0-20-20 Fertilizer: When and How to Use It

No matter where you live and what you do, if you have any plants you care for you already know that it is up to you to get them the nutrients they need.

young Amish man plowing the field with 4 horses

Whether you want them to turn out big, green and beautiful or just yield a bountiful harvest of fruits or veggies, proper fertilization is paramount for good results.

But, this seemingly simple objective is complicated: every kind of plant has its own nutritional requirements, and differing soil nutrient levels can make your job anything but easy.

Then there’s the fact that there are so many different kinds of fertilizer on the market, picking the right one can be challenging.

You don’t need to sweat these details though since I am bringing you a guide on the various fertilizers you’ll see at the garden center.

Today we’re looking at 0-20-20, a no-nitro blend. Keep reading and I’ll tell you everything you need to know about it.

What Does 0-20-20 Fertilizer Mean?

What does the 0-20-20 mean concerning this particular fertilizer, and what do those other numbers mean on other kinds of fertilizer?

Simply enough, it is a code or designation that tells you exactly how many major nutrients you’ll find in a given formulation.

In this case, 0-20-20 contains no nitrogen, 20% phosphorus and 20% potassium. This is commonly referred to as the NPK ratio: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium (the K is for potassium).

Understanding this, you can at a glance determine how many nutrients a given bag of fertilizer contains and with a little bit of knowledge determine what it is best used for.

0-20-20 Fertilizer Benefits

So what does 0-20-20 do for us? Basically, this no-nitrogen blend is perfect for any plants that don’t need any nitrogen at the moment, or if you’re trying to get phosphorus and potassium complaints that are already growing in high-nitrogen soils.

You can also use it strategically at different parts of the year to optimize your plants for different seasons.

For instance, if you’re heading into winter and you want to give your plans a last boost of nutrition to help winterize them, 0-20-20 is perfect assuming they aren’t evergreens; most plants don’t grow any new leaves or other greenery in the wintertime.

Likewise, it is a great choice for any fruiting plant or showy flowers since these plants require additional phosphorus.

What Are the Ingredients in 0-20-20 Fertilizer?

So we know that the major ingredients in 0-20-20 are phosphorus and potassium, but what else is in there?

Depending on the manufacturer and what they decide to add in, you’ll find active and inactive ingredients like soil, sand, lime and additional trace nutrients or minerals like iron.

Then, depending on whether or not the brand you choose and the offering is organic or not, you might find special additives like soil conditioners, water retention aids, and even pest control agents.

Note that buying a fertilizer that goes all out and includes everything-but-the-kitchen-sink is not necessarily a good thing depending on your application…

You might want the cleanest, leanest and simplest fertilizer available if you want to maintain total control over what goes into the soil for especially delicate plants.

As always, be sure to consult the ingredients list or the manufacturer’s data sheet for more info.

How Should You Apply 0-20-20 Fertilizer?

The best way to apply 0-20-20 depends on the type that you buy. This fertilizer comes in various forms, including liquid and dry, although dry is by far the most common.

If you are going the dry route, you’ll probably get it in a powder or granule format that makes it suitable for scattering by hand and raking in or applying with a broadcaster or spreader.

Liquid formulations typically require dilution, and again you should consult the instructions on the package for precise dilution ratios. This can then be applied with a watering can, sprayer, or other device.

One thing to note is that liquid formula 0-20-20 typically releases its nutrients very quickly, meaning you might need to reapply sooner than you would compared to a dry version.

What Plants Benefit From 0-20-20 Fertilizer?

0-20-20 is good for any kind of plant that doesn’t need a lot of nitrogen or just doesn’t need nitrogen currently.

And yes, I know that pretty much all plants need nitrogen, but not all plants need you to give it to them.

For instance, if your soil test reveals that there’s already lots of available nitrogen in the ground, you don’t need to add any more.

Plants like clover are nitrogen-fixing, adding their own back to the soil.

If you’re working with any kind of delicate plant that’s easily damaged by excess nitrogen, like many herbs, 0-20-20 is a great way to get them the other nutrients they need with no risk of toasting them.

0-20-20 is also an excellent end-of-fall fertilizer since it will help preserve and winterize plants that don’t produce any more leaves during wintertime.

Is 0-20-20 Good for Gardens?

Yes, generally speaking, 0-20-20 is a good choice for selective use in your garden. Any plant that produces beautiful flowers, fruits, or vegetables will be well served by 0-20-20 assuming they already have enough nitrogen.

Likewise, some of your veggies, particularly beans and true root vegetables need very little nitrogen meaning you can reach for 0-20-20 for periodic nutrition.

Is 0-20-20 Good for Trees?

Yes, particularly for fruit trees. Again, though, as long as they already have enough nitrogen. But any of your trees that produce beautiful flowers or fruits will be well served by the phosphorus and potassium in 0-20-20.

Is 0-20-20 Fertilizer Good for Your Lawn?

Yes, but for special purposes since most kinds of grass need lots of nitrogen and 0-20-20 doesn’t have any to give them.

0-20-20 is, though, great at the beginning and end of the growing season for your lawn. It’s also a good stress reliever fertilizer if your grass is suffering because of harsh weather or other problems.

Much of the time, adding nitrogen to the mix when you’re trying to stabilize your grass is the wrong move.

Is 0-20-20 Good for Your Houseplants?

Yes, and it’s especially good for flowers and other delicate plants. If you often toast your house plants with other fertilizers due to giving them too much nitrogen, leading with 0-20-20 and then selectively amending in the future when nitrogen is needed is a smart, safe move.

How and When Should You Use 0-20-20 Fertilizer?

You’ll do well to apply 0-20-20 at the beginning of spring and at the end of fall as a good rule of thumb.

The one-two punch of phosphorus and potassium is perfect for setting your plants up for success in the springtime, and helping them cope with the oncoming rigors of winter when fall comes to a close.

What’s the Best Time of Day to Apply 0-20-20?

As always, you’ll want to apply your 0-20-20 early in the morning or in the evening when the day is coolest.

Applying any fertilizer can potentially stress plants, especially in the heat of the day during direct, intense hours of sun.

Even though 0-20-20 doesn’t have any nitrogen which is a special hazard to plant in the middle of the day, your plants will do better if you fertilize them in the morning or evening.

How Much 0-20-20 Fertilizer Do You Need per Acre?

This is dependent on your soil and what kind of plants you’re fertilizing or preparing to plant.

I’ve found that the old standby rule of thumb of 1 pound of fertilizer for every 1,000 square feet works well with 0-20-20 assuming your soil testing reveals that nitrogen levels are good.

But remember, do check the manufacturer’s specifications: you might need to decrease or increase that ratio depending on the concentration of your fertilizer.

Who Makes the Best 0-20-20 Fertilizer?

There aren’t too many makers on the market these days still producing 0-20-20, and that has led most gardeners who still want the stuff to make their own.

However, you can get some specialty 0-20-20 from Antler King, a product they call Clover Fuel. It’s designed to supercharge clover grove and attract deer, but it works just fine for other purposes as well.

Where Can You Find 0-20-20 Fertilizer?

Assuming you don’t want to make your own, your best bet for finding 0-20-20 is online or from local and regional fertilizer providers. I’d start my search at a farm store or a specialty garden store if I were you.

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