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Reading the Fertilizer Bag

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Agent: Donna Teasley
Date:  September 24, 2021

Hello, this is Donna Teasley, Horticulture Agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Burke Center.

When you buy a bag of fertilizer, do you ever wonder exactly what’s in it? It’s really very easy to know what is contained in that bag if you know how to read the code. The code is the 3 numbers on the front of the bag such as 10-10-10. The numbers can be different but they all mean the same thing. Each number represents the percentage of the 3 major nutrients contained in that bag. These numbers are always in the same order, nitrogen is first, phosphorous is in the middle and potassium is always last. This means that a 50 pound bag of 10-10-10 has about 16 pounds of nitrogen, 16 lbs of phosphorous and 16 pounds of potassium in the bag.

What do these nutrients do? Well, nitrogen is for top growth and makes the plant nice and green. Phosphorous helps with flowering and also insures healthy roots. Potassium promotes the general health of the plant and helps with disease resistance.

It is always best to use these nutrients in a balanced fertilizer blend. In other words don’t go out and just put phosphorous on your lawn. That gets things out of wack. It’s time to fertilize lawns now in the fall so make sure to buy a balanced lawn food to feed that hungry lawn.

This is Donna Teasley with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Burke Center. If you would like more information about this program, you can call us at 764-9480.