The first chemical revolution in agriculture started over 100 years ago, when soil fertilization was discovered; the second chemical revolution – the idea of foliar feeding as an effective and important tool in crop fertility – is going to be common only in our generation.

Leaf feeding or foliar fertilization with Grow More Fertilizers can increase yields of a healthy crop beyond the capabilities of conventional, soil applied fertilizers.

Used correctly Grow More Water Soluble Fertilizers can provide an attractive economic return on investment over and above that obtained from soil applied fertilizers.

– Foliar Spray Grade

– Made With Low Biuret Urea

– Drip-Irrigation

– No Sediment

– Multi Nitrogen Sources

Grow More – 100% water soluble fertilizer concentrate for foliar or soil applications.

Versatile – foliar sprays or infector systems

Grow More Fertilizers are formulated to supply sufficient amounts of extra nutrients for high yields. Grow More are supplements to be used in addition to normal soil applied fertilizers and do not compensate for the lack of good cultivation and mangagement practices. If used correctly and with experience, soil applied fertilizers can be cut back as much as 20% when: Grow More is used in a Foliar Fertilizer Program.

Grow More Fertilizers are designed to meet a need for a properly balanced, highly concentrated product that can be applied by aircraft or ground rigs, as well as used in dilute or concentrated sprinkler or injector systems. Grow More Fertilizers are versatile products that meet many requirements; consider the following:

– 100% soluble nutritional foliage spray that can be applied to fruit and otfter crops nearing maturity. leaving little or no visible residue at harvest.

– Safe and effective for tfte many different species and sizes of plants grown together in greenhouses and nurseries.

– Contain elements which provide tfte entire spectrum of nutrients needed for a wide variety of plants.

– Provides a source of immediately available plant nutrients. Particularly suitable for fast grpwing field. vegetable and nursery crops.

– 100% soluble and does not need agitation in tfte tank.

– Formulated to be compatible with most common pesticides and fungicides – especially suited for aircraft applications.

– Can be used as both a spreader and acidifer.

– Uniform in analysis every drop contains the same analysis.

– Contains chelating and sequestering agents to assure availability without precipitation of tfte maior and micronutrients.

– Contains no chlorides.

Color Tracer

Grow More Fertilizers contain a brilliant dye that is ultraviolet light and pH stable for alkaline or acid conditions.

Chelating and Trace Elements

All GROW MORE fertilizers contain a special multi-mix of chelated micronutrients. manufactured from NA4 EDT A. Our new formula has the broadest compatibility range of any micronutrient source. Since our exclusive formula is chemically stable, differences in pH water hardness. or mixing temperature have no effect on chelate activity, which means the essential major and micronutrients are kept soluble and mobil for the greatest efficiency. Our formula provides the optimum level of micronutrients to satisfy the demands of most growing situations.

Laboratory Testing

We maintain testing and research facilities and encourage growers to use our experienced personnel to solve your problems. Please write for information on our Complete Plant Tissue, Fertilizer, Water or Soil Analysis.








0.143 Fe2o3



0.062 Zn O



0.083 Mg O



0.060 Mn O



0.060 Cu O



0.001 Mo O3



0.021 B2O3




Solubility and Purity

High solubility and purity and the special forms of nitrogen. phosphorus and potassium make Grow More Fertilizers the ideal product. Safe and quick acting all our formulas are made with the highest purity technical grade plant foods available, the ingredients used and the quality of manufacturing are unduplicated in other fertilizers. Grow More contains no sulfates, chlorides, carbonates, excess soluble salts or other undesirable elements to damage plants. Each and every container of fertilizer is marked with a quality control number that insures that each batch has been continuously monitored for control of solubility, pH color, moisture. particle size, and content of chelated micronutrients. Grow More is formulated for maximum solubility, designed for injector systems and foliar spraying. Depending on the formula up to 6 1/2 Ibs. are soluble per gallon of water, this means no deposits in the tanks, lines or equipment.

General Purpose Formulas

Widely used in Agricultural and Horticultural application, special ingredients designed for immediate utilization by the plant, provide balanced N-P-K, multiple sources of nitrogen and fully chelated micronutrients


All purpose, balanced, high analysis formula for all field or greenhouse grown ornamental or agricultural corps.


This high Potash formula is recommended when there is a Phosphorus build-up or carry over. Also recommended for maturing and blooming. Strengthens plants for better keeping qualities.


High Nitrogen formula especially designed for foliar sprays. 84% of the Nitrogen is Low Biuret Urea for long lasting effects. May be combined with insecticides or fungicides.


Designed to correct low Potassium levels on all crops. Use during blooming or maturing when higher Potassium levels are required. Over 60% of the Nitrogen is in the Nitrate form. May be used as a dark or cold weather formula.


