With the current drought situation in California, gardeners are looking for water-wise options. Practices that were previously ignored are now gaining momentum because they help maintain beautiful gardens without using a lot of water.
Organic fertilizer, for example, has long been promoted for its role in creating healthier soils in home gardens, but people are now realizing its water saving attributes. Although not exhaustive, here is a list of ways organic fertilizers help plants use less water:
1. Low-soluble-nutrient fertilizers require less water.
Some nutrients have to be in salt form to be soluble and available for plant absorption. Salt tends to attract water and when water is not available, it will extract water from the plant. This is the reason plants burn after synthetic fertilizer application.
- Organic fertilizers generally come with a lower percentage of salt than their synthetic counterparts. Therefore less water is required to dilute the fertilizer.
2. Organic matter improves water capacity of soil.
Compost, animal manures, blood meal, etc. are components of organic fertilizers. These components increase earthworm and microorganism activity in the soil – both of which improve soil organic matter content and structure.
- Better soil structure also means better infiltration and water-holding capacity. Under such soil conditions, less water is lost through run-off and percolation.
3. Slow-release of nutrients regulates plant growth.
All nutrients have to be in their inorganic form for the plants to absorb them. In the case of organic fertilizers, the nutrients are loosely bound and have to be broken down first before they become available to the plants - hence, the term “slow-release”. Nutrients from synthetic (inorganic) fertilizers are all readily available and soluble which is convenient in the short term but can become problematic.
- Once nutrients are in the soil and watered, the plants can simply absorb them. When all conditions are favorable, plants that are fed with synthetic fertilizer (especially nitrogen-rich fertilizer) can grow at a very fast rate, almost too fast. If you use the example of trees this easily can result in an over-lapping canopy cover.
- This situation then becomes a competion between trees for for essential water and food. Considering that growing plants are constantly transpiring – losing water through the leaves, synthetic fertilizer application indirectly demands excessive water. Plants fed with organic fertilizer grow at a regulated rate and thrive on less water.
4. Mycorrhiza extends root length.
Some commercial organic fertilizers contain mycorrhizal inoculant including EB Stone Sure Start. Mycorrhiza is a beneficial fungus that grows symbiotically on plant roots and forms hyphae that extend way beyond the reach of the unaided roots.
- Such hyphae technically increase the surface area of plant roots which in turn improves the water and nutrient uptake.
- With successful mycorrhizal growth, plants become more tolerant to water stress. Plants can withstand drought better with mycorrhiza.
Lawn Tip: If you are looking for a slow release organic lawn fertilizer look no further than EB Stone Nature's Green Lawn Food.