How to Understand Fertilizer Numbers

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Understanding what the numbers on a bag of fertilizer mean is an important part of selecting the correct fertilizer for a lawn. There are three major elements that make up a bag of fertilizer. These three numbers are written on the bag, along with other elements that benefit the plant's growth.

  • Look at a bag of fertilizer and find the three numbers placed on the front of the bag. These numbers stand for the amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potassium (Potash) in that order.

  • Read the first number. That is the percentage of nitrogen in the bag which gives plants the nutrients to grow quickly, produce more plant leaves, and create a darker color of green.

  • Note the second number. That is the percentage of phosphate in the bag which gives plants the nutrients to form stronger roots and to mature earlier which helps flowering plants to flower earlier and creates bigger flowers.

  • Read the third number. That is the percentage of potassium in the bag which gives plants the nutrients to strengthens to the plant's tissues increasing its resistance to disease and helping trees survive winter months.

  • Find the bag of fertilizer with the appropriate amounts of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium that is desired and apply the fertilizer evenly across the lawn according to the directions on the bag. Putting too much fertilizer on the lawn can kill the grass.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check with local plant or grass experts to find out the best fertilizer to use.
  • Fertilizer is poisonous to pets and humans so be careful when applying it to yards. Properly store fertilizer so spills can not contaminate water supplies or other environmental areas.

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