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What is Chemical Fertilizer?

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A chemical fertilizer is a substance applied to soils or directly onto plants to provide nutrients optimal for their growth and development. The essential nutrients contained in these fertilizers are nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (NPK), as well as other nutritional substances in smaller amounts—all presented in a form that can easily be absorbed and metabolized by plants. Chemical fertilizers have become a staple in many yards and gardens, and can be a key component of a healthy lawn care routine. Read on for some basic information on chemical fertilizer and how you can use it most effectively in your yard.

Chemical Fertilizer vs. Organic Fertilizer

What makes a fertilizer “chemical” by definition is that it’s composed of raw chemicals that have been manufactured at a factory into liquid or solid forms that specifically target plants' nutritional needs. A chemical fertilizer is essentially designed to mimic naturally occurring nutrients. Conversely, organic fertilizers are derived from natural materials that have undergone minimal processing and are generally applied in their original form. Despite their different origins, both chemical and organic fertilizers work similarly, providing specific formulations of NPK in order to treat nutrient-deficient soils and plants.

Chemical Fertilizer: Pros and Cons

There is much debate of late concerning the benefits and disadvantages of using chemical fertilizer in the garden or yard. One of the biggest advantages of synthetic fertilizer is that it will provide immediate nourishment, particularly when compared with its organic counterparts, which release nutrients much more slowly. This makes it the most effective solution for plants that are struggling and in need of immediate help. And because they’ve been specifically formulated, you have access to the specific nutritional content of these types of fertilizers, allowing you to better gauge what you are feeding your plants.

On the downside, many experts question the effectiveness of using chemical fertilizer on a long-term basis. For one thing, many of these types of fertilizers are highly acidic, which in turn often increases the acidity of the soil, thereby reducing beneficial organisms and stunting plant growth. By upsetting this natural ecosystem, long-term use of synthetic fertilizer can eventually lead to a chemical imbalance in the recipient plants. Chemical fertilizer must also be applied in moderation, as too much can easily “burn” the plants and sometimes even kill them. From a green standpoint, they contribute to groundwater pollution when they accompany natural runoff from your yard or garden, and the process of manufacturing them releases greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the environment as well.

When used properly and in moderation, chemical fertilizer can be an effective tool in achieving optimal results in your yard. Just be sure to properly follow product instructions, and when in doubt, contact a garden professional so you know you’re using it in the most effective way possible.

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