Miracle-Gro is best known as a water-soluble all-purpose plant food intended for trees, shrubs, houseplants, and vegetables. But this isn’t the only Miracle-Gro product. The company also manufactures a water-soluble bloom booster for flowers, a potting mix, and all-purpose garden soil, and they recently launched an organic range.
The manufacturer states that it’s Miracle-Gro Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food is completely safe to use on all vegetables. They guarantee that it will start working instantly and won’t burn the plants, provided you use it “as directed.” For best results, you should feed your veggies every seven to 14 days while the plants are actively growing.
Is it safe to use Miracle-Gro on vegetables?
Why wouldn’t it be safe to use Miracle-Gro to grow vegetables? After all, this is what it’s formulated for.
For starters, this miracle grow solution is not organic, rather, it’s a synthetic fertilizer. But not everyone insists on organic products, so does this matter?
In any case, the fact that it is synthetic doesn’t necessarily affect the safety factor. The manufacturer insists it is 100% safe.
Another question mark is that horticulturists (as opposed to manufacturers of plant food) generally recommend fertilizers used to grow vegetables containing nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) in the ratio 5-10-5 or 5-10-10. This means that for every 100 lbs of 5-10-5 fertilizer there will be 5 lbs of N and K and 10 lbs of P.
As the experts at the Colorado State University Extension point out, too much nitrogen has a negative effect on some fruit and vegetable crops including tomatoes, roots crops, and squash. Yet the percentage of these three vital nutrients in Miracle-Gro’s water-soluble plant food is 24-8-16.
But maybe that’s okay since the experts also say that it’s a good idea to add nitrogen fertilizer to garden soil (including your vegetable garden). But this, they emphasize, should only be “occasionally during the growing season.”
When there’s a bigger percentage of nitrogen in ready-mixed plant food, you’re stuck with it whenever you feed your veggies. At the same time, people who use Miracle-Gro say it works great – all you have to do is read the reviews!
Again, while having too much nitrogen in the soil might have a negative effect, this doesn’t mean it isn’t safe.
Of course, Miracle-Gro doesn’t only contain N (including urea), P, and K. According to the label, the soluble plant food also contains 0.02% boron (B), 0.07% copper (Cu), 0.15% iron (Fe), 0.05% manganese (Mn), 0.0005% molybdenum (Mo), and 0.06% zinc (Zn). These are all chemical elements that are considered essential for plant growth.
A big difference is that organic fertilizers aren’t derived from synthetic or inorganic material the way chemical fertilizers are. And, remember, Miracle-Gro is a synthetic plant food that is made from man-made inorganic compounds.
One of the toxic ingredients is urea, which can cause nausea and vomiting if swallowed. That doesn’t mean it isn’t safe to use on vegetables. After all, the manufacturers say its use results in completely safe vegetables.
Who makes Miracle-Gro plant food?
So who makes Miracle-Gro? Miracle-Gro along with the Company’s Scotts, Ortho, and Roundup brands are manufactured by The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, a partner of the Monsanto Company for many years.
Both Roundup and Monsanto are highly controversial topics. Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, is well known for producing genetically modified seeds and chemicals, and Roundup is accused of being carcinogenic.
In 2015, Scotts paid Monsanto $300 million for the Roundup brand license. That same year, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research Cancer said glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, was probably carcinogenic.
Even though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reaffirms that glyphosate isn’t carcinogenic, the argument has continued in and out of U.S. law courts. In 2020, Bayer agreed to pay close to $11 billion to settle about 100,000 lawsuits without admitting liability, and Monsanto continues to insist that Roundup doesn’t cause cancer.
While the debate doesn’t directly affect Miracle-Gro plant food or Miracle-Gro potting soil, there are numerous claims that the synthetic fertilizer in these Miracle-Gro products is toxic to garden soil and plants. It’s your choice.
Pros and Cons of Miracle-Gro on Vegetables
The greatest selling point, which is a big pro, of using Miracle-Gro to grow vegetables is that it boosts growth. The biggest con is the fact that it is a synthetic product, which is something that anyone who favors organic gardening will recognize.