Designed as a completion or finisher formula to help develop firmer, better quality plants. For orchard crops, apply before fruiting and continue until harvest. Also used as dark weather formula.


High Phosphate in the plant usable form ideal for deficiency correction or as a young plant starter. No Chlorides. 100% Soluble. Recommended for use on vegetables.


Contains 60% Nitrate Nitrogen, 40% Ammoniacal Nitrogen. Fast acting in foliar sprays or liquids fertilizer injector systems. Designed for cool temperature climates when plants need extra vigor and growth. May also be used in soilless growing media.


Designed for plants growing in soilless growing media. Contains extra Magnesium, Iron and Molybdenum to supply sufficient nutrients for soilless mixes. Over 53% of the Nitrogen is in the Nitrate form.


For those special requirement low Nitrogen situations when high amounts of Phosphate and Potassium are needed to firm or size fruits or vegetables.


Formulated for transplanting celery, tomatoes, peppers or other crops requiring high Phosphorus levels during the early stages of crop growth.


Recommended for vegetables grown in cool climate conditions. Uptake of Phosphorus is fast and effective.


This special formula contains 30% more micronutrients than the other Grow More formulas.

*Over 171 different water soluble formulas and anal!Jsis available for specialized crops, landscaping, agriculture and golf courses. Consult distributor field men or call technical consultants at: Grow More Inc., 15600 New CenturyDrive, Gardena CA 90248 USA

High Phosphate/Potassium Formulas:

Special high analysis soluble Phosphate readily translocates to enhance Bud set/Fruiting; also an excellent young plant starter and root builder.

High quality chloride free Potassium (the key to quality yields with improved storageability), helps reduce stress, builds drought and disease resistance, use as a finisher for fruits and vegetables.



High Nitrate Formulas:

Designed for cool temperature climates, dark weather or spring time, when plants need extra vigor and growth.





*Denotes Urea Free Formula

Extra Sulfur and Magnesium Formulas:

Special soluble non-acidifying sulfur provides increase in chlorophyll formation and availability of potassium. High rainfall or excessive irrigation can cause sulfur deficiencies. Magnesium helps transport phosphate in the plant and is essential in chlorophyll.





Extra Calcium Formulas:

High analysis clear solution with no precipitate provides soluble calcium to stimulate roots, leaves and new cell developments.


N-P-K Plus Calcium and Magnesium:

General Advice

  • Westland Growmore is not recommended for use on ericaceous/lime-hating/acid-loving plants
  • To be used only where there is a recognised need. Do not exceed the appropriate application rate. Increasing the dosage may result in damage to your plants
  • Store in a dry, frost free place away from children, pets and foodstuff
  • Wash hands and exposed skin after use. Gloves are recommended when handling this product
  • Children and pets can continue to use treated areas immediately after application

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Can my children & pets go into the treated area?

A. Yes, children and pets can go back into the area straight after application

Q. Will my pets or wildlife be attracted to this product?

A. Growmore is a mineral fertiliser and doesn’t contain any organic elements so shouldn’t be attractive to animals.

Q. What should I do if I put on too much of the product?

A. Remove any visible granules and heavily water the area to dissolve and wash through excess product.

Q. Can I use this on my lawn?

A. This can be used all around the garden including lawns, but it is always better to use a fertiliser that has been specifically designed for lawn use such as Aftercut Ultra Green Plus or Safelawn

For any other questions or advice please contact our Technical Advice line on: 01480 443789 (Mon-Fri 9am- 5pm) or email [email protected]

grow more fertilizer ???

