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32-0-8 – What Do these Fertilizer Numbers Mean?

Ever wondered what the three numbers represent on a bag of fertilizer for your lawn and landscaping plants mean?what do these fertilizer numbers mean?

Choosing the correct fertilizer can be a challenge. Three of the elements necessary for lawn and plant growth are oxygen, hydrogen and carbon. These are all available from the environment free of charge! Image Source: Hedera helix seedling

However, plants also need nutrients that aren’t always available. Nutrients don’t stay long in the soil and have to be replenished regularly. Each ‘number’ plays an important role in lawn and plant survival and health. Fertilizer is the means of supplying these nutrients.

How To Choose the Right Fertilizer

Don’t be confused when buying ‘fertilizer’ when you see ‘Food’ on the bag, some of the big lawn food companies are starting to ‘restrict’ the word ‘fertilizer’ and use the word ‘Food’ moving forward.

On every bag of lawn food for example there are three numbers that make up the vital ingredients of lawn food. Example 32-0-8.

The first number 32 represents Nitrogen and is the ‘greening’ number as I call it. This turns your grass green and promotes development of the grass blade.

The second number ‘0’ represents Phosphorous and is responsible for root development. On established lawns you don’t need any because your roots are already fully mature, if you are applying seed or sod to a lawn you will need a high number of Phosphorous to help those roots grow.

The last number ‘8’ represents Potassium and that is responsible for the hardiness of the lawn to withstand disease and protect the roots through winter, for example against frosts etc.

What Do Fertilizer Numbers Mean?

The three numbers actually equate to a percentage of the bag. ’32’ means 32 percent of the bag contains Nitrogen. In this case 32-0-8 means 40 percent of the bag has useful food material and 60 percent of the contains ‘inert’ material. The inert material is vital though, this helps break up the chemicals when spread on a lawn so you don’t burn the lawn when applying.

All granular fertilizers need to be ‘activated’, a good soaking in will start that process.

Hope this helps understanding those numbers.

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