So, it’s not surprising that Miracle-Gro has rethought its marketing strategy. They now produce organic products including Miracle-Gro Performance Organics All Purpose In-Ground Soil that contains aged compost and natural ingredients.
It states that the product is formulated from compost and several forest products like sphagnum peat moss, rice hulls, or coir.
According to the label, the fertilizer in the soil contains a fair amount of nitrogen (0.13%) as well as phosphate (0.02%) and soluble potash (0.02%). It is also derived from a feather meal as well as soybean meal, bone meal, and sulfate of potash.
Amazingly, in a blog post, they state that the saying “organic means settling for less” is a garden myth. They now even produce organic all-purpose plant nutrition granules.
The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company seems to be going all out to negate the cons of using Miracle-Gro on vegetables. The question is, will their all-organic products do the trick?
How to properly use Miracle-Gro on vegetables
The only way to use Miracle-Gro in your vegetable garden for so-called miracle-grow vegetables is to follow the instructions in the last letter. Since it is water soluble, it mixes easily with water.
You can either mix it and sprinkle plants using a watering can or use the Miracle-Gro garden feeder. The product is supplied with a scoop that has two ends.
The small end measures ½ teaspoon while the larger end measures 1½ tablespoons. Be sure to use this scoop to measure what you need.
How to use Miracle-Gro with a watering can
For all outdoor plants, including safe vegetables, mix 1½ tablespoons with 1½ gallons of water. Stir to mix well and transfer to a watering can.
Soak the soil at the base of plants every 7-14 days. One pack (5 lb) of plant food is enough for about 2,000 square feet of any vegetable garden area.
How to use Miracle-Gro with a garden feeder
The garden feeder, which has three spray patterns, shower, jet, and stream, is a Miracle-Gro product that simplifies watering in large outdoor areas. Fill the feeder jar to the top of the label and add 1 lb of water-soluble plant food.
You can also use the feeder with a hose. It should take about 12 minutes to cover 500 square feet of the garden using 50 gallons of the plant food solution. There are more detailed instructions on the garden feeder label.
Risks of using Miracle-Gro on vegetables
The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, which manufactures Miracle-Gro, warns that the product should only be used as directed. They don’t state how overdosing might affect your vegetables, but there’s a good chance too much Miracle-Gro will kill them.
The only other obvious warning is that it should be kept out of the reach of children. This is a normal warning for any fertilizer or similar product, especially for small children who might think it is edible.
There is, though, a clause under disposal methods on their website that is a little alarming. While empty packaging can be recycled or disposed of with your trash, they say you shouldn’t throw any “unused product” out.
Their recommendation is to use all the products or give what’s left over to a neighbor or friend. “Otherwise, we recommend contacting your local refuse company to inquire about a Household Hazardous waste pick-up.”
They don’t specify why or what constitutes a hazard so it’s difficult to pinpoint the risks. We do know that the Occupational Safety and Health Association’s (OSHA’s) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) doesn’t consider it hazardous.
However, their Safety Data Sheet contains valuable information about the handling of the product. It also describes first aid measures to take if it comes into contact with eyes or skin, is inhaled, or if is ingested. So, it’s certainly not harmless.
When can you put Miracle-Gro on vegetables?
The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company recommends feeding vegetables every 7-14 days at any time during the growing season. Never feed more frequently than every 7 days, and if the plants are slow growing, you can feed them less often, even once a month.
They recommend using their plant food with the garden feeder 30 days after planting in Miracle-Gro soil. If you are using existing garden soil, they suggest feeding when you plant to help plants become established. Thereafter, feed every two weeks.
There isn’t a simple answer to the question, Can you use Miracle-Gro on vegetables? The manufacturer says this is what it’s intended for, but many consumers are opposed to it for a number of reasons.
Ultimately, you need to weigh up your needs and beliefs and decide whether it’s safe for you and your family.