36-0-0 Fertilizer: Benefits and When & How to Use It

Anyone who is serious about growing plants, of any kind, knows that you have to get them the right resources if you want them to thrive.

bucket filled with fertilizer
bucket filled with fertilizer

All plants need different amounts of water and light, and ideal temperatures if they’re going to grow big, strong, and healthy. But plants also need the right nutrition, and of course, they will need it in the right ratios too.

One of the trickiest things for beginning green thumbs is figuring out what kind of fertilizer is best for their plants, and at what time.

Giving them too much of one thing can be bad for them, as can giving them too little of another. Combine that with all the different types of fertilizer on the market and it’s easy to get confused.

But there’s no need to worry about that: to help you sort out what’s what when it comes to fertilizer, I’m bringing you detailed guides on all of the most common ones. Today we’ll be looking at 36-0-0, a strong nitrogen-only variety.

What Does 36-0-0 Actually Mean?

When you’re looking at a bag of 36-0-0, or any other fertilizer for that matter, you’ve probably stood and wondered what those numbers mean. Simply stated, it is a code for what ingredients, and in what amounts, that fertilizer in particular contains.

The code means nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in that order, commonly rendered as NPK, with each letter standing in for the atomic symbol of the corresponding element.

Breaking that down, we see that 36-0-0 contains nothing but nitrogen, and 36% of the contents are nitrogen alone. You don’t get any phosphorus or potassium in this blend.

Just remember this code when you’re looking at any other kind of fertilizer and you’ll soon be able to figure out what it has and, with a little know-how, what it’s good for…

What Ingredients are Typically in 36-0-0 Fertilizer?

As detailed above, 36-0-0 contains nothing but nitrogen, and lots of it, is usually derived from ammonium nitrate. It’s definitely a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer, for sure!

But does this fertilizer contain anything else besides, stuff that doesn’t fit into one of the main ingredient categories? That depends on the brand…

It’s pretty common to find fertilizers, particularly those from the larger companies that sell to home improvement and hardware stores, that contain soil conditioners, insecticides, hydrophilic media for water retention, and other stuff.

These ingredients might be helpful for you, they might be harmful in some circumstances, or they might just be an excuse for the company to charge your money. It all depends on what you’re doing with it!

Benefits of 36-0-0 Fertilizer

If you need nitrogen and nothing but, 36-0-0 can be a good go-to, though you might want to cut it depending on your application. It doesn’t give your plants anything else except for fringe benefits owing to various supplementary ingredients detailed in the previous section.

If your soil levels are good on phosphorus and potassium, this fertilizer makes it easy to add nothing but nitro on demand. It is also an excellent choice for nitrogen-loving plantings like certain kinds of grass, trees, and more.

Something else to consider is that this type of fertilizer can be a good basis for mixing your own customized formula, particularly if there are restrictions on phosphorus usage in your area.

That’s right: some municipalities ban outright the use of phosphorus in fertilizer because of its tendency to contaminate water sources and cause all sorts of other problems.

In such a case, starting with a potent nitrogen formula and then adding other needed ingredients can be a way to get your plants the nutrition they crave.

What Plants Is This Fertilizer Best For?

So, if you know anything about plant biology you already know that 36-0-0 is really only good as-is for the most nitrogen-hungry plants around.

In the garden or orchard, fruit trees are a great candidate as they will need lots of nitrogen to produce that bountiful greenery that will feed the rest of the plant.

Elsewhere in the garden, all of your leafy green veggies, particularly your salad veggies, cabbage, lettuce, and so forth can benefit from a 36-0-0 so long as it’s carefully applied at the prescribed time.

And, of course, grass and other decorative ground coverings can benefit greatly from it, particularly when getting established. Ivy is another good candidate for use, assuming you want the ivy there in the first place, of course!

Also, if used carefully, it can be a good option to help rescue badly neglected or stressed plants assuming your soil testing shows that phosphorus levels are within the acceptable range.

