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how to read a fertilizer label generic

How to Read a Fertilizer Label

Things can get kind of difficult when you’re faced with understanding a fertilizer label. It’s important to make the right choice for feeding your lawn and garden. Some questions to consider include: What kind of fertilizer is best for my grass type? What are the main nutrients included in fertilizer? How can I see the amount of each nutrient? Should the amount of nutrients vary depending on the season? How do I read fertilizer numbers? Shopping for the perfect fertilizer becomes daunting!

How to Understand a Product Label for Fertilizer

At the top of a label of fertilizer, there are typically three numbers prominently displayed that are often referred to as the fertilizer analysis. These three numbers represent the product ingredients for nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). The sources for these ingredients will be listed below along with other ingredients, but these three macronutrients (NPK) are always represented by these three numbers.

Understanding how to read fertilizer numbers is important for two reasons 1) it will help you select the appropriate fertilizer for different circumstances and 2) it will help you understand how many pounds of each product ingredient is in the bag and how much to apply.

Selecting the Appropriate Fertilizer

Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) each serve a different nutritional role for plants; understanding these roles will help you select the correct fertilizer. In short, nitrogen is responsible for the deep green color and growth of plants, whereas phosphorus affects the rate of seeding development and root growth, while potassium affects drought tolerance, cold hardiness and disease resistance. Fertilizers can and often do contain other ingredients, such as micronutrients, minerals and vitamins, all of which are very important and can add significantly to the quality of the fertilizer, but understanding the role of these three (NPK) macronutrients will generally help you select the most appropriate fertilizer for different circumstances.

For example, a newly sodded or seeded lawn needs phosphorus, so you would want a fertilizer with a larger middle number. Potassium is needed by turfgrass just before the summer heat or the winter cold, so at these times of the year, you might want a fertilizer with a larger third number. To spur growth and green up your lawn, you would want a fertilizer with a larger initial number.

Amount of Each Ingredient in the Product

These three numbers also inform you of the amount (measured in pounds) of each product ingredient is in the package. This begins with understanding that these three numbers are ratios.

Understanding the Ratios

A fertilizer label with 8-0-24 written on top indicates that the fertilizer product contains eight parts nitrogen, zero parts phosphorus and 24 parts potassium, for a total of 32 parts (8+0+24=32). Understanding this ratio enables the user to determine the total number of pounds of each product ingredient in the bag.

Determining how much of each ingredient is in the bag

If you have a 50lb. bag of fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 8-0-24, the amount of each nutrient in pounds can be found by multiplying 50 by .08, .00 and .24:

50 multiplied by .08 is 4

50 multiplied by .00 is 0

50 multiplied by .24 is 12

This 50lb. bag of 8-0-24 fertilizer contains a total of 16 lbs. of nutrients: 4 lbs. nitrogen, 0 lbs. phosphate and 12 lbs. potassium. This would leave us with 34 lbs. of filler (sand or limestone). Knowing how many pounds of each product ingredient is contained in a bag of fertilizer will direct you on how much to apply. Generally, fertilizer labels direct users on application rates. For example, apply 4 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. This rate of application is controlled by the setting on your spreader.

Application of Dry Fertilizer with Spreaders


Pick the best spreader for your lawn. Spreaders fall into two main categories: broadcast (rotary) and drop. Scroll down to gain a general understanding of how to set your spreader to apply the correct amount of fertilizer to your lawn. For more accurate setting instructions, consult the website for the manufacturer of your spreader.

As you can see, once you understand how to read a fertilizer label, there is a lot that goes into selecting the correct fertilizer and applying it at the correct rate on your lawn. Sod U recommends Lawnifi® because it is simple, effective, earth-friendly and it takes all the guesswork and math out of the picture.

Lawnifi is Simple: Attach liquid Lawnifi bottles to your hose and walk at a normal pace, spraying in overlapping rows or apply Lawnifi Foundation, the granular formation, with a broadcast or drop spreader. Spraying a liquid fertilizer allows the formulation to be applied at uniform amounts delivered in a consistent method that’s distributed in all locations across your lawn equally. Lawnifi Foundation, on the other hand, can be applied every three months, which reduces the amount of time spent applying granular fertilizer applications.

Lawnifi is Super Effective: Lawnifi with Catalyst TechnologyTM is the first nano-fertilizer for home use that ensures maximum plant uptake and nutrient efficiency.  Liquid fertilizers allow for plant roots to drink their nutrients. Lawnifi Foundation’s granules are sparged in a coating of liquid fertilizer so that nutrients are immediately absorbed. This increases effectiveness of nutrients so that they enter into the plants’ systems immediately and don’t sit in the soil.

Lawnifi is Earth Friendly: Lawnifi delivers better results while applying less product. By using less product, Lawnifi is less harmful to the environment and safe for kids and pets. Carbon in Lawnifi is a food source for microbes and enhances their health. Microbes produce nitrogen when they process carbon. Natural nitrogen in the soil means less product is needed for great results.

Lawnifi offers three seasonal boxes throughout the course of a year. The Spring, Summer and Fall Fertilizer Boxes are all filled with the three most important bottles of fertilizer formulation for the season. Save money on all three seasonal boxes by subscribing to our Annual Subscription as well.

To learn more about Lawnifi, click here: Why Use Lawnifi Fertilizer?

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