What is 5-10-10 Fertilizer? [2020 update]

What is 5-10-10 Fertilizer?

Let’s start by talking about the three numbers and what they stand for. The three numbers separated by hyphens stand for Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. When you see these numbers, it is a commercial fertilizer. Organic fertilizers are not labeled with the ratio of these 3 nutrients.

This 3 digit number is the NPK number. N for Nitrogen, P for Phosphorus and K for Potassium as per the Table of the Elements.

So, 5-10-10 fertilizer is a commercial fertilizer with 5% Nitrogen, 10% Phosphorus and 10% Potassium. 5-10-10  fertilizer is considered a complete fertilizer because it contains all 3 nutrients. Bone Meal is not a complete fertilizer because it’s nutrient ratios are 4-12-0. Bone Meal does not contain any Potassium or Potash.

If you need more growth or better health from your plants go with more Nitrogen. Look for a 10% or higher value. This will “kick start” new growth and more fruit.

When to Use 5-10-10 Fertilizer

5-10-10 is great for strong and healthy plants with a little for new growth and crop production. It’s a great “All Around” fertilizer. If you need more leaf, stem or fruit productivity and size then get more Nitrogen like 10-10-10. The Nitrogen component helps plants get bigger with more fruit. Tomato plants really like 5-10-10.

Here are some examples of fertilizers and their NPK

  • Lilly Miller Morcrop Tomato and Vegetable Fertilizer 5-10-10
  • JR Peters Classic No 4 Blossum Booster 10-30-20
  • Espoma GFS1056 Garden Food Fertilizer 5-10-5

5-10-10 fertilizer

How to Apply 5-10-10 Fertilizers

5-10-10 fertilizer can be applied on top of the soil and/or mixed with the top 2 inches of soil. Use it when planting vegetables or seeds and then again every 4-6 weeks. Water afterwards.

What Do Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium Do?

Nitrogen

Nitrogen is the most important nutrient for plants. Plants absorb more Nitrogen that any other nutrient. Nitrogen is essential to form proteins and most living things are made from protein.

Nitrogen will determine whether your plants grow, are healthy and bright green in color. It is also responsible for lots of foliage. I’ve had several plants, a small Oak tree and a Feather Duster bush, that were Nitrogen deficient. They did not grow new leaves or have new branch shoots. The leaves were yellowish green and were falling off. There were very few leaves on the branches too, I thought they were going to die.

So I bought some compost and spread it around the drip/root line of the Oak tree and the Feather Duster bush. I just spread the compost over the top of the soil in a layer about 1 inch deep. I then watered as usual. After 2 weeks, I saw a definite change. New leaves were starting to grow and were darker green and healthy looking. The Oak tree went from looking like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree [very few leaves] to a healthy and bushy Oak tree. It has grown about 2 feet in 2 years. It is amazing how much the compost changed these 2 plants. That’s what Nitrogen does.

It is recommended, and I do this, to add fertilizer every 6 months to maintain a good level of nutrients in the soil. I add compost to the soil and on top. It’s good to mix organic material into the soil to help retain moisture and stop the soil from compacting. This allows water to penetrate deep into the soil and reach the roots.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus is responsible for helping plants use and store energy via photosynthesis. It helps plants grow and develop normally. Phosphorus is a mineral and is found in Phosphate rock.

Plants that are deficient in Phosphorus will look abnormal [leaves will be abnormally shaped] with possible discoloration.

Potassium/Potash

Potash or Potassium is mainly responsible for maintaining the plants immune system and fruit or crop development. It will increase the crop yield and quality of the crop. So if you are raising a garden, make sure your garden has sufficient Potassium. You will enjoy a productive garden with large and healthy crops. You will also avoid disease which can kill off your crops.

Why Use 5-10-10 Fertilizers?

Plants remove nutrients from the soil as they grow. Theses nutrients will become depleted at some point in time and cause plants to suffer. Plants will turn yellow and/or not grow. Some plants will even die. Nutrients must be added to the soil in order to sustain optimal plant growth and health. Fertilizers do just that. There are many different fertilizers for different type plants. Some fertilizers are specifically for tomato plants or citrus. They are specialty fertilizers.

Some fertilizers are great for just about any plants like 5-10-10. This is about ideal for most vegetable gardens.

Types of Fertilizers

There are 2 types of fertilizers, Organic and In-organic or synthetic. Both types are used by commercial farmers and home gardeners.

Organic Fertilizers

Organic fertilizers are based on plant material such as compost, mulch, manure and worm castings. They typically occur naturally and are not produced in a chemical factory. They are easier to use and will not harm the environment.

Organic fertilizers work more slowly and over a longer period of time. When you add compost to a garden or plant for the first time, it will take a few weeks to see the results. But the results can be quite significant and “eye opening”.

Some of the best organic fertilizers that I have used are compost, composted steer manure, grass clipping mulch and worm castings.

I have bought and still buy Kellogg’s N-Rich Soil Amendment. It is fantastic. It’s a compost and comes in a large 3 CF bag. It costs about $8/bag but is compacted so you get a ton of compost in one bag. It goes a long way in the garden or yard.

Another favorite on mine is GardenTime Composted Mulch Soil Conditioner. It comes in a 2 CF bag and costs about $7/bag. I use it in my garden with fantastic results. It really helps the soil retain moisture and of course produces big healthy vegetables. I mix it in the soil and then spread a 2″ layer on top.

In-organic/Synthetic Fertilizers

In-organic fertilizers are made from the chemical components and are great for a quick boost in nutrients. They are manufactured in a chemical plant or fertilizer plant. For long term fertilization, go with an organic fertilizer like compost.

In-organic fertilizers must be used according to the directions otherwise it can kill plants quickly. Too much is dangerous and can be harmful to the environment. So use them wisely.

Fertilizer Forms

Fertilizers come in different forms and are applied in different methods. They come in 3 forms, liquid, granular and powder. Liquid fertilizers are usually diluted and sprayed over plants. Powders are usually mixed with water but can be spread on the ground and then watered. Granular fertilizers are spread over the ground and will be absorbed over time when watered.