Hey az, I’d recommend going with a weaker dosage with every watering. Thanks, I’ve been using 1/2 tsp and things are much better. I can’t believe how much time I spent fighting what I thought was an acidic soil. But, I learned a lot. I never thought it was overfeeding because when I used GH I got immediate burnt leaf tips when I fed too strong. Since I wasn’t seeing that, I assumed I was feeding an appropriate amount. I didn’t realize other (less synthetic?) cause different problems. Makes me suspicious of assertions all nutrient NPK is the same.
I’m also taking this feeling of a “reset” to back away from high PK in flower. I’m mixing equal parts of Sea Grow Flower and All Purpose Veg to get NPK 10-21-21 (1-2.1-2.1 ratio). That’s between common recommendations of 1-3-2 and a PK ratio of 1-2 (sometimes recommended because it’s what Advanced Nutrients does.).
I’m going to try this before experimenting with higher PK (booster) strengths. Next test will be to try Sea Grow Flower & Bloom (1-6.5-6.5 ratio) in late flower. Then earlier in flower. I can also experiment with Hawaiian Bud and Bloom (1-10-3.4 ratio) to bump up the PK ratio toward 3-2.
So many people say boosters aren’t necessary. This seems like a good time to start fresh and see the difference myself. I don’t think I would have considered this if I hadn’t struggled with acidic soil (overfeeding) so long. Got me to thinking how just because it says “Flower Bloom” on the label doesn’t mean it’s the best ratio for flower. When I saw the 50/50 mix landed between two commonly advocated ratios, it was another lightbulb turning on in my head (along with the overfeeding lightbulb).
I’m finishing up an autoflower and four photosensitives that struggled with acidic soil (and my remedies) using 1-2.1-2.1. I’ll probably use a booster on them at the end. But, I have an autoflower seedling that I’ve started at 1-2.1-2.1. I’m looking forward to seeing how this one turns out.
Also water with pure ph’d water once a week. What is the purpose of water-only feeding. Someone (mick941?) said it helps the beneficial microbes in the soil rebound, consume residual nutes that could become detrimental salt buildup? But, I don’t understand feeding slightly less nutes all the time wouldn’t be the same thing?
For example, I water every 2 days. Once a week water only will be feed-feed-water. So, instead of feeding 1 tsp per week in that on-on-off fashion, why not feed 1/3 tsp every feeding? It’s the same amount of nutrients each week.
If the nutes are detrimental to beneficial bacteria, there’d be a third less harm to the soil all the time.
I’m just trying to understand why water-only is preferable. However, sometime I’d like to try a teaspoon once a week, or a tablespoon twice a month. I know some people who’d like to grow weed with the ease of a houseplant. I’m curious how Grow More Sea Grow would work with infrequent feedings. Seems overfeeding doesn’t hurt the plant. Stuff sits in the soil waiting to be used. I’m going to try it sometime soon.

Here’s a look at that burning question, N-P-K? What is it all about anyway?

It’s on nearly every package of everything plant related, compost, fertilizers, mulch and amendments, with numbers associated with each. Sometimes zeros and sometimes fractions of whole numbers. Sometimes they’re all the same but usually not.

The basic breakdown looks like this: The letters N-P-K represent 3 of the necessary nutrients plants need to live and grow, there are others that are essential but these are the big 3. Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). The numbers represent the amounts or quantity in percent or ratio that each of the nutrients can be found in a particular product.

Other important macronutrients you may find listed include Magnesium (Mg), Sulfur (S) and Calcium (Ca). Plus there is a whole group of micronutrients but let’s assume for now that a good dose of compost, mulch or leaf mold will supply what we need of these.


Nitrogen is part of chlorophyll. It’s what makes plants green and is a key component in photosynthesis. It’s vital for stem and leaf development, converting the sun’s energy into sugars and overall plant growth. You’ll know when your plants need a boost of nitrogen when leaves have an overall yellow appearance and growth is generally slow.

Organic sources of nitrogen include composted manure, fish emulsion and plant based amendments made from soy or alfalfa. Growing nitrogen fixing cover crops is an ideal solution to this often elusive nutrient (Nitrogen is abundant in air but tough to convert to a soluble form taken up by plants). I love to grow fava beans but there are a ton of plants to choose from and many that grow well in most climates. Clover, rye, vetch and legumes are all great choices. They not only help fix nitrogen in the soil but protect soil from erosion, suppress weeds and improve soil structure.

If I need an organic nitrogen amendment I usually use manure, manure tea for containers, fish emulsion (as long as it’s out of the dog’s reach), cover crops and an amendment like Biosol which is soy based and designed for slow release.


Phosphorus also has a hand in photosynthesis, helping create sugars and starches, and is vital for abundant and healthy flower and fruit development. You’ll know your plants need phosphorus when leaves look blue-ish, fruits lack development or taste acidic and your plant(s) have fewer blooms in general.

Applying a top dressing of compost or compost tea usually does the trick. It contains Phosphorus in a form readily available to plants. Worm castings and bone meal are other great sources of Phosphorus.


Potassium improves the overall health of plants, helping them grow stronger and boost resistance to diseases and pests. It’s also involved in moving sugars, nutrients and water through plants, stimulating growth and improving water efficiency.

If leaf tips are curling, veins of leaves are yellowing and leaves have brown or purple spots your plants probably are potassium deficient.

Compost made from kitchen scraps and wood ash are both high in available potassium. Kelp meal or liquid seaweed and greensand are also good sources. I usually start with compost, throw in some worm castings and call it good.

If you’re amending soil with compost, worm castings and well rotted manure on a biannual basis, depending on your growing seasons and crops of course, that’s a good start.

A Crash Course in Fertilizers: NPK Ratios, Synthetic vs. Organic, and More

Chiot’s Run Feed your lawn organic fertilizer.

Learn the basics of fertilizers, and you’ll help your garden grow as never before!