When Should You Use 36-0-0 Fertilizer?

If you’re taking care of ivy, grass, or similar plants you can use 36-0-0 on an as-needed basis as long as you’re cautious to not overdo it.

These plants tend to be very hungry for nitrogen and will benefit from a large portion more often than other plants. 36-0-0 is also excellent for winter grasses when heading into the colder season.

For all other plants, including fruit trees, it should be used carefully to avoid overdoing it. It also works wonderfully as a soil amendment for any ground that has been almost totally depleted of nitrogen if used well prior to planting; amending soil with it and then planting immediately can lead to shock.

When Is the Best Time to Apply 36-0-0?

A rule of thumb you should stick to is that 36-0-0 should only be applied at early dawn or late dusk. This is because all nitrogen-rich fertilizers have a nasty tendency to scorch plants if applied during the heat of the day or if the plant is in direct, intense sunlight.

The only exception is if the plant you’re fertilizing has good shade during the middle part of the day. Even then, think twice if temperatures are high.

How Much Fertilizer Should You Use per Acre?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question because the amount of fertilizer you should use is entirely based on your soil conditions and what you are planting.

Also, the type of fertilizer that you have will also play a part! Highly concentrated fertilizers might go down in much smaller ratios compared to others.

But, a baseline that’s generally dependable, or at least a good starting point, is you should use a single pound of fertilizer for every thousand square feet of land you are fertilizing.

But keep in mind it’s an easy thing to give soil or plants too much nitrogen. And just like harsh words, there is no calling it back once you let it go!

Don’t assume when using 36-0-0: perform your tests, read the instructions that come with your fertilizer and then apply accordingly. You can always go back and give it more if needed.

What’s the Best Method to Apply 36-0-0 Fertilizer?

36-0-0 and other pure nitrogen fertilizers are relatively common among specialized blends, even if they’re somewhat rare compared to general-purpose fertilizers. Accordingly, you’ll find often one or two products from various manufacturers, often in different forms to suit any application.

Liquids can be applied with sprayers of various sizes, or you can buy liquid that is ready for dilution and capable of being applied with a garden hose attachment for smaller areas. Broadcasters will use granules, pellets, or even powder.

But, as always, it’s imperative that you don’t add too much! A simple mistake made when diluting liquid or setting your broadcaster could leave you with very literal scorched earth! Double-check everything before you start.

Is 36-0-0 Fertilizer Good for Lawns?

Absolutely. Most kinds of grasses, and particularly winter grass, crave nitrogen and 36-0-0 can supply them with plenty and then some.

It is wonderful for giving lawns a boost of nutrition at the beginning of the season or after times of stress, and it works superbly as a routine fertilizer when phosphorus and potassium levels are good.

But, grasses are not immune to excess nitrogen, so be careful not to overdo it and pull back at once if your grass starts to crisp up a little.

What’s the Average Price of This Fertilizer?

36-0-0 goes for between 80 cents and $1 a pound depending on your region, the manufacturer, and any additives that they might have included.

Where Can You Buy 36-0-0 Fertilizer?

Although not as common as other more general-purpose fertilizers, you can usually find 36-0-0, or a formula very close to it, in major home improvement centers, hardware stores, garden centers, and landscaping providers.

Is It Any Good In the Garden?

Yes, but it must be used on a plant-by-plant basis. Delicate plants that are easily harmed by too much nitrogen are terrible candidates for 36-0-0 unless you are truly an expert at cutting it to a more agreeable ratio.

On the other hand, if you have lots of leafy salad vegetables this will probably have a regular role in your rotation.

What’s the Best 36-0-0 Fertilizer Brand?

The best 36-0-0 fertilizer brand is the one that your dealer has on hand, and this selection varies considerably depending on where you are. You’ll often see a similar variety that’s 35-0-0 or 34-0-0 which work identically. Twin Pine and Potash Corp both make good blends with minimal additional ingredients.

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