Essential Fertilizer Components
Your lawn and plants receive oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen from the surrounding environment, but they also require other nutrients that may not be as readily available. The soil needs to be regularly replenished, and this is where fertilizer comes in.
Fertilizers provide the essential nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—which are reflected on the fertilizer label as NPK. Each one is necessary for a different part of plant development.
- Nitrogen (N): Responsible for leaf growth, gives leaves their green colour.
- Phosphorus (P): Responsible for root growth.
- Potassium (K): Aids in root development and resistance to disease—sometimes called potash.
The label tells you what percentage of each nutrient is present in the fertilizer by weight. For example, a 16-4-8 fertilizer contains 16% nitrogen, 4% phosphorus, and 8% potassium. The remaining 72% is inert filler material, like clay or limestone, which helps prevent chemical burn and evenly distribute the fertilizer. There may also be some secondary nutrients or minor elements present in the formula.