What Is 10-10-10 Fertilizer? What Does It Do For Your Lawn And Garden?

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All-purpose 10-10-10 fertilizer contains 10% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, and 10% potassium in that order. It’s a synthetic fertilizer that works especially well on perennials and plants grown for their foliage. Mixed ratio fertilizers, such as 4-8-10, are better for fruiting crops like tomatoes.

Do you wonder what 10-10-10 fertilizer is or how to use 10-10-10 fertilizer on your lawn or in your vegetable garden? In this article, I’ll answer both of these questions.

While the answer to the first question is straightforward, it’s harder to answer the second because different plants have different needs. 

I’ll do my best to explain what broad plant categories 10-10-10 is best for, as well as how to determine the right application for each species.

What Is 10-10-10 Fertilizer?

10-10-10 fertilizer is a synthetic, all-purpose fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, in that order. It’s easy to use and good for plants that need a lot of nitrogen, such as established perennials, leafy green crops, and turf grasses.

What do these numbers mean?

Ratios

The three numbers on a bag of fertilizer indicate its percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as Solutions Pest & Lawn explains: 

Fertilizers come with different ratios because plants have different nutritional needs. Ratios with repeating numbers, such as 10-10-10, help plants produce edible foliage. 

This is because nitrogen drives the growth of vegetative parts like leaves (not fruit). If the nitrogen percentage is equal to those of the phosphorus and potassium, the fertilizer is high in nitrogen.

Mixed ratios, such as 4-8-12, are generally best for fruit crops, like tomatoes. Notice that in 4-8-12, there is much less nitrogen than phosphorus or potassium. This is because applying too much nitrogen to fruit crops (or applying it at the wrong time) can cause them to lose their fruit so they can focus on growing bigger leaves.

However, you can use 10-10-10 fertilizer for fruit crops before they grow fruit, as Keith Clark demonstrates:

Some fertilizers, such as 0-20-20, have no nitrogen at all. Grasses, such as the ones in this review, may benefit from this formula in the late fall, when it’s not time to grow lush blades. Here’s a recipe for making your own.

Higher And Lower Numbers

You may be wondering, “Aren’t 8-8-8 and 10-10-10 the same ratio?” They are, but their numbers indicate how much of each nutrient they contain. 10-10-10 fertilizer has more nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium than 8-8-8 fertilizer. 

Plants may be classified as heavy, medium, or light feeders. Intuitively, larger numbers are recommended for heavy feeders, whereas smaller numbers are recommended for light feeders.

How To Use 10-10-10 Fertilizer

Test Your Soil

Soil sampling infographic
Image credit: flickr.com

Your soil might not even need fertilizer. Test it or have it tested to see its nutrient levels.

Research Your Plant’s Nutritional Requirements

How and when you should apply 10-10-10 fertilizer depends on a plant’s species and maturity. For example, established perennials, such as asparagus, appreciate an early spring application, whereas leafy green plants prefer it a month after planting in any season. 

Though you can apply 10-10-10 to fruit crops, you have to do it carefully. Research your plants to avoid mistakes.

Buy Enough Fertilizer

How much fertilizer you should buy for different plants varies, but you can find recommendations and math formulas online.

Lawn Rage explains how to calculate the amount of fertilizer you’ll need for a lawn:

1 lb of nitrogen per 1000 square feet (.45 kilograms per 93 square meters) is commonly recommended for lawns. 

Since the first number in 10-10-10 represents the percentage of nitrogen, divide 100 by 10. The result, 10, means you should get 10 lbs of fertilizer for every 1000 square feet.

Dress Appropriately

Wear a mask and gloves when applying fertilizer

Fertilizer can cause chemical burns and other ailments. Put on a long-sleeved shirt, pants, safety goggles, a mask, and gloves. AT LEAST wear gloves.

Apply Fertilizer

Apply the fertilizer as per what you found in your research and the instructions on the bag.

Words Of Caution

Many chemicals in synthetic fertilizers are corrosive enough to damage equipment. Clean your fertilizer spreader or other tools that have touched 10-10-10 fertilizer. 

To avoid burning younger plants, apply less fertilizer and dilute it in water before applying.

Also, watch the weather before applying fertilizer. Rain can carry it away, wasting your money and polluting the environment.

FAQs

What Is 10-10-10?

The numbers 10-10-10 refer respectively to the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in synthetic fertilizer. Though considered all-purpose, 10-10-10 fertilizer is generally better for non-fruiting plants due to its high nitrogen, which stimulates leaf growth. However, it’s also good for established fruiting perennials, such as strawberries.

Is 10-10-10 Fertilizer Good For Grass?

The nitrogen in 10-10-10 fertilizer can help lawns grow denser and greener. Apply it at a rate of 1 pound per 1000 square feet. It’s good to get a slow-release formula so it’ll feed your lawn continuously, giving you more time before your next application.

How Often To Apply 10-10-10 Fertilizer?

Apply 10-10-10 fertilizer to warm-season grass four times a year. Do a spring application when you see new growth and apply again 30 days later. Do a fall application when you see slower growth and apply again 30 days later.

These Are The Basics Of 10-10-10 Fertilizer

10-10-10 fertilizer  is an easy-to-use, all-purpose formula for your lawn and vegetable garden. As a refresher, the numbers represent the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in that order. 

Remember these tips when using 10-10-10 fertilizer:

  • Being high in nitrogen, it’s generally better for non-fruiting, leafy crops
  • However, you can use it on fruiting crops with proper timing. 
  • In general (for lawns, anyway), you should apply it at a rate of 1 pound per 1,000 square feet (.45 grams per square foot), but research the needs of your plant before applying.

Have any questions? Please let me know in the comments!

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Last update on 2020-11-25 at 08:19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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