Making since of fertilizer labels:


  1. Major Ingredients: Most commercial fertilizers have 3 numbers on the front label, separated by dashes. For example: 5-10-5. This is the fertilizer analysis or percentage by weight of the 3 major nutrients plants need: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, in that order. So if you purchased a 10 pound bag of fertilizer labelled 5-10-5, it would contain 5% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus and 5% potassium. The remaining 80% could be comprised of other nutrients and filler.
  2. 1st Number = Nitrogen: The first number gives the concentration of nitrogen in the product. Nitrogen encourages foliage growth- the leaves, among other benefits.
  3. 2nd Number = Phosphorous: The middle number refers to the concentration of phosphorous. Phosphorous contributes to many fundamental plant processes such as rooting and setting flower buds. (roots and fruit)
  4. 3rd Number = Potassium: The final number states the concentration of potassium. Potassium contributes to the overall health and vigour of plants.
  5. Complete Fertilizers: Fertilizers that contain all three major nutrients are considered complete fertilizers. There are specialized fertilizers which are called incomplete because they lack one or more major nutrients such as a fertilizer labelled 0-20-20.
  6. Other Ingredients: Any additional ingredients will be listed on the side label. This may include other nutrients like calcium, magnesium, iron, micronutrients and even the percentage of organic matter.
  7. Organic fertilizers: Organic fertilizers must specify which nutrient(s) is organic and it must be identified as either synthetic and/or natural, by percentage. For example: 20% of Nitrogen organic (6% synthetic, 14% organic). When a fertilizer is labelled “organic”, it simply means it contain carbon atoms. It can be naturally produced from plant or animal tissue or synthetically manufactured.
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