Sunset – September 3, 2004 | Updated January 15, 2020

Fertilizer sections at nurseries, garden centers, and supply stores dazzle the gardener. The shelves are piled with boxes and bottles, the floors covered with bags stacked high. Labels identify the package contents as “rose food” or “vegetable food,” “lawn fertilizer” or “general-purpose fertilizer.” In some stores, you’ll find bins filled with bone meal, blood meal, or hoof-and-horn meal ― all labeled “natural fertilizer.” Choosing the right products to keep your plants healthy can often be a bit confusing.

Understanding N-P-K

Regardless of its type, any fertilizer you buy will come with information about the nutrients it contains. Prominently featured will be the N-P-K ratio, the percentage the product contains by volume of nitrogen (chemical symbol N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A 16-16-16 fertilizer, for example, contains 16% nitrogen, 16% phosphorus, and 16% potassium. A 25-4-2 formulation contains 25% nitrogen, 4% phosphorus, and 2% potassium.

All fertilizers contain at least one of these components; if any is missing, the ratio will show a zero for that nutrient (a 12-0-0 fertilizer contains nitrogen but no phosphorus or potassium, for instance). Boxed, bagged, and bottled products display the N-P-K ratio on the label. For fertilizers sold in bulk from self-serve bins, the ratio is noted on the bin; for future reference, be sure to write the information on the bags you fill and bring home.

Complete and Incomplete Fertilizers

A fertilizer containing all three major nutrients is called a complete fertilizer; a product that supplies only one or two of them is an incomplete fertilizer. Using a complete fertilizer for every garden purpose seems sensible, but in fact it isn’t always the best choice. If the soil contains sufficient phosphorus and potassium and is deficient only in nitrogen (as is often the case), you can save money by using an incomplete fertilizer that provides nitrogen alone (ammonium sulfate, for example). In some instances, complete fertilizers can even harm a plant. Exotic, bright-blossomed proteas, for example, will not tolerate excess phosphorus: they “glut” themselves on it and then die.

The inexpensive soil test kits sold at garden centers can give you a rough idea of the nutrients available in various parts of your garden; for a more detailed evaluation, you may want to pay for a professional analysis. By revealing which nutrients may be lacking, such tests can help you choose an appropriate fertilizer.

General and Special-Purpose Fertilizers

The various products labeled “general-purpose fertilizers” contain either equal amounts of each major nutrient (N-P-K ratio 12-12-12, for example) or a slightly higher percentage of nitrogen than of phosphorus and potassium (such as a 12-8-6 product). Such fertilizers are intended to meet most plants’ general requirements throughout the growing season.

Special-purpose fertilizers, on the other hand, are formulated for specific needs. They’re aimed at the gardener who wants a particular combination of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for certain plants or garden situations. These fertilizers are of three general types.

One type, used during the period of active growth, contains largely nitrogen. Such products, with N-P-K ratios such as 16-6-4, are often used in spring, when you want to encourage lush growth or green up your lawn.

Another type is meant to stimulate root growth, stem vigor, and flower and fruit production. Fertilizers of this sort contain little nitrogen and higher levels of phosphorus and potassium; the N-P-K ratio may be 3-20-20, for example. These products are applied at different times and in different ways, depending on what you want to achieve. When you prepare a new planting area, for instance, you’ll work a dry granular fertilizer of this sort deeply into the soil, putting the phosphorus and potassium where roots can absorb them. The nutrients help strengthen the new plants’ developing stems and encourage the growth of a dense network of roots.

To promote flower production and increase the yields of fruit or vegetable crops, you apply the same sort of fertilizer to established plants after they’ve completed their first flush of growth. You can use either dry granules, scratching them lightly into the soil, or apply a liquid formula with a watering can or a hose-end applicator.

A third group of fertilizers is designed for use on specific plants. These feature the N-P-K ratios determined to elicit the best performance from the particular plant, as well as other elements proven valuable to that plant. Such fertilizers are named according to the plant they’re intended to nourish. Especially useful are formulas for citrus trees and acid-loving plants such as camellia and rhododendron.

Recently, other such plant-specific fertilizers have appeared on nursery shelves, each claiming to be the best choice for a certain plant or group of plants; you may see several sorts of “tomato food” or “flower fertilizer,” for example. The jury is still out on the benefit of many of these products, and you will often do just as well to use a general-purpose type. The main distinction is often the price: the “special” formulas are usually costlier than general-purpose kinds.

Synthetic and Organic Fertilizers

Some fertilizers are manufactured in the laboratory, while others are derived from natural sources. Each has certain advantages.

