Ask a Question forum: Request for suitability on alternating between Inorganic and Organic fertilizer

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Name: addverma
Bangalore, India (Zone 13b)
addverma
Sep 22, 2016 8:50 PM CST
Hi,
I have a few container/potted plants at my place. Till recently I was giving them Inorganic Fertilizers only. Then it was suggested that I go for Organic fertilizer as it maintains the soil health. So my question is that can I alternate between giving Inorganic and Organic Fertilizers? I do not plan to use liquid organic fertilizer. And if I can alternate then what should be frequency of doing so. The aim that I wish to achieve are
1) Healthy soil
2) Good to very good plant growth with Bushy growth.

My plants are a mix of subshrub, decorative plants and in the very near future I plan to have fruits like tomatoes and a few herbs like Coriander and curry leaves too.

Any advice would be appreciated.
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Have a nice day
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Mid-Atlantic Composter Region: Maryland Birds
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sallyg
Sep 23, 2016 6:45 AM CST
There may be many opinions on this issue, and preferences on both sides.

On a chemical level, they both do the same thing. Organic fertilizer has to decompose to the level where the plant can absorb the same compounds.

Inorganic fertilizer is usually more concentrated and made of salts, which burn the roots more easily and can accumulate in the container soil (unless there is a plenty of water washing through). You'll probably use more organic fertilizer to get the same 'strength"

I don't think there is any particular benefit to alternating between them, except maybe to try and make sure you supply at least some of everything the plant needs.
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Sep 23, 2016 8:44 AM CST
I would just keep on using the inorganic fertilizer, and supplement your soil with some organic amendments. It's going to get complicated to alternate one then the other, I think. You could do more harm than good if you over-fertilize, both to the soil and to the plants.

As long as you flush the salts out of your pots occasionally, (a really thorough rinse with the hose, or a heavy rain does it) and don't exceed the recommended amounts of the inorganic fert, I think as Sally said it's pretty much all the same stuff once your plant gets to absorbing it. Don't forget that in winter your plants will slow down or even go dormant so you need to adjust - i.e. reduce - the amount of fertilizer they get to account for this. If a plant's not growing it doesn't need fert.

You can get bagged compost which is great, and I've been using alfalfa pellets (horse food) to revive tired soil in all my pots of plants and Earth Boxes lately. It is a wonderful amendment as far as building the micro-organisms in the soil. A small handful in a gallon size pot, up to a few cups mixed into the soil in a big pot. Spring and fall are good times to amend the soil (before and after the major growing season). If you use alfalfa pellets you may get a little bit of a smell for a few days after they are added (horse-y stable smell) so best to do it beforehand if you are going to bring your plants indoors. The pellets are clean but not sterile. Anything "sterile" that you add isn't going to help with soil health.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Sep 23, 2016 10:41 AM CST
I agree that it is a personal choice whether to use organic or inorganic fertilizer. Since your plants are in containers it will be important for you to monitor the quality of the soil in the pots and be cautious not to let salts build up. If you have a place to create a compost bin or pile it would be to your advantage as you can use the finished compost to top dress the soil in the pots.

Your winter season is very mild in Bangalore, India. Thumbs up

I found a planting schedule that gives information for your area. Looks like January is a good time to plant tomatoes where you are. http://geekgardener.in/sowing-chart/

Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: addverma
Bangalore, India (Zone 13b)
addverma
Oct 3, 2016 7:40 PM CST
Thank you Sallg, dyzzypyxxy and greene. Your answers were most helpful. I will try to make sure that I get a non sterile organic mix to my plants. Actually my aim was as Sallg pointed out to give both the elements of inorganic and organic fertiliser to my container potted plants.

One follow up question how do I monitor the health of my container soil?
-
Have a nice day
-----------------------
Have a nice day
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Mid-Atlantic Composter Region: Maryland Birds
Cat Lover Dog Lover Region: United States of America
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sallyg
Oct 3, 2016 7:45 PM CST
If your plants look happy, the soil is healthy (enough).= Moderate growth during spring and summer, slowing in fall, slow to no growth in winter, (not sure how your seasons compare to mine) with no yellowing of older leaves,. flowers in season,... anything else, you guys?
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Oct 3, 2016 8:50 PM CST
Healthy foliage is the best indicator of healthy soil, Sally said it well. Good color, lush growth, and sturdy stems are all good indicators that your soil has what it needs.

There are so many other factors, though, and foliage can change color for other reasons such as insect activity or fungal disease. So just be aware that plants in pots use up the goodies you put in there at a pretty high rate in hot weather, slower in cool. Be prepared to pot up, change soil, root prune and make other maintenance changes for your plants' health. Timing will vary depending on the plant.

If you are able to make some of your own compost, that is the Gold Standard of healthy soil for outdoor container plants. *there are articles and a forum about composting on the site here. Having a supply of your own compost on hand in a year or two when you need to refresh your pots will be the best thing you could do.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill

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