moot point.

If we want to bring into the equation the application rates, that's a whole nother ball of worms. M-G I believe is 1 Tablespoon, most Espoma products were 1/4 cup to 1 cup, depending on application type. Then we'd have to get into weekly to bi-weekly applications of M-G vs. monthly apps of Espoma, etc.

I really spent way too much time on this thread yesterday and didn't get any yardwork done so didn't pursue it any further and really don't want to fall into the same trap today. Let me close by saying I've been using Plantex fertilizer for the last few years, most of their products on the WA site list the heavy metals as "The symbol "

I really don't think I was unfair to Espoma, I just looked at the numbers for the 2 products in question (Espoma Garden Tone and M-G) and presented the #'s here. I could have said that a 5 lb bag of Garden Tone has 236 times as much arsenic as an 8oz box of Miracle-Gro. I could have turned it into a joke and said that Espoma is in NJ and asked if anybody saw the last episode of the Sopranos... if you did you may know what I mean. lol.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 8:45AM
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greenstar(2)

While growing up we had wonderful tomatoes without ever reaching for products like Miracle Grow. We still have wonderful tomatoes using only organics. We never used to even think of them as organics but just as the garden waste.
Miracle Grow spends tens of millions in adverstising and like most industrial products has gained a niche in our gardening psyche. It's hooked consumers into becoming 'believers'.

As for Washington State 'standards' and so on. I'm a free enterprise advocate but am sure (wink) that the chemical companies didn't spend any time wining and dining the decision makers. I've even suspected 'plants' (excuse the pun) of the chemical industry in many gardening forums. One on the Iris forum started a thread with something like 'Miracle Grow sure beats anything else I've used on my Irises'. There are even Miracle Grow ads on GardenWeb. Miracle Grow is good for your vegetables and Camel cigarettes are refreshing and you just can't get your teeth clean enough if you don't use Crest.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 10:55AM
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kubotabx2200(Zone 5b NH)

To follow up on an earlier statement that Espoma must be "liars" for claiming that Garden Iron is free of arsenic and lead despite containing some traces ... I thought it only fair to give Espoma Company a chance to respond to that accusation. So I asked them the question on their Ask The Expert page, and got the following response which I think is a pretty reasonable and accurate answer to that question:

"Regulators at the national and state level set minimum levels by which a claim can be made that something is or is not present. These background levels are considered nil by accepted industry standards."

"New technology now allows labs to drill down to levels previously impossible. If you go deep enough you can find anything anywhere such as for example pesticide residue on certified organic foods."

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 5:06PM
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bella_trix(z6b SE PA)

coolbythecoast

I tried to email you privately, but didn't see an email link. I wasn't going to bump this thread up again, but it was just bumped up, so here's the ironite info:

http://www.ecy.wa.gov/pubs/0109087.pdf

on page 4. I've seen other numbers from EWG that are more around 900-1000 ppm, but they were from 1994 - 1996. If you search on "4000 ppm" and "ironite" you can pull up some other info including some goverment discussions. The original source did not have a date attached, but the other ones I've seen are around 2001-2002. I'm hoping that the lower Washington numbers are more current and that ironite now has lower levels. I might email them and/or ironite to find out.

Bellatrix

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 5:29PM
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trudi_d

"New technology now allows labs to drill down to levels previously impossible. If you go deep enough you can find anything anywhere such as for example pesticide residue on certified organic foods."

Standard CYOB answer.

If they had given you references to check their statement against it would have been interesting, but instead they blew you off with dribble.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 6:26PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

I've really been trying to behave here, matter of fact I just ordered two 5 pound bags of Kelp Meal (well, I had a free $25 coupon from Gardens alive) but kubota, how do you interpret their reply? It looks like they wiggled their way out of it to me. Would you interpret that as them saying there is no arsenic in their product, others are digging to deep, or that maybe their testing equipment (or policy) doesn't meet the same standards as certain govt places? Or something else?

For some reason, I get the feeling that if the shoe was on the other foot, and someone says M-G had 24x the arsenic as Espoma, (Garden Tone actually has 23.6x the arsenic as M-G) you would supply links or #'s to back it up. I doubt you'd say that the ppms are so low that it doesn't matter.

What do you think the Espoma Ask The Expert page reply would be if you asked "Why does Garden Tone have 23.6 times the amount of arsenic and 10 times the amount of mercury as Miracle-Gro 15-30-15 according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture?"

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 6:34PM
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kubotabx2200(Zone 5b NH)

Their answer as I understand it was the background levels that are same as naturally occurring soil levels are considered nil according to standard industry practices, and being at the same level as naturally occurring arsenic soil levels that seems like a reasonable answer to me. Pretty much the same answer that I gave you earlier.

When I originally asked them about the nutrient levels in the product, without any prompting on my part they pointed me to that same Washington dept of agriculture site to get the numbers. So they must seem very comfortable quoting from Washington state's lab results. Then I followed up with another question why do they advertise as arsenic free, if the value is non zero? And they answered that too. You may or may not like their answer but that is quite different from them being liars.

In this case it turns out 23 times some insignificantly small number equals some other insignificantly small number. It falls into the so what category as far as I am concerned. Like I said before, a tempest in a teapot. I have no axe to grind one way or the other about either of these companies though, so I encourage you to ask them yourself if you still have further questions or concerns.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 7:44PM
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lightt(6/7 Northern VA)

Hey Mark & Tractor Guy,
This past February, when I was out shopping for seed starting mix I noticed this product. It looked fairly innocuous to me so I purchased it.
Can you guys please comment on it?
Thanks,
Terry Light
p.s. What in the world is "Animal Tankage"?