Synthetic fertilizers

These products are derived from the chemical sources listed on the product label. They’re faster acting than organic kinds and provide nutrients to plants quickly, making them a good choice for aiding plants in severe distress from nutrient deficiencies. Synthetic fertilizers are sold both as dry granules to be applied to the soil and as dry or liquid concentrates to be diluted in water before application. In dry form, they’re usually less expensive than their organic counterparts. In some of the dry granular types (those known as controlled-release fertilizers), the fertilizer granules are coated with a permeable substance; with each watering, a bit of fertilizer diffuses through the coating and into the soil. Depending on the particular product, the nutrient release may last anywhere from 3 to 8 months.

Some synthetic products are packaged for special purposes; you’ll find spikes and tabs for container plants, for example.

Note that synthetic fertilizers usually do not contain any of the secondary or micronutrients ― but in most cases, these nutrients are already present in the soil. If a test indicates that some are missing, look for a fertilizer that provides them.

Organic fertilizers

Organic fertilizers are derived from the remains of living organisms; blood meal, bone meal, cottonseed meal, and fish emulsion are just a few of the many available types. Organic fertilizers release their nutrients slowly: rather than dissolving in water, they’re broken down by bacteria in the soil, providing nutrients as they decompose. Because these fertilizers act slowly, it’s almost impossible to kill lawns or plants by applying too much (overdosing with synthetics, in contrast, can have potentially fatal results). Some manufacturers combine a variety of organic products in one package, then offer them for general-purpose or specialized use.

Two commonly used soil amendments ― compost and manure ― have some nutritive value and can be used as part of an organic fertilizing program. The N-P-K ratio of compost varies from 1.5-.5-1 to 3.5-1-2. Chicken manure’s N-P-K ratio ranges from 3-2.5-1.5 to 6-4-3; that of steer manure is usually a little less than 1-1-1.

Fertilizers containing seaweed are gaining favor with many gardeners. Besides providing nutrients in a form immediately available to plants, seaweed contains mannitol, a compound that enhances absorption of nutrients already in the soil, and various hormones that stimulate plant growth. And the carbohydrates in seaweed break down rapidly, nourishing soil-dwelling bacteria that fix nitrogen and make it available to plant roots.

Mixed with water and sprayed directly on foliage, seaweed-containing fertilizers can have dramatic effects in a matter of days. Plants green up and begin to produce new growth, and those that are weak stemmed and straggly straighten up and become stronger.

Keep Reading:
  • Garden Basics
  • Home & Garden

Fertilizer terms can be confusing. What is the NPK ratio? What are nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium? Let us take the guesswork out of fertilizing.

It’s all about the soil. Most soil doesn’t have all the nutrients needed for optimal growth, which means you won’t get the harvest or flower bloom desired.

There are six primary nutrients that plants require—carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The latter three nutrients come from the soil.

N-P-K Fertilizer Labels

Every fertilizer label will give information relating to its “N-P-K” content, expressed as a number ratio. On the label, you’ll see numbers like 5-10-10, 10-10-10, and 10-6-4.

There is valuable information in the labeled numbers: They indicate the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (standardized in that order) in the particular fertilizer blend.

For example, 100-pound bag of 10-10-10 contains ten pounds of each element. The rest is filler, which gives it bulk and makes it easier to spread.

  • Nitrogen (N) is needed for leaf growth and is responsible for making plants greener. Plants that are almost all leaves need a lot of nitrogen, so look for a fertilizer with a high first number. The higher the number, the more nitrogen the fertilizer provides. This is why most lawn fertilizers are high in nitrogen, with formulations like 24-4-12 or 20-2-6.
  • Phosphorus (P) promotes root development, which helps to anchor and strengthen plants. It also increases bloom and fruit production. Tomatoes and root crops favor “snacks” of 5-10-10.
  • Potassium (K), also known as potash, helps the plant fight off diseases and keeps it vigorous, enabling them to withstand extreme temperatures and ward off disease. Plants deficient in potash may display stunted leaves and fruit and be extra sensitive to drought. Because most soils already contain potassium, the third number in the fertilizer ratio tends to be the smallest.

Other Plant Nutrients

When it comes to fertilizers, much attention is paid to nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, but there are other key nutrients needed for overall plant health as well, though in smaller quantities.

  • Calcium (Ca), which improves general plant vigor and promotes the growth of young roots and shoots.
  • Magnesium (Mg), which regulates the uptake of nutrients, aids seed formation, and contributes to the dark green color of leaves, which is important for effective photosynthesis.
  • Sulfur (S), which maintains that dark green color, encouraging vigorous plant growth.

Soil test results sometimes come with recommendations to add these trace minerals to the soil if they are found to be deficient.

Read more about organic soil amendments.

Soil Testing

How do you know what your soil needs? Knowing your plants’ growing medium is key to knowing what kind of fertilizer(s) will benefit them. You want to add what they lack, not what they do not need.

