What Does 10 10 10 Mean in Fertilizer?

What Does 10 10 10 Mean in Fertilizer?

All gardeners and plant owners understand that a good fertilizer is needed from time to time in order to keep plants healthy and thriving. If you have been to plant stores you might have seen bags over bags of fertilizers with certain fertilizer labels and numbers written on them.

It might get a bit confusing to make a right choice, given that there are endless options and verities available. But, you can almost never go wrong with a balanced fertilizer also known as a 10-10-10 fertilizer.

In this article, you will learn in detail about what 10-10-10 fertilizers are, their uses, advantages and when you should keep away from them.

What is a 10-10-10 Fertilizer?

10-10-10 Fertilizer

A 10-10-10 fertilizer is an all purpose, synthetic fertilizer with balanced nutrients. The numbers represent the nutrient percentage by weight of the fertilizer bag. It means that, there is 10% Nitrogen, 10% Phosphorus and 10% Potassium present.

Nitrogen phosphorus and potassium are the essential nutrients that are needed by all plants to grow properly and they serve different purposes. 10% Nitrogen is a considerably high amount of nitrogen. Most plants need only a small ratio of nitrogen as compared to other two nutrients. So, balanced fertilizers can work best with younger plants, grasses and trees.

As all three nutrients are present in all purpose fertilizer, you can use it for all plants in all situations. Although, you must dig into your plant’s particular requirements first and then use it as needed.

Plant Nutrients:

Plants need three essential macronutrients in addition to 17 micronutrients that are needed in lesser amounts. A 10-10-10 fertilizer provides nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in equal amounts. Hence, it is the most used and popular choice for gardeners.

Nitrogen in the fertilizer is needed for growth of green plant parts, like leaves and stems. It gives healthy foliage growth. Nitrogen is best used for grasses and leafy green plants such as spinach and herbs. But, high nitrogen is not very suitable for small fruiting plants such as tomatoes as it will promote leaf growth at the expense of fruit production.

Phosphorus is needed to grow the root system. It also helps to grow fruit and flowers. It can improve plant growth by storing and using energy efficiently.

Potassium is needed to maintain the overall health of the plant. It keeps the plant safe from pests and diseases and makes the soil drought resistant. It also strengthens roots and keeps fruits plump and healthy.

What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages?

As with any other fertilizer, the 10-10-10 fertilizer has its own advantages and disadvantages based on how equipped you are with the right information. It is very important to have thorough information about your plant and soil condition before applying fertilizer.


Easy to use

The best advantage of this fertilizer is that it is very easy to use. You just have to sprinkle it on the ground either with hands or with a fertilizer spreader and you are good to go.

Instant nutrient Dissolving

The fertilizers are dissolved quickly and once sprayed, releases nutrients in a very short time as compared to organic fertilizers. But, this also means that reapplication will be needed from time to time.

All in one

Gardening novices and beginners can use this easily without having to carry out complex calculations to find out certain Npk ratios for their plants. They can just apply this to the soil and be satisfied that their plants are getting all the nutrients.

Budget Friendly

A 10-10-10 fertilizer is cheaper than an organic fertilizer so it is a good option if you are on a budget or are just a beginner trying to figure out fertilizers.


Crust on top of Soil

Triple 10 fertilizers are inorganic fertilizers. A disadvantage with synthetic fertilizers is that they tend to stay on top of the soil and cause white crust to form. This crusting is not a pleasant sight and also means that nutrients have not seeped deep enough into the soil.

Excess Nutrients

All plants have different nutrient needs. They might need one key nutrient more than the other.

High quantities of nitrogen are usually not needed by all plants. It causes excess leaf production. Hence, the nutrients are utilized by leaves and compromised on fruit. Tomato plant is a great example for this as it needs only the minimum nitrogen once it starts to grow flowers and fruits. It is also not suitable for most flowering plants.

High levels of phosphorus can kill microbes and fungi present in the soil. That means that the plants will not be able to absorb micronutrients like iron. It also causes chlorosis in plants.

Corrosive Chemical fertilizers

The 10-10-10 fertilizer formula also contains lots of chemicals that can not only harm plants but they can also cause irritation and chemical burns to skin. For this reason, you are recommended to wear gloves and protective clothing and pay attention to the warning signs on the fertilizer packages.

Nitrogen Runoff

A ratio 10 fertilizer contains a fairly high amount of nitrogen. It can seep into the ground and become a part of the water stream. Nitrogen is toxic to fish and invertebrates and by polluting the water it can kill them or cause algae blooms that are hazardous to water life and detrimental to the fishing industry.


If you fear that you or your plants can suffer from the disadvantages, you can always switch to organic fertilizers and nutrient sources instead of fertilizers made of synthetic chemicals. You can consider using a mixed fertilizers of bone meal, composted manure, green sand, organic matter, fish emulsion, blood meal and alfalfa pellets.

