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Each of the three nutrients in the N-P-K has its own special job to do. Nitrogen (N) spurs vigorous, leafy growth and rich green color in lawn grasses and other plants. Without enough nitrogen, growth slows and lawns and plants turn pale. With too much nitrogen, flowering and fruit-bearing plants put their efforts into green growth and forfeit their blooms and fruit.

Phosphorus (P) focuses energy on strong root development and flowers, fruits and seeds, while also helping plants use other nutrients efficiently. A shortage of phosphorus leaves roots weak and flowers and fruit lackingAn increasing number of states and counties restrict the application of phosphorus to lawns due to the environmental concerns of phosphorus runoff into waterways. In these states or counties, homeowners can usually apply a lawn starter fertilizer that is high in phosphorus, such as  Fertilizer 22-23-4 if a soil test indicates a nutrient deficiency. Check with your local county extension agent on any nutrient application restrictions.

Potassium (K) enhances overall growth. It helps regulate root and top growth and keeps plants healthy and balanced. This affects all aspects of lawn and garden well-being, from cold and drought tolerance to disease and pest resistance.


Beautiful turf needs the vigorous growth and deep color plentiful nitrogen supplies, so lawn fertilizers have an N-P-K ratio with the first number much higher than the other two. Soil usually provides enough phosphorus and most of the potassium healthy grass needs, so the numbers for those nutrients are low.

Tasty tomatoes and other vegetables need nitrogen, too, but flowering and prolific harvests require more phosphorus and potassium. That's why the second and third numbers are highest in products 

Flowering bulbs depend on phosphorus for healthy roots, so bulb fertilizers, including Lilly Miller Bone Meal 6-12-0, have a high middle number. Versatile fertilizers, such as Lilly Miller All Purpose Planting and Growing Food 10-10-10, deliver a balanced N-P-K designed for all-round garden health.

By understanding the basics behind fertilizer labels, you can choose the right products for your lawn and garden goals with confidence. Pennington's portfolio of lawn and garden fertilizers can help your lawn and garden reach its full potential for beauty and enjoyment.

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