10-10-10 Fertilizer

10-10-10 Fertilizer: What it is and How to Use it

If you're looking for a versatile and all-inclusive fertilizer to give your lawn a healthy boost, 10-10-10 fertilizer may be just what you need. This formula is designed to deliver balanced nutrition to your lawn, with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. So if you're looking to achieve that deep green hue and luscious thickness, 10-10-10 might be the right choice for you!

What is in 10-10-10?

10-10-10 is considered an all-purpose, balanced fertilizer that you can use for all kinds of plants and situations. The numbers 10-10-10 represent the amounts of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus(P) and Potassium(K) - or as they're commonly known, NPK. That means there's about a full ten percent each for all three nutrients which are considered primary ingredients needed by plants to survive! Fertilizer grades are made by mixing two or more nutrient sources together to form a blend, that is why they are called "mixed fertilizers." Blends not only include NPK but can also include other additives to increase nutrients in the soil, turf, and plants.

10 10 10 fertilizer for lawns

What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages?

The convenience of the 10-10-10 is unmatched. The Number 1 advantage is that it is a liquid, and everything you spray into the turf goes to work immediately instead of laying on top of the soil and drying out, getting washed away, or disrupted by foot traffic, wind, or water.  With granular you also have to water immediately to break it down and put it to work whereas with liquid, you are watering it in at time of application.  We recommend that you water after application to soak it in even more, but if you forget or do not have time that day, not a big issue.  Also, the liquid is in effect a slow release product.  The turf, plants and soil only use as much as they need, you could apply a gallon of fertilizer in a 1 cubic foot are and the turf and plants will only take up what they need.  Also, it is generally recommended that you not allow pets or kids out on the lawn after granular application for fear pets will get it on their feet and lick their paws making them sick or worse.  If kids fall down into the pellets and get it on their hands, wipe their face, drink water from the faucet using their hands they can ingest the nitrogen into their mouth or through the skin.

Another big advantage is being able to apply it with a hose sprayer, vs. needing a granular type applicator that you walk behind or ride.  Liquid nitrogen fertilizers are being adopted by most large venues such as golf courses, sports fields, and large parks for the ease of application and rapid green up results. You can also use it as a foliar on plants and vegetables when desired. 

We receive huge accolades when our customers discover they can add other liquids and blend substances such as Liquid Lawn Aerator, Dethatcher, and Iron to the mix at the same time.

10 10 10 liquid fertilizer

At Covington we use a Low Salt Index Nitrogen, but provide a quick fix of nutrients.  What does “Low Salt Index” mean? First of all, fertilizer salt index is a measure of the concentration of salt induced into the solution.  Salt index is a ratio of numeric measure of the increase of osmotic pressure produced by fertilizer when compared to that which may be produced by the same weight of sodium nitrate (NaN03), where the sodium nitrate is assigned a relative value of 100.  Sodium nitrate is 100 percent soluble in water. Turf and plant injury happens when the salt is near to the germinating seed or growing tissue of the plant.  This distorted imbalance creates what is better known as fertilizer burn.  We test our nitrogen fertilizers often to insure we maintain the lowest salt index we can to insure the plants and turf are receiving the most nutrients possible. 

Where Does Nitrogen Fertilizer Come From and How is it Made?

nitrogen manufacturing plant

Most people are not aware that most granular nitrogen fertilizer is produced by capturing nitrogen from the air using a complex chemical reaction. The primary raw material for nitrogen production is natural gas, but nitrogen can also be produced from coal, fuel oil and naphtha. 

Fertilizer is made by mixing the dry ingredients with water to form a wet mixture. Thereafter the wet mixture is extruded through an extruder and cut to form a pellet. The pelletized fertilizer allows the fertilizer to be more accurately applied.

nitrogen fertilizer extruder

Of all the earth’s gases, nitrogen is the most abundant and the atmosphere consists of roughly 78% nitrogen.  Most pellet nitrogen is made via the Haber-Bosch process which utilizes hydrogen and atmospheric nitrogen under tremendous pressure and high temperature with an iron catalyst to produce ammonia gas and condensed with cold water formulating liquid ammonia.  Thus natural gas is the energy source and the reaction produces nitrogen which goes into a high moisture fertilizer crusher machine. This machine can crush materials with high moisture content. After crushing and mixing the next step is granulating, for which a granulator develops the pellets we are familiar with.

haber-bosch process chart

Liquid Fertilizer

Liquid Nitrogen fertilizer is often made from anhydrous ammonia or urea which made it’s debut in the agriculture market in the 1960s largely due to the nonhazardous makeup of an organic compound that can be applied more easily to the soil or mixed with other compounds to create NPK or used with other liquids to save time, money, and fuel in agricultural settings.  By mixing ammonium nitrate, urea, and water it makes nitrogen fertilizers safer to handle, convenient to mix and more easily applied. Ok, enough of that boring scholarly BS, let’s get to the application side.  If you are a geek and want more, there are some great videos on YouTube about the manufacturing of nitrogen fertilizers.