The very first step in almost any gardening endeavor should be a soil test. For accurate and useful results, go through the folks at your County Extension Office. They will test the soil, explain the results, and provide recommendations for actions to take. Read more about soil testing for a healthier garden.

Because soil continually changes, you should have your soil tested every 2 to 3 years. Keeping records of test results, fertilizer applications, and any other soil amendments you make is always a good idea.

Natural and Organic vs. Synthetic Fertilizers

Fertilizer providing the N-P-K nutrients mentioned above can come in both organic and synthetic versions. What’s the difference?

  • Organic fertilizers come from sources such as manure, blood meal, cottonseed meal, feather meal, crab meal, etc. (Bear in mind: Not all products labeled “natural” are organic. Greensand—derived from inorganic mineral-based or “rock” matter—is an example of a natural, although inorganic, material.) Organic fertilizers work in concert with soil microbes that break fertilizers down for plant uptake. Because they don’t add excess salts and acid to the soil, organic fertilizers are beneficial in encouraging healthy soil biology rich in microbial activity.
  • Synthetic fertilizers are lab-made and derived from compounds like ammonium nitrate, ammonium phosphate, superphosphate, and potassium sulfate. They expedite plant growth and can contribute to bloom rate in flowering plants. However, they are high in salts and can be detrimental to populations of beneficial microorganisms and also leach into water sources. Applying too much synthetic fertilizer can “burn” foliage and damage your plants. Synthetic fertilizers are great for a boost, but do little to improve your soil’s long-term health, texture, or long-term fertility. Because synthetic fertilizers are highly water-soluble, they can also leach out into streams and ponds.

In general, organic fertilizers need time to enrich the soil, so they’re best applied in the fall so the nutrients will be available in the spring. For the spring, some fertilizers combine the best of both worlds with an organically-based fertilizer mix that also contains small amounts of synthetic fertilizers to ensure the immediate availability of nutrients.

Note that the N-P-K ratio of organic fertilizers is typically lower than that of a synthetic fertilizer. By law, the ratio label can only list nutrients that are immediately available.

Granular vs. Soluble Fertilizers

You may also notice that there are both granular and soluble formulations.

  • Granular fertilizers are solids that must be worked into the soil and given time (and water) before they dissolve and become available to plants.
  • Slow-release fertilizers are a subset of granular formulations. A portion of the fertilizer is not immediately available to the plant. Nutrients are metered out over several weeks. Therefore, they are applied less frequently.
  • Sometimes called “liquid feed,” soluble fertilizers are sold as either ready-to-use solutions or packaged dry-milled materials that need to be dissolved in water. These tend to be quick-release fertilizers high in nitrogen that result in fast green growth. (Miracle-Gro is a good example of a soluble fertilizer.)

To build the long-term health and fertility of your soil, we recommend using granular organic fertilizers. Supplementing with an additional water-soluble fertilizer is a way to ensure that your plants have the nutrients they need when they need a boast (during active growth).

Shopping for Fertilizer

Shopping for fertilizer can be confusing because plants have individual nutrient requirements.

  • If you don’t have any specific soil needs, a 5-5-5 fertilizer is an all-purpose fertilizer that provide plants with what they need for healthy growth.
  • Evergreens — holly, rhododendron, yew, and others — not only need high nitrogen to keep them green, but several trace elements as well. Evergreen food may have an analysis of 30-10-10, plus a dose of copper, molybdenum, and iron.
  • Flowering annuals, on the other hand, burst into bloom when nitrogen is held back. The tonic they need is 5-10-10..
  • Good-quality bonemeal worked into the soil around newly planted bulbs keeps them springing up for several years.

Another Kind of Fertilizer: Compost Tea

Before buying bags or bottles of fertilizers, consider how you might add nutrients to the soil by improving its biology. Try compost tea, a liquid produced by extracting beneficial microbes (bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes) from compost.

Applying compost tea to both soil and plant foliage adds those beneficial microorganisms to the growing medium, which boosts plant health and encourages growth. Compost tea is made using a brewing process similar to that used for making beer. Active compost, a brewing kit, and a little information can go a long way toward turning your landscape into a thriving ecosystem. See information on how to make compost tea.

Now that you understand more about fertilizers, see how to apply fertilizer to your garden!

Fertilizer Numbers: What Do They Mean?

Learn How Fertilizer Numbers Can Help You Get Better Value.

Pick up a bag of fertilizer on sale. Good job. You saved some money!
Or did you…
How can you tell if you got your money’s worth? There is such a broad range of prices when you look at the fertilizer options. What exactly did you buy, and what is its best use?

You want a good dollar value. You also want the product that will produce the best results. Understand the significance of fertilizer numbers, or N-P-K ratios, and you can have both.

