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Fertilizer labeling can be tricky to understand, especially when a trip to most lawn and garden centers will have you encountering a variety of somewhat ambiguous terms: organic, inorganic, non-organic, chemical, synthetic, artificial, natural, or manufactured, just to name a few. Despite the extensive and confusing vocabulary list, fertilizers can generally be classified by two distinct terms: organic or non-organic.

Non-organic fertilizers, usually called chemical fertilizers, are made from petroleum products, rocks, and even some organic sources. But while organic and non-organic fertilizers often are derived from the same natural sources, chemical fertilizers are different in that the chemicals are refined to their pure states in order to better extract nutrients.


  • Easily available and inexpensive.
  • Fast acting; plants show visible improvement in a matter of days.
  • Labeling is standardized so exact nutrient ratios are known.


  • Considered bad for the environment as they are made from non-renewable resources.
  • Application is immediate so there is danger of over-fertilization to plants.
  • Repeated applications and long-term use can result in toxic chemical build-up, making any fruits and vegetables grown potentially unsafe to be eaten and upsetting the local eco-system of your lawn.

Organic fertilizers, sometimes referred to as natural fertilizers, are made from plant or animal waste (compost, manure) or ground-up minerals (bone meal). Like chemical fertilizers, organic fertilizers are often produced in factories, and it’s important to note that the term “organic,” when used in reference to fertilizers, does not hold products to the same standards as when used in reference to food. In terms of fertilizers, “organic” simply means that a product is minimally processed rather than being refined.


  • Renewable, biodegradable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly.
  • Application is gradual so there is virtually no risk of over-fertilization.
  • No toxic build-up from long-term use or risk of damage to the surrounding eco-system; organic fertilizers actually improve the quality and structure of the soil around them.


  • Can be much more expensive and less readily available than chemical fertilizers.
  • The positive effects of organic fertilizers can take months to make themselves known, often after an initial period of decline.
  • Nutrient ratios are unknown, and may in fact be lower or higher than in their chemical counterparts, so their effectiveness is sometimes only known through trial and error.

Everyone wants a beautiful and vibrant garden, so choosing the right fertilizer for yours is ultimately a decision about how environmentally conscious you desire to be. Regardless of your decision, Shell Lumber & Hardware in Miami has a large selection of both organic and chemical fertilizers to suit any gardening needs or goals. To find out more about our selection of organic and non-organic gardening products, call us at (305) 856-6401 or visit our Lawn & Garden Center in person today.


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