14-14-14 Fertilizer: When and How To Use It

If you’re growing crops, a garden full of fruits and veggies or you’re just trying to keep your lawn the envy of the neighborhood, you’ve got to get your precious plants plenty of water and plenty of food. And when it comes to food, that can be a tricky puzzle.

bucket filled with fertilizer
bucket filled with fertilizer

There are tons of different fertilizers on the market, all of them cleaning to work miracles, and all of them having hugely varying amounts of needed nutrients.

How are you supposed to make sense of it!? Give your plants too much of one thing, or not enough of another, and they can suffer or even die!

I know it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but you don’t have to: I’m here to bring you a guide for fertilizers so you can know what you’re looking at, what it’s best for, and when the best times to use it are.

And this entry will be looking at a pretty potent all-purpose fertilizer formula, 14-14-14. With just a little reading you’ll know whether it’s right for you. So read on…

What Does 14-14-14 Signify?

What do those numbers on a bag of 14-14-14 mean anyway? I’ll tell you, it’s a code. It is a code that signifies the percentage of major plant nutrients in the mix.

Those numbers, in order, correspond to Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, also commonly abbreviated as the NPK ratio.

Each of those letters corresponds to the atomic symbol of each element, so in this case nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Yes, K is the symbol for potassium on the periodic table. I didn’t design it, don’t look at me!

Now, looking at a bag of 14-14-14 we know that it has 14% nitrogen, 14% phosphorus, and 14% potassium. Just that easy!


From what we learned in the previous section we know that 14-14-14 has equal parts of all the major plant nutrients that pretty much every species needs in differing amounts. But is that all that you can expect to find in one of these fertilizers?

Not necessary! Depending on the manufacturer and the product line, your fertilizer might contain insecticides, hydrophilic granules that will help the soil retain moisture, specialty nutrients, and trace elements to help certain plants, soil conditioners, fillers, and a lot more.

Now, whether or not these additives are needed or even good for your application is up for you to decide; so much of the time, they are just advertiser fodder that helps them sell common fertilizer to unwitting customers at a big markup!

Make sure you check the ingredients list on your fertilizer and buy accordingly.

Benefits of 14-14-14

If you couldn’t tell from the even ratio of all major ingredients, 14-14-14 is a fairly strong but evenly balanced fertilizer that can be a good choice for general purposes and ongoing fertilization.

It gives all plants plenty of the major elements that they need in order to thrive, but it has a drawback is that it can easily contain or add too much nitrogen for sensitive plants or for those that already have plenty.

This can make it tricky to use properly without risk of harm, especially if you’re caring for lots of different plants. All need nitrogen and phosphorus in different ratios, and 14-14-14 is sort of a “brute force” formula that will give them plenty of each in the same amounts, regardless of what they actually need.

But, for the beginning of the season boosts, or for tending to soil or plants that have been badly neglected all the way around, it is a dependable choice, and also a good one for nitrogen-craving plants that still need an occasional shot of phosphorus and potassium.

What Plants Is This Fertilizer Best For?

Lots of plants can definitely benefit from 14-14-14, but a good guideline is that you should only use it freely on those that you know need tons of nitrogen.

Many kinds of grasses, leafy vegetables like lettuce, kale, cabbage and the like, fruit trees, ivy and decorative plants that don’t produce large blooms are all receptive choices.

Note that you can use it on all sorts of other plants safely, but you’ve got to be more cautious and check those soil levels. It’s really easy to give any plant too much nitrogen when you’re using 14-14-14, and it’s probably too much for young and delicate plants that don’t fall into the above categories.

When Should You Use It?

If I was going to pick one time that is ideal for 14-14-14, it is at the beginning of any given growing season for whatever kind of plant you are dealing with. The even ratio of essential nutrients will give any plant a great start and definitely get them off on the right foot, or should I say root!

Ultimately, it makes a simple and straightforward soil amendment if you’re dealing with land that has been depleted of pretty much everything. It is strong enough to get it back in order quickly, but not so strong that you have to worry about overdoing it so long as you use a little bit of care.

When’s the Best Time To Apply It?

As with all higher nitrogen fertilizers, you should make it a point to apply it only early in the morning or late in the evening. Never apply it during the middle of the day particularly when plants are subjected to direct sunlight or when temperatures are just high generally, even if it’s overcast.

Be warned: if you apply it too late in the morning and then the sun comes fully up, or if you’re foolish enough to apply in the middle of the day, expect your plants to get cooked!

How Much Should You Use per Acre?

Lacking any other information, you’ll probably be safe using about a pound of 14-14-14 for every acre of land that you are fertilizing. This is an old-timers’ rule of thumb that is still reasonably applicable today.

That being said, I highly recommend that you perform soil testing before you go this route and be sure to look up the manufacturer’s instructions: some fertilizers are a lot more concentrated than others, and one way or the other your land might end up with too little or too much.

In that case, it’s always better to add too little because you can come back around and add more later after follow-up testing. But once you put down the fertilizer it’s very, very difficult to take it back up again!

How to Apply

You can find 14-14-14 in both liquid and solid varieties. Liquid varieties might be sold diluted or undiluted, but both will be applied with sprayers or for more localized application can be poured on with a watering can or right out of a beaker or pale.

Solid varieties can be spread using a spreader, broadcaster or by hand. The type you’ll need depends on the precise formula you’re working with: granules, pellets, and powder all require different devices and different settings to attain the right application rate. Messing this part up will, once again, result in under- or over-fertilization.

Is It Good for Lawns?

Yes, 14-14-14 is a dependably good choice for all kinds of lawns. The vast majority of grasses out there need plenty of nitrogen, and naturally, this fertilizer has plenty of, but it also has the potassium and phosphorus that they need for well-rounded health.

As with other plants, 14-14-14 can be a fine choice at the beginning of the growing season or closing in on winter if your lawn needs a last-minute boost of nutrition to help it cope with harsh weather or stress.

It’s also possible to use it as a general-purpose fertilizer for some grasses, but you must be very cautious because it contains enough nitrogen to be harmful if you aren’t paying close attention.

Is 14-14-14 Fertilizer Good for Gardens?

Yes, depending on what you’re growing. If you’re starting fresh, 14-14-14 is a good choice for prepping your soil prior to all plantings assuming that your levels are depleted.

For individual fertilization or maintenance, it is a good choice for your leafy salad vegetables like lettuce and cabbage and also for fruit trees that are putting out a lot of foliage.

Average Price

The price of 14-14-14 varies considerably depending on the manufacturer, the concentration, and the additives. Expect to spend anywhere from $1 to $4 dollars a pound for the stuff.

Where Can You Buy It?

14-14-14 fertilizer is pretty common, and you can usually find it in well-equipped garden centers, home improvement stores, hardware stores, and landscaping suppliers along with nurseries.

What’s the Best 14-14-14 Brand?

Southern AG makes a wonderful controlled release 14-14-14 that is excellent for all sorts of plants, but particularly potted ones.

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