Tag Archives: fertilizer

Compost better than fertlizer

An article on the Environmental News Network says that using compost in the garden is better that fertilizer.  Adding good quality compost improves soil fertility, soil structure and provides nutrients in a way that enhances the soil.

A good quality compost can improve the soil far more than other amendments by making it more porous, and balancing the nutrients so that plants can thrive over a longer time. In clay soils … adding compost can break up clay so that water can penetrate into the earth, while losing less moisture from run-off.

A healthy soil also allows beneficial insects, earthworms and other creatures to crawl around and work the soil, which opens it up and allows more air to flow through. In turn, this aeration allows the soil to hold more water. This means that people don’t need to water their lawns and gardens as often.

Good compost is the best soil amendment but some compost is better than others. Producing quality compost is down to how it is made. Just throwing your waste material on an open heap will produce compost eventually but it will be of doubtful and variable quality. Being more systematic by waiting until you have enough materials to fill your bin in one go, having the correct mix of green (N) and brown (C) materials and the correct amount of moisture, will ensure that the compost works quickly and heats up. See the Composting pages in the Resources section above.

Every gardener should make compost from garden waste. There really is excuse for the huge bonfires that are a regular feature of most allotments. So do NOT burn fallen leaves use them to make leaf mould, see this page, which is low in nutrients but a very good soil conditioner.

And do not forget to compost your kitchen waste, be proud to have a ‘slop bucket’!

Nitrates linked to serious common diseases

New research has found a link between environmental nitrates and some serious, common diseases:

A new study by researchers at Rhode Island Hospital have found a substantial link between increased levels of nitrates in our environment and food with increased deaths from diseases, including Alzheimer’s diabetes mellitus and Parkinson’s.
(Read more)

Nitrates in food have long been thought to be carcinogenic and an article on this site discusses how the over, or wrongly timed, application of nitrogenous fertilizers could be harmful. (See page here)

Foods high in nitrites are fried bacon, cured meats and cheese products and sadly beer. Consuming too many of these products has also been cited as a source of disease:

A Columbia University team found people who ate cured meats at least 14 times a month were more likely to have COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
(Read more)

And yet more research links the consumption of processed meat to bowl cancer:

A dramatic fall in the consumption of processed meat such as bacon and ham would stop around 3,700 people a year from developing bowel, scientists warn today.
(Read more)

Concerns about excess nitrates/nitrites in food are not new. For many years water companies have been arguing that action needed to be taken to avoid excessive run off from agricultural land which resulted in increased levels of nitrates in drinking water. The relatively new ‘nitrate vulnerable zones’ regulations limits how much nitrate can be applied to fields and bans applications during times when run off is more likely i.e. winter months.

Gardeners should also be aware of how they use fertilizer. Manure should be stacked and covered to prevent rain leaching out the highly soluble nitrogen. I stack manure for at least 6 month before applying. It is always completely covered. This not only helps to stabilise the nutrients it also produces a rich, composted humus which is better for the soil.

The common practice of spreading raw manure in autumn results in most of the nitrogen being washed away by winter rain. This is not only damaging for the environment but is a waste time and effort and a useful resource.

Fertilisers reducing diversity

Scientists have now found why the use of artificial fertilisers is resulting in a loss of plant diversity. Evidently the application of fertiliser allows faster growing plants to dominate an area which effectively chokes out slower growing species.

A researcher at the University of Zurich’s Institute of Environmental Sciences said that there needs to be tighter control of the way fertiliser is used if we are avoid a continuing loss of diversity.

Maybe this also explains why there is higher level of biodiversity on organic farms? Could this also be related to the problems bees are having i.e. loss of native flowering plants?

Read the full article here.