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How to read a fertilizer label

By: Garden Gate staff
Learn how to read a fertilizer's NPK analysis and how to choose the right one for your garden.

Ever wonder what those numbers and letters on your fertilizer package really mean? The most important ones are N, P and K.

What do N, P, and K stand for?

  • Nitrogen (N) helps plants produce lush, healthy foliage.
  • Phosphorus (P) promotes healthy roots and fruit and flower production.
  • Potassium (K) keeps the plant’s metabolism running smoothly and helps it resist disease.

The numbers for NPK tell you the relative proportions of those nutrients by weight. Specialty fertilizers might promote blooms or fruiting, or even foliage growth. But a balanced 20-20-20, 10-10-10 or something with a slightly higher nitrogen, such as 12-5-7, is a good way to cover all plants if you’d like to simplify your purchases and practices (and keep your garden shed tidy). Just be sure you read the instructions so you know you’re putting the correct amount on your plants.

See also 6 organic products to use in your garden

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