A bag of fertilizer on the garden department shelf is a Marketing Masterpiece. Each brand promises to be the perfect match for your lawn.
Contrast that with a bag bought by the professionals lawn care guys. Plain and simple. It gives a formula (the fertilizer numbers) and a list of ingredients. Is that enough to make a decision?
Yes… if you know what you’re looking for.

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What Are N-P-K & Their Role In Fertilizer?

All fertilizers use a three number rating system, like 15-15-15, or 21-7-14. (There is an exception to this, a fourth number, explained at the bottom of this article.)

The first number represents Nitrogen, the second is Phosphorous, the third is Potassium (or Potash). These numbers are percentages of the total ingredients in the bag. (In case you forget the order, the words are alphabetical, although the letters are not!)

Want to sound like a pro? The chemical notations of these elements are N-P-K, a very official designation for fertilizer numbers. Use this term when you shop and impress someone! Triple 15 (15-15-15) has equal amounts of each of these nutrients, or 15% of each. (Triple 16 is almost identical.)

This is how fertilizer ratios work. For an example, let’s use fertilizer numbers with an NPK rating of 21-7-14. Nitrogen has the highest concentration at 21%. It is 3 times the amount of phosphorous at 7%. Phosphorous is only half of the Potassium amount of 14%. Technically, this would be called a 3-1-2 ratio.

A math teacher might try to give you a real life algebra lesson at this point, but let’s not go there. Instead, use this simple trick that will help you identify the proper blend each time you need to buy lawn fertilizer.

Look at any set of fertilizer ratios on a label. Notice how the numbers relate to each other by size:

  • 21-7-14 is Big – Small – Medium
  • 21-3-3 is Big – Small – Small
  • 6-20-20 is Small – Big – Big
  • 21-0-0 is Big – Zero – Zero

The N-P-K rating you want for grass typically is Big – Small – Small.
If you follow this, you see that grass needs a lot of Nitrogen and a little bit of the other stuff. That’s the essential part.

If you’re willing to learn about what these nutrients do, you can vary your selection based on your specific lawn situation.

Why Do The Fertilizer Numbers Matter?

A brief description of each major nutrient will show why grass has its own preference for fertilizer.


  • essential for growth of foliage;
  • produces lush, tender, green leaves (or grass blades);
  • deficiency results in a yellow-green color (chlorosis) and little or no growth;
  • is easily flushed through the soil.


  • stimulates root growth;
  • hastens the maturity of plants;
  • promotes development of flowers, fruits, seeds;
  • deficiency can result in slow or stunted growth and purplish discoloration on leaves;
  • remains in the soil quite well.


  • gives vigor to tolerate changing weather conditions;
  • helps resist disease;
  • assists in the food manufacturing process;
  • strengthens cell wall structure for strong stems;
  • deficiency can cause week stems and slow growth;
  • leaches from the soil, not so fast as nitrogen.

How Can This Save You Money?

Look at the current status of your lawn.

An Established Lawn:
needs primarily nitrogen, since it is not producing any fruit or flowers, or Big – Small – Small. Nitrogen is the least expensive of the nutrients. Don’t buy a formula that has high phosphorous or potassium when you don’t need them.

A New Lawn:
is special and needs more phosphorous to produce roots. Don’t use high nitrogen because the roots are not ready to handle top growth. Go with Small – Big – Big. Phosphorous and potassium are more costly, so you would not use this all the time. Yet, investing in the more expensive list of ingredients for a new or damaged lawn is wise.

New Sod:
Be safe when you fertilize new sod! It looks like a mature lawn, but the roots have been shaved off and it needs to recover. Save the expense of redoing this huge project. You can kill the young lawn with the wrong blend. Avoid stress and later expensive problems by helping the grass get established properly. Use Small – Big – Big or Zero – Big – Big.

A Stressed Lawn:
(e.g. – preparing for winter or extreme heat) needs more potassium. Try Big – Small – Medium or Big – Small – Big
When the grass has stressful conditions to deal with, applying the more expensive potassium can prevent problems from developing or continuing. Pay now and don’t pay later.

Thus, if the fertilizer with higher numbers in the ratio is on sale, and your lawn would benefit from those nutrients, then you can apply it with confidence, knowing you got a good deal.

Be cautious though, about applying high phosphorous continually to a lawn area. Mature grass doesn’t need it, and the environment doesn’t either.


Most states now restrict or eliminate the application of phosphorous on lawns, to decrease pollution from run-off.
A new lawn may be exempt from restriction.
(Check with your local agencies.)

Is The Fertilizer Number Ratio All That Matters?

The nutrient ratio is easy to look at. It can help you decide quickly to consider or eliminate certain fertilizer blends. It is not the only factor deserving of your attention.

Consider learning about the ingredient source that provides the NPK. In addition, the way the fertilizer pellets are made can also affect the value and life-span of the nutrients. Sound too technical?

