0-20-20 Fertilizer: Benefits and When & How To Use It

Whether you are a homeowner or a homesteader, you’ve got some kind of greenery that you’re responsible for taking care of on your property.

Maybe it’s nothing more than your lawn and a few landscaping plants. Maybe you are growing in a big and bountiful garden, or even properly raising crops.

fertilizer truck on pasture
fertilizer truck on pasture

Whatever the case, one important part of taking care of any plant life is making sure it has enough nutrients in the soil so that it can grow. As plants use up nutrients, you’ll need to replace them by using fertilizer.

But applying fertilizer is a skill unto itself: you’ll need to pick the right kind to replenish your soil, and use just enough to keep from harming your plants.

Today I’ll tell you all about 0-20-20 so you can figure out if it is right for you and your property…

What Does 0-20-20 Signify for Fertilizer?

The 0-20-20 you see on this fertilizer signifies the percentage of nutrients that it contains. In this case, it contains no nitrogen, 20% phosphorus and 20% potassium.

You’ll see this sort of arrangement on all other fertilizers, too, and sometimes expressed as NPK.

This way, you can tell at a glance precisely what fertilizer contains for your plants, and plan accordingly for their nutritional needs.

Also, the ‘K’ in NPK stands for potassium because that is the atomic symbol for potassium on the periodic table. Don’t get confused!

What Ingredients are Typically in 0-20-20 Fertilizer?

Of course, you only have two of the “big three” present and 0-20-20; phosphorus and potassium. It contains no nitrogen, and that’s why this type of fertilizer is colloquially referred to as “zero nitrogen” or “no-nitro.”

But what other things are present in fertilizer of this type? That depends on the manufacturer, though you can count on various filler ingredients being present such as sand, moss, soil, lime and more.

Again, the precise mix depends on the manufacturer and the line of the fertilizer: some contain more and better ingredients, while others are mostly filler aside from your big two nutrients.

Some fertilizer brands also have helpful additives like soil conditioners that can improve soil quality and the health of your plants over time with successive or consistent application.

I say that you should know what you need and buy accordingly; do a soil test and purchase fertilizer based on the results, not because of flashy marketing.

Benefits of 0-20-20 Fertilizer

0-20-20 is an ideal fertilizer for plants that need a lot of nutrients except nitrogen. Maybe it’s a type of plant that simply doesn’t need a lot of it, like clover, or maybe it is because your soil already has plenty of it.

Maybe you’re heading into winter and your plants don’t need the nitrogen because they aren’t producing any greenery at that time. And all of these cases, 0-20-20 is a viable choice.

It is also a good choice for any fruits and veggies you might be growing if testing shows that they already have plenty of nitrogen to draw on in the soil.

Too much nitrogen is the number one cause of plant burn during fertilization, so you shouldn’t be afraid to delete it entirely if your place already have plenty of it, but they might still need phosphorus and potassium.

That’s where 0-20-20 can save the day…

What Plants Is 0-20-20 Fertilizer Best For?

0-20-20 is it good for plants and grasses that don’t need much nitrogen. For instance, clover is one of them, as mentioned, because clover tends to increase nitrogen levels in the soil already, and do so naturally.

If you have lots of clover on your property, and assuming you don’t want to get rid of it, 0-20-20 is a good choice.

Other plants that are good candidates for an application of 0-20-20 are fruit trees, particularly at the end of the season in the fall.

Giving plants an extra burst of nutrition, even after they’re done fruiting, can help them better weather dormancy in the winter.

Likewise, any early fertilization when spring rolls around is a great time for an application of 0-20-20 if your soil test reveals that the nitrogen levels are still adequate.

0-20-20 is also a good choice for any brand-new plantings of delicate plants that can be easily harmed by high nitrogen levels.

When Should You Use 0-20-20 Fertilizer?

The best times to use 0-20-20 is at the beginning of spring when you are putting in new plants, or when your existing plans are getting ready to start growing again.

Ultimately, it is similarly good near the end of fall to help give all plants one more big boost of nutrition so that they can store up energy to use while they are dormant.

When’s the Best Time To Apply 0-20-20?

As with pretty much all other fertilizers, you’ll want to apply 0-20-20 early in the morning or late in the evening. Fertilizers can stress plants, especially during the heat of the day.

Nitrogen is usually the perpetrator responsible for burning roots and foliage, so you won’t have to worry about this with 0-20-20 but you should still stick to the typical application time for best results.

If you must apply 0-20-20 in the middle of the day, try to only do so for plants that are well-shaded or do it on a cloudy, overcast day.

How Much 0-20-20 Fertilizer Should You Use per Acre?

This totally depends on what you are using the fertilizer for. For general application, the old standby of 1 pound per 1000 sqft is generally enough for prepping soils that already have adequate levels of nitrogen.

What’s the Best Method to Apply 0-20-20 Fertilizer?

You have multiple options for applying 0-20-20. If you get it in powder, flake, or granule form you can apply it with a handheld or pushed broadcaster and then water it in.

Another dry option is in the form of fertilizer spikes, though these are increasingly difficult to come by since 0-20-20 is less common in stores these days. More on that in a minute.

Another option is liquid, particularly if you mix your own. This can be diluted, if necessary, and then dispensed through a garden sprayer, backpack sprayer or water hose attachment.

This works well and gets nutrients directly into the soil very quickly, but it won’t last as long or release over time like dry fertilizers will.

It’s a trade-off, and all have advantages and disadvantages. You should choose based on your own requirements.

Is 0-20-20 Fertilizer Good for Lawns?

Yes. 0-20-20 is good for lawns that already have plenty of nitrogen to make use of, but are particularly stressed or hungry for phosphorus and potassium.

It’s a good early-season and late-season fertilizer; think of it as a good option for “waking up” or “putting to sleep” any lawns for the year that don’t need nitrogen.

Is 0-20-20 Fertilizer Good for Gardens?

Yes, it definitely can be, and it is particularly good for decorative plants and certain fruits and vegetables.

Root vegetables like carrots, radishes and onions can do well with little to no nitrogen, as can certain legumes like peas.

What’s the Average Price of 0-20-20 Fertilizer?

The average price of 0-20-20 ranges from .13 cents to .18 cents an ounce assuming you can find it.

It’s a lot less common than it used to be, and this might lead to it being classified as a specialty fertilizer and priced accordingly, so don’t be surprised if it is much more expensive than this.

Where Can You Buy 0-20-20 Fertilizer?

Your best bet for finding 0-20-20 is in a specialized and well-stocked garden center, nursery or hardware store that also specializes in landscaping and lawn care. Otherwise, your best chance of success is to look online.

0-20-20 is officially uncommon these days, so you might not find it at all in your area.

What’s the Best 0-20-20 Fertilizer Brand?

My own searches did not show any major fertilizer manufacturers on the market still producing 0-20-20, though I have seen it still produced by smaller local and regional producers, so I know they’re out there.

Athens Seed Co. is one such “hometown” supplier that has a small presence on the web if you desperately want some.

If you need 0-20-20, consider mixing your own from basic fertilizer ingredients. It’s generally safe, and it isn’t difficult!

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