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Dear Pennington,

Pennington

Thanks so much for having your publicist suggest that we partner with you to help promote Pennington Smart 1 Feed. He was smart enough to notice that our blog has "gone mostly grassless" and we probably wouldn't be the likeliest people to trumpet your lawn seed.  So he probably figured that trying to manage all of the pesky viburnums and tulips and tomatoes we plant instead of grass, we'd be a natural for your specialized fertilizer products.

And the fact that Pennington Smart 1 Feed plant fertilizer contains a slow-release formula that keeps working for up to eight months, giving plants what they need when they need it with no help from us is certainly appealing.

But I'm afraid we're too Smart for Smart Feed.  Because there is another organization already on the job, fertilizing our plants and giving them just what they need when they need it with no help from us. They're called the soil microbes.  They evolved to fertilize our plants, so we don't need to.  All we have to do is provide the raw materials for them.  A nice mulch will do the trick.  Once a year and we're done. Mulch is also a multi-faceted product that eliminates weeds and helps us water less.  I don't think your Smart fertilizers do that yet.

The problems with outsourcing the soil creatures' job to Pennington are myriad.

  1. The Haber-Bosch synthesis that allows you to manufacture artificial nitrogen from the air requires intense heat and wastes colossal amounts of energy.
  2. Plants often can't use these megadoses of nitrogen all in one go.  
  3. The excess nitrogen turns into nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas.
  4. The runoff from excess nitrogen is causing giant dead zones in our oceans.
  5. Artificial nitrogen sets up a vicious cycle that depletes to the soil's ability to store carbon and nitrogen.
  6. Edible plants raised on artificial nitrogen taste like complete crap.

It's hard to think of another product that is more useless yet wreaks more havoc, other than possibly credit default swaps.  Yes, yes, I am well aware of the argument that without synthetic nitrogen, nearly half of humanity would go hungry. Sorry, I don't buy it. 

Let me tell you how I think of my garden: It's an ecosystem. I don't shake anything out of a bag or jug--not even organic fertilizer--because I don't want to disrupt the life in the soil. Instead, I shrewdly use it to grow beautiful food with very little sweat on my end.




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