Check out another simple overview that could save you time and trouble by applying the plant food less frequently. Follow this link to get the details: Learn About Chemical Fertilizer.

A Fourth Fertilizer Number?

This question from a reader explains the exception to the three number label.

QUESTION: I was given a bottle of fertilizer labeled I think it’s .02% N. But I have never seen this before.

REPLY: Let me offer one assumption different from your idea, plus a way to check it out.

Typical fertilizer labels present only 3 numbers, as you are probably aware. They are always in this order: nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium. So it does appear that your expectation of getting .02% or 0.2% nitrogen is a reasonable possibility, with the way the numbers are presented. But then the remainder of the nutrient numbers can not be properly interpreted the way it is displayed.

Here is the likely alternative. Occasionally a fourth nutrient number is added to a fertilizer formula. Manufacturers will sometimes want to promote a particular fertilizer by denoting that it contains a significant portion of an important trace mineral. When a value is included for the fourth number, it must be specified what that nutrient is, by name. Common entries for this fourth number refer to the presence of sulphur or iron or zinc.

Knowing this, we should suspect that the product you have is:

0% nitrogen / 2% phosphorus / 0% potassium / 0% trace minerals

Why would they add a fourth number on the label, if it is zero? Simply because they produce some products which do use the #4 slot, so it standardizes their operation to show it, even when it is zero.

So you need to look at the detailed part of the label that lists the actual ingredients. I expect you will see some form of phosphorus listed. If it were nitrogen, you would likely see that some type of nitrate or urea is included.

If that portion of the label is missing or not legible, i would discourage the use of the product, to avoid any unintended consequence.

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Do You Know the Key Ingredients of Fertilizers?

Fertilizers are known for providing certain vital nutrients to plants, and ensure their better growth. The main ingredients of almost all fertilizers are nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Find out more about the ingredients of fertilizers by going through this article.

Fertilizers can provide the nutrients essential for plant growth. They are generally applied on the soil or leaves of the plants to promote their rapid growth and development. They generally come in three basic forms – dry, soluble, and time release fertilizers. Soluble fertilizers can be dissolved in water. On the other hand, the time release fertilizers can come in both dry and soluble form, and they are released slowly over a period of time.

Fertilizer Components

Whether organic or synthetic, the key ingredients of a fertilizer are, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are usually referred to as NPK. These are the primary macro nutrients found in any fertilizer. However, their concentration can vary considerably from one fertilizer to another. The concentration of these three main components are expressed as three numbers printed on the label of a particular fertilizer. For example, if a fertilizer is labeled as 10-5-5, it contains 10% nitrogen, 5% phosphorus, and 5% potassium.

Nitrogen (N)

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Nitrogen is one of the vital nutrients required for the rapid growth of plants, and their foliage and fruits. Plants synthesize proteins from nitrogen, and they also need this nutrient to develop seeds. Plants usually assimilate nitrogen in the form of nitrate, ammonium, organic nitrogen, or molecular nitrogen. Though nitrogen is vital for the healthy growth of plants, an excess of it can result in an overgrowth, which can make the plants weak and vulnerable to diseases and insects. Therefore, nitrogen-rich fertilizers are usually applied, when a plant has established itself firmly on the ground.

Phosphorus (P)

Plants require sufficient amounts of phosphorus for flower and fruit production. Phosphorus is also required for growing strong roots that are resistant to rot diseases. This nutrient helps plants store energy in the form of adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Fertilizers containing phosphate are usually applied on the soil before planting, and then continued until the plant establishes itself on the ground.

Potassium (K)

Potassium is mainly required for strengthening the plants. A deficiency of this macronutrient can result in stunted growth and reduced yields. Phosphorus can stimulate early growth in plants by increasing protein synthesis, and it can increase their resistance to diseases and insects. Potassium-rich fertilizers are typically used before or during winter. However, it should be kept in mind that an overuse of potassium fertilizers can kill the plants.

Secondary Macronutrients and Micronutrients

Along with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, some fertilizers can contain a small amount of calcium, magnesium, and sulfur, which are termed as secondary macronutrients. They are as essential for plant growth as the primary macronutrients, but their requirement is usually managed with the help of manuring and liming practices. In addition to all the primary and secondary macronutrients, plants also require traces of iron, copper, manganese, boron, molybdenum, chlorine, zinc, and nickel, which are called micronutrients. Many fertilizers contain these nutrients in small amounts.

Apart from macro and micronutrients, a small amount of sand, sawdust, or granulated limestone can also be found in fertilizers. These are known as fillers, and they help prevent the fertilizer from hardening. They can also ensure that the basic ingredients, i.e., nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus do not become too concentrated. Without fillers, a high concentration of these nutrients can burn or kill the plants instead of benefiting them.

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