If these are not feasible options and your plants are light feeders, you can also use a 5-5-5 mix.

When Should I Apply 10-10-10 Fertilizer to My Lawn?

As a general rule, you should apply the fertilizer 4 times every year for warm season grasses. In fertilization seasons, that is at the start of spring, you should apply the fertilizer to your lawn and garden and repeat after 30 days.

If you are looking forward to growing a lush green lawn, with healthy grass, a 10-10-10 fertilizer is just what you need. Typically, you will need 1 pound of fertilizer for a 1000 square of land. High amount of nitrogen will keep the grass in your lawn thick and healthy.

How To Use 10 10 10 fertilizer

You might not need a lot of studying or calculations to use this fertilizer as you would with other NPK fertilizer ratios, but you must know the basics in order to keep your plants and yourself safe. Here is a step by step guide that can help you.

Soil Test

A soil test is mandatory to determine the current value of nutrients in the soil. They tell you about the exact concentration of nitrogen phosphorus and potassium in the soil, as well as the pH levels of the soil.

A soil test can be performed by professionals where you will receive an extensive report, or you can buy a home test kit that is easily available in the market or online.

can i use 10 10 10 fertilizer on my lawn

If your results show that you have a balanced nitrogen content, you can use a 10-10-10 fertilizer.

Nutrient Need of Plants

Always research about your plant’s nutritional requirements. A nitrogen rich fertilizer can produce lush foliage and green leaves for your lawn, while for flowering and fruit crops you will have to use a very small quantity.

If you are using fertilizer for younger emerging plants, you can use a 10-10-10 fertilizer formula but in diluted form. If the plant is producing flowers in the growing season, it will need less nitrogen and more phosphorus for fruit production.

Flowering plants are heavy feeders and they need a constant supply of nutrients. You will have to apply a 10-10-10 fertilizer weekly. For warm season grass and leafy green plants you will have to add fertilizer a month after planting and at least four times in a year. For established perennials, you need to use it in early spring.

How To Apply

Start off by wearing proper gear. You need gloves, safety goggles and a mask. Make sure no part of skin is exposed. If you are using hands to spread the lawn fertilizer on garden beds, do so by evenly sprinkling using sweeping motion for precise application. You can also use a fertilizer spreader for this purpose.

If you are fertilizing young plants, you must be aware of the fact that they can easily get harmed. Use a water soluble liquid fertilizer in diluted form and don’t spray it directly on foliage.

You should water the soil thoroughly three days before applying fertilizer for easier absorption of nutrients.

For larger trees, you should apply the fertilizer by finding the root zone first. The root zone is usually the circumference around the trunk, up until the longest branch. draw a circle around the root zone and also another circle 3-4 feet away from the trunk. You can spread the fertilizer between these two circles. Make sure you do this before the early spring season when the new growth of flower buds has still not started.

Cautions Regarding 10-10-10 Fertilizer

The all purpose fertilizer is corrosive in nature. The chemicals inside are powerful enough to damage lawn equipment. You have to make sure to properly wash all equipment post usage.

Use diluted fertilizer for younger plants with new growth to avoid harming them. High concentration of fertilizer can burn the plants.

You should not fertilize if there is rain forecasted. Rain can cause runoff and harmful chemicals can become part of the water system that can kill fishes and other fauna.

Always apply it in colder parts of the day, like early morning or late evening to avoid direct sun exposure which can cause the soil to dry up and the grass to burn.

all purpose fertilizer 10-10-10

Frequently Asked Questions

What Kind of Fertilizer Is the 10-10-10?

These are the complete fertilizers with primary nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium present in equal amounts. It is an inorganic fertilizer with synthetic components that cater to the needs of different plants.

Can You Use 10-10-10 on Fruit Trees?

Yes, it can be used on fruit trees. You have to apply it early in the spring season before the buds emerge. It will provide nutrients boost to the tree.

Is Triple 10 fertilizer good for lawns?
It is the most used lawn fertilizer as it provides a high nitrogen percentage to support green grass growth. You will need to apply it four times a year to maintain a thick bed of grass.

Final Thoughts

A triple 10 fertilizer is your go to all-in-one savior for when you need to replenish your soil or give a quick boost to your plants. Its ease of use makes it a popular choice among experts and beginners alike. You just need to use it carefully and do tons of research beforehand to achieve a flourishing garden.

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Johan Perez
Johan Perez is an experienced agriculturalist with over twenty years in the field. He holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural Sciences and has contributed extensively to research on sustainable farming practices. Johan has also written for numerous agricultural periodicals, offering expert advice on farming technologies and methods. In his free time, he enjoys outdoor adventures, which often inform his professional insights into ecological agriculture.

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