Oak Hill, Virginia

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 10:13AM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

TOTAL METALS IN PRODUCT

Tomato Tone M-G 15-30-15 M-G for Tomatoes
Arsenic 8 0.38 0.39
Cadmium 2 1 Cobalt 6 5 Mercury 0.20 0.02 0.02
Molybdenum 9 6.8 5.3
Nickel 29 2.5 Lead 21 5 Selenium 1 0.25 Zinc 841 742 676
Waste-Derived? Y (yes) N N

The symbol "" indicates the minimum detection limit. The metal was not found at or above the minimum detection limit.

Terry, et al, remember, I'm just posting the numbers, don't shoot the reporter!

OG position: It has a good proportion and balance of NPK for tomatoes, and most if not all nutrients needed to grow tomatoes. It's made of both organic as well as inorganic components.

"So-called" anti-organic position, (in jest): It has enough lead to paint a 1950's house and enough nickel to chrome the bumpers on a 1962 Cadillac! Isn't ANIMAL TANKAGE the tank that they throw all the heads from Mad Cows?

Just kidding, everybody!

On a more serious note, Anthony in Toronto took offense to a post that arsenic doesn't "add up." The amount of arsenic needed to qualify a site as "Contaminated" in WA is 20ppm. While it's true that ppm can be considered a percentage, if the arsenic level is higher than the amount of arsenic already present (I believe WA State varies from 3.7 to 7) then it definitely DOES INCREASE the amount of arsenic in the soil. If the amount of arsenic in a fertilizer is LESS than already in the soil, it's considered to decrease the end amount as a percentage... however, you're still adding more arsenic.

ANIMAL TANKAGE: Here's a snippet I found on animal tankage:

"Nitrates, phosphates, bacteria, antibiotic and other drug and feed additive residues, such as copper, arsenic and selenium in farm animal excrement, overload and pollute the environment and food chain. A recent government report indicates livestock produce 130 times more waste than the entire human population in the US.
A related problem is dealing with the enormous volume of another form of animal waste that the meat industry refers to as animal tankage. The dried and processed residue of 44 billion pounds annually in the US of animal tankage from rendering plants contains the remains of dead, dying diseased and debilitated livestock and poultry, condemned and unusable body parts and even the remains of road-kills and cats and dogs from animal shelters. Slow, low-heat rendering neither sanitizes nor rids animal tankage of potentially harmful organisms, heavy metals and other hazardous residues. Farm animals, companion animals and consumers are all put at risk since this by-product of animal agriculture is added to pet foods, livestock and poultry feeds (which may also include animal manure) and is even sold as fertilizer for farm, home and kitchen gardens. Studies have linked bacterial food poisoning in humans with this industry practice of including animal tankage by-products and poultry manure in farm animals' food. The tragedy of 'mad cow disease' in the UK is principally a product of an increasingly dysfunctional food industry. Obviously if consumers responded wisely by reducing their consumption of meat and other animal produce, the magnitude of these problems would be significantly reduced with great economic savings."

Hope this helps. I'm sure this thread should easily hit 100 posts...

Mark

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 11:37AM
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kubotabx2200(Zone 5b NH)

Animal Tankage - Rendered, dried, and ground byproducts of the slaughter of animals (largely meat and bone). Some is used as fertilizer but most is used in animal feeds.

Here is a link that might be useful: CHARACTERISTICS AND USE OF NATURAL ORGANICS AS FERTILIZERS

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 12:02PM
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brooklynbatman

Really interesting post here. My belief is that miracle grow is fine. My family has been using it for years here in PA on tomato and pepper plants with very good results. My late father (he died from diabetes complications, not Miracle grow poisoning) used to augment with a tablespoon of Epsom salt diluted in a large watering can. He would pour this right over the foliage every 2 weeks and would only use miracle grow 2 or 3 times per summer (about once a month) Our tomatoes would never get the brown spots as the Epsom salt adds calcium to the plant. None of us have ever been sick from eating the fruits of a Miracle Grow fertilized garden. I'm certainly no chemist here and don't claim that my fertilizing method is proper for everyone, just wanted to share my experience with miracle grow being a very effective product for me.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 10:47AM
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Bugdoc13

As a Biologist, I do not understand the need of Organic Gardeners to use ONLY Organic fertilizer. While it makes sense to use organic compost, plants can use ONLY inorganic materials for nutrients. Any organic material must be broken down to inorganic materials before the plants can use it. The refusal of many to use inorganic fertilizer in the first place does not make any sense.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 8:35AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I agree with Bugdoc,

To me the "Organic Issue" is mor of an environmental issue than botany and biology, food and heath. Here I am only referring to fertilizers, not hormones fed into chicken , cows amd pigs.

The environmental side issue of inorganic ferti;lizedrs is claimed to be that they leach and get into streams and ground water. I am not in position to make an assessment of this but I thing the biggest hazard come from the chemical industry than my tiny garden spot, using less than one pound of , say ,phosphorous a year. How much of it is going to get int the ground water ?

I am not knocking the environmentalist. they are entitled to their lif style just like religious belief. But I think that use of inorganic fertilizers in agriculture, has made a big contribution to feeding the hungry in the world. And as far as the cabbage is concerned, it does not matter where that nitrogen atom (or its compound) comes from.

But I am concerned with the chemicals that are used as sprays on fruits and vegetables, to some extent. This is the area that I like to be organicd.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 2:58PM
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