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I'm confused - Organic vs chemical fertilizers

Posts: 19
Location: Alberta, Canada - Zone 2b ( 3 if I'm lucky)
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I'm confused about the difference between organic and chemical fertilizers. I'm not at all confused about the affects of chemical fertilizers, just what constitutes an organic fertilizer.  I have this idea in my head that pretty much everything you buy in a bag or box is 'bad', and not part of a permaculture garden. My soil is total crap ( clay, clay, clay), so to amend I have been using chop & drop, my own compost, chicken manure (old) & worm casings. Is there a resource someone can point me to that breaks this down on a very basic level. My googling has either returned results that are beyond my knowledge level - or written by sources that I don't exactly trust. Thanks in advance!
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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Hi Callandra!  I'm not an expert either but I think your idea to avoid things in bags feels like a good one.  I presume that the organic fertilizers are made from organically raised things.  Like blood meal, feather meal, chicken poop, cow poop and the like.  I would assume (there I go) that organic chicken poop fertilizer comes from chickens that are also making organic chicken eggs so they're fed organic stuff.
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Hi Callandra.

Sounds like you have it surrounded, for the most part.

First, I will direct you to this wiki of threads by our own Dr. Redhawk, concerning soil biology.

Second, because you are dealing with clay, I would get my hands on a bunch of gypsum grit. Permeability issues in clay are often linked to too homogenous a mix, which leaves clay to bind to the only thing there, itself. The solution to this is often the addition of organic material and the correction of any calcium deficiency, hence the gypsum, which increases calcium without affecting the pH.

The last thing I will mention is the making and using of compost extracts and fungal slurries. Adding soil life to the ingredients will speed up decompostion and soil-building. The passive way to impart soil life without the brewing of oxygenated compost extracts is to make small compost piles regularly spaced, under mulch in your garden itself. It would be a cold compost, but it would feed the soil and cause an explosion in the microbiological populations.

I would still apply fungal slurries, though. Just gather local ones, or use mushroom scraps from the grocery store, and blend them up with water in a blender, then apply to the soil.

But keep us posted, and good luck.

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Location: West Tennessee
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Chemcial fertilizers are man made using chemistry. Sometimes it can begin as an ore mined from the Earth, then using strong acids, dissolve and separate the minerals and elements from one another, and with a little more chemistry, extract the desired minerals, and finally mix with "other" or "inert" ingredients, and presto, chemical fertilizers like triple super phosphate 0-45-0 are made. The number 45 means 45 out of 100 pounds of product is phosphate. Chemical fertilizers are harsh, and on the mild side of things completely disrupt the soil food web and throw out of balance the soil microbiota, and on the extreme side kill the fungal and microbial soil life.

Organic fertilizers are made from things such as bat guano, seaweed, fish bones or entire fish, chicken manure, decomposed leaves, composted plant matter, etc. Even that ore used to make the triple super phosphate mentioned above, ground up into rock dust can be an "organic" fertilizer. I use organic in quotes as some folks think or require certification of a product by the USDA is necessary to call something organic. Organic fertilizers are usually mild, and can sometimes feed and nurture the soil food web.
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