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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Fertilizer: What does 10-10-10 or N-P-K Mean for My Vegetable Garden?

Vegetable Garden Fertilizer
What Does 10-10-10 and N-P-K Mean to Me and My Garden?

You will see 3 bold number on every bag of fertilizer. A typical set of bold numbers is often 10-10-10. The bag will also have a weight. It may be 2 pounds, 5 pounds 10 pounds or 40 pounds.  The numbers are the amount of key MACRO nutrients. Your garden also needs MICRO nutrients but that will be a subject of another blog entry.

The 3 bold numbers represent N-P-K. Always in the same order or Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K).  The numbers represent the total percent of the the weight that is either nitrogen, phosphorous or potassium.

If your bag of fertilizer reads 10-10-10 and weighs 5 pounds you have...

  • 10% of the 5 pounds is Nitrogen (N)
  • 10% of the 5 pounds is Phosphorous (P)
  • 10% of the 5 pounds is Potassium (K)

If your bag of fertilizer reads 9-12-12 and weighs 40 pounds you have...

  • 9% of the 40 pounds is Nitrogen (N)
  • 12% of the 40 pounds is Phosphorous (P)
  • 12% of the 40 pounds is Potassium (K)

The macro nutrients are essential for healthy garden plants. Micro nutrients also play a key role in the health of your vegetable plants. One benefit of clay soil, like mine, is that clay soil contains a whole light of micro nutrients.  This is some of what the macro nutrients N-P-K do for you vegetable plants.


  • Heavily used by vegetable plants
  • Provides the green and green leafy growth
  • Essential for photosynthesis and chlorophyll development
  • Also needed for photosynthesis
  • Important for root development and plant flowering
  • Key role in storing food/energy in plants
  • Important in disease resistance
  • Transports elements throughout the plant
  • Also helps with the development of plant roots

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