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

It's never too early or late in the year to feed your lawn! As a general rule, warm-season grasses will need four times per annum feeding. Apply the first dose when you see new growth starting - this should be done around March/April time frame for most areas with mild winters which helps their young leaves grow healthier faster than if they were left untreated all season long. As for cool-season grasses, you need to fertilize once in the spring when new growth begins and twice in the fall when the high summer temperatures begin to cool. Space fall applications 30 days apart. 

Before you get started on fertilizing your lawn and garden, it is advisable to start with a soil test. This will indicate what your soil is missing and what additional needs such as organic matter the soil could use to improve plant growth. 

We do not recommend that you apply fertilizer in the middle of the day or heat of the day since evaporation can pull the liquid from the ground. Instead, you need to choose a morning (preferably before 10am) when the weather is expected to be cool and there is no rain forecasted. This will not only allow the fertilizer to soak in before it gets too hot, but will reduce the risk of being washed away. 

How to Apply 10-10-10 Fertilizer to the Lawn 

  1. Mow your lawn three days prior to spreading the fertilizer. Water the grass thoroughly to moisten the soil one to three days before applying the fertilizer. Allow the grass blades to dry completely.
  2. Position a fertilizer spreader over a sidewalk, driveway or other hard surface. Calibrate the spreader to the release rate. Measure out one-half of the needed amount of fertilizer, and pour it into the fertilizer spreader.
  3. Walk slowly back and forth across the lawn in north-south rows with the fertilizer spreader broadcasting the granules in front of you. Turn the spreader off at the end of each row as you turn around for another pass to avoid overfertilizing the lawn edges. Turn the spreader back on as you begin to walk forward down the next strip.
  4. Park the fertilizer spreader on the hard surface once more. Pour the remaining one-half portion of fertilizer into the spreader. Broadcast the additional fertilizer over the lawn in the same manner as before, this time walking back and forth in east-west rows.
  5. Attach a sprinkler head to a garden hose. Position the sprinkler in the center of the lawn so that the water spray will reach the entire surface of the turf. Water the grass to a depth of 3 inches to settle the fertilizer into the soil. 

How to Apply 10-10-10 to Trees 

When it comes to fertilizing your trees, using a product like 10-10-10 fertilizer can provide them with the nutrients they need to stay healthy and grow strong. Applying this type of fertilizer is a relatively simple process. Hold tight and  I'll walk you through the steps involved! 

  1. When you start to fertilize your trees, the first thing you need to do is calculate the root zone size. Tree roots grow at least twice as far from the trunk as the branches do. Calculating the radius of the root is simple. You will need to measure the distance from the trunk to the end of the longest branch (distance of trunk) + (distance of longest branch). Be sure to measure this in feet. If you are needing to do this in square feet, you will need to multiply (root radius) x (root radius) x (3.14). 
  2. Once you have determined the root zone around your tree it is now time to determine the amount of the 10-10-10 fertilizer you need to spread around your tree. For Instance, a 20-pound bag of 10-10-10 fertilizer, enough to cover 2,000 square feet, contains 10 percent or 2 pounds each of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Multiply your tree's root zone by the application rate per square foot to find the total number of pounds to apply.
  3. Now that you have determined the root zone and the amount of 10-10-10 fertilizer that you need to apply around your tree, it’s time to apply it! Measure out the amount of fertilizer you need. Mark the outside boundary of the root zone with a garden hose or a circle of flour or lime. Also mark a circle 3 to 4 feet from the trunk. Evenly spread the fertilizer between the two circles, avoiding application close to the trunk. If the tree is in a lawn, apply when the grass is dry. Water to moisten the soil and distribute the fertilizer to a 12- to 18-inch depth. Apply in early spring or autumn when roots are actively growing.

 More is Not Always Better

    Take care not to over-use 10-10-10 fertilizer in your garden, if used according to the instructions you won't should not have any issues. More is not better when working with nitrogen's of any kind.   If you over fertilize your garden, you will start to see plants wilting, burned areas on leaves and lawns.  Phosphorus and nitrogen can harm plants when used in excess. You should use caution when planning to apply a 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer to most flowering plants. Use only when a balance is required and dilute as necessary to avoid harming the plant.


    10-10-10 fertilizer is a great option for your garden, whether you’re looking to improve the quality of the soil or just give your plants a boost. It’s easy to use and can be applied in several different ways, so it’s perfect for any gardener. Just be sure to read up on the specific instructions for your chosen application method, and enjoy watching your garden thrive! Have you tried using 10-10-10 fertilizer in your garden or on your lawn? What were your results? Let us know!