Ways & How

How to Choose Fertilizer by Its Number

How to Choose Fertilizer by Its Number

For people who are new to gardening, the numbers on fertilizer bags might not mean a thing. But if you’re really serious about gardening, you should start paying attention to these labels to know which type of fertilizer will most suit your gardening needs. Before learning how to choose fertilizer by its number, you first need to know what these numbers and letters mean. Here is a guide on what they stand for and how you can choose the fertilizer that’s right for you:

  1. Know the types of fertilizers. Before you can choose what type of fertilizer you need, you first need to know the different types of fertilizers. There are generally two types—organic and synthetic fertilizers. Organic fertilizers are those made from animal manure, plants, and minerals. Since they are organic, they provide a slow but steady nutrition for plants; plus, they fight diseases and improve overall soil structure. On the other hand, synthetic or chemical fertilizers come in liquid, pellet, powder, or granular form. Although they don’t add any organic matter to improve the soil, they are more concentrated and faster-acting when compared to organic fertilizers.



  2. Know your plants’ nutritional needs. There are three main nutrients that are included in fertilizers, regardless of type. These are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). You will notice that each commercial fertilizer package contains a series of numbers, and these are called the NPK numbers. For instance, a fertilizer labeled 4-12-0 means it contains 4% nitrogen, 12% phosphorus, and no potassium.

  3. Choose high nitrogen content for fertilizing lawn. In cases where you want to your lawn to grow dark green grass in a quick manner, you usually only need a fertilizer high in nitrogen content. In this case, you may choose a fertilizer labeled 35-0-0 compared to another labeled 24-4-4. You don’t need phosphorus and potassium as much for this. Nitrogen is necessary for foliage growth and the production of lush, green leaves. Nitrogen deficiency will result in a yellow-green color of the leaves, as well as a lack of growth in the foliage.

  4. Choose high phosphorus content to promote plant growth. If you want your plants to produce flowers and fruits, you should choose a fertilizer with a high middle number, since phosphorus is the most essential nutrient for this purpose. Phosphorus is important for root growth and maturity. Without phosphorus, plants would not develop flowers and fruits, and it would have stunted growth. The leaves will also look purplish and sick.

  5. Choose high potassium content to toughen up your plant. If you are anticipating extreme weather conditions, like winter and drought, then you should provide high potassium fertilizer to your plants to help them withstand the unfavorable conditions. Potassium acts like an immune system for plants as it helps in fighting diseases and enables plants to tolerate harsh weather conditions. It also strengthens the cell wall and assists in the manufacture of food. A lack of potassium can result in slow growth and weak stems.

Knowing how to choose fertilizer by its number lets you properly respond to the needs of your plants. Keep in mind that you don’t need an equal amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in every fertilizer bag, since the type of fertilizer you give your plants should be tailored according to their needs. You might also notice that the labels also contain smaller amounts of other minor nutrients, such as magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, and sulfur, which all encourage plant growth in different ways. Just keep in mind that you need to follow the directions in your fertilizer package in order to properly apply these fertilizers to your plants and grow the healthiest, most beautiful plants possible.

Wesley A Richter Sep